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What is a biographical precis?
A detailed definition and explanation to get you started in using this versatile writing format.

How will my biographical precis be evaluated?
Here are some guidelines to the grading of your effort.

How do I write a biographical precis?
Text instructions
How do I write a biographical precis?
Interactive tutorial  (requires Flash plugin)
Can I see an example of a biographical precis?
Of course. Three are available:
- Douglass
- Lao Tzu
- Annotated Example
What is the assignment?
How do I submit my assignments?
How do I read for this format?
a printable reading guide to help you read and write for the biographical precis format.

How do I write well-formed citations and references?
A brief guide to citation form with examples and a link to the Citation Machine.



  Biographical precis: example
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass (1818?-1895), was an American born into Slavery on a plantation in Maryland who escaped slavery at age twenty, and went onto become a foremost leader, writer, and speaker in the effort to abolish American slavery, as well serving as the U.S. Consul-General to Haiti. As editor of the North Star newspaper he wrote and published many articles, his best known works are his books: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845) and My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). In the field of ethics, Douglas developed an account of how the exercise of irresponsible power over other people leads to a destruction of the master’s own individual character. One of the most remarkable of Douglas’s writings is his An Open Letter From Frederick Douglass to Thomas Auld, a letter he wrote to the slave owner from whom he had escaped, in which he explains the justification of his escape; "The morality of the act I dispose of as follows: I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both, and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bond to you, or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine to depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons, and are each equally provided with faculties necessary to our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner. I therefore see no wrong in any part of the transaction. It is true, I went off secretly; but that was more your fault than mine. Had I let you into the secret, you would have defeated the enterprise entirely; but for this, I should have been really glad to have made you acquainted with my intentions to leave." I am impressed by the spirit of individuality that Douglass shows since I am also committed to strong individuality. I’d like to know more about how Frederick Douglass lived as a slave and how he managed to escape and then become a famous and influential person.

McFeely, William S. 1991. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W. Norton Company. Inc.

Douglass, Frederick. 1849. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The Frederick Douglass papers at the Library of Congress. (accessed from the World Wide Web, September 15, 2002.

  2003 © Jon Dorbolo