Until the 1960s, Douglass’s Narrative was largely ignored by critics and historians, who focused instead on the speeches for which Douglass was primarily known. Yet Douglass’s talent clearly extended to the written word. His Narrative emerged in a popular tradition of slave narratives and slavery fictions that includes Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Douglass’s work is read today as one of the finest examples of the slave-narrative genre. Douglass co‑opted narrative styles and forms from the spiritual conversion narrative, the sentimental novel, oratorical rhetoric, and heroic fiction. He took advantage of the popularity of slave narratives while expanding the possibilities of those narratives. Finally, in its somewhat unique depiction of slavery as an assault on selfhood and in its attention to the tensions of becoming an individual, Douglass’s Narrative can be read as a contribution to the literary tradition of American Romantic individualism.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass received many positive reviews, but there was a group of people who opposed Douglass's work. One of his biggest critics, A. C. C. Thompson, was a neighbor of Thomas Auld, who was the master of Douglass for some time. As seen in "Letter from a Slave Holder" by A. C. C. Thompson, found in the Norton Critical Edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , he claimed that the slave he knew was "an unlearned, and rather an ordinary negro". Thompson was confident that Douglass "was not capable of writing the Narrative". He also refuted the Narrative when Douglass described the various cruel white slave holders that he either knew or knew of. Prior to the publication of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , the public could not fathom how it was possible for a former slave to appear to be so educated. Upon listening to his oratory, many were skeptical of the stories he told. After Douglass's publication, however, the public was swayed.  Many [ who? ] viewed his text as an affirmation of what he spoke of publicly. Also found in The Norton Critical Edition , Margaret Fuller , a prominent book reviewer and literary critic of that era, had a high regard of Douglass's work. She claimed, "we have never read [a narrative] more simple, true, coherent, and warm with genuine feeling".  She also suggested that "every one may read his book and see what a mind might have been stifled in bondage — what a man may be subjected to the insults of spendthrift dandies, or the blows of mercenary brutes, in whom there is no whiteness except of the skin, no humanity in the outward form". Douglass's work in this Narrative was an influential piece of literature in the anti-slavery movement. [ citation needed ]