By Isabelle Smith
Frederick Douglas, a former slave, who overcame his past to become one of the worlds most influential black figures. An abolitionist, during the late 18th century, Douglas' personal history became not only his motivation but also his own nemesis in his crusade to abolish slavery.
Frederick Douglas was born on February 1818, at Holmes Hill farm, Maryland. Born into slavery, Douglas was fathered by a white man, presumably the "master" of the plantation, Captain Aaron Anthony (Russell 17). His mother, a black slave Harriet Baily, died when he was only 8, and though he new her, she worked several miles away from Douglass and so it was difficult for Douglas to develop a relationship with his mother. Also, Douglas never had a relationship with his father and so because he was never truly raised by a "family", he never developed a specific sense of identity with either the black or white culture. Douglass had a "natural charm that people found engaging" (Russell 20). Douglass was sent to work for Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore, where he went on to learn how to read and write from his “master’s” wife. Knowing how to read and write Frederick became inspired with new ideas, and began his dream of one day abolishing slavery. This early beginning would actually be key in influencing Douglas' perspective and political voice in changing American thought and action regarding slavery
Douglass was sent to the Covey’s farm, a harsh plantation to live on. On a hot afternoon his strength failed and he collapsed, Covey kicked and beat him to no end then walked away (Russell 28). Frederick decided to fight back the next time, and the two battled for almost two hours. This battle was the beginning to Frederick’s journey in standing up for black rights. After the fight, Douglass decided to plan his escape from slavery, he was caught and incarcerated for a week and sent back to the plantation. Being sent back to Baltimore, Maryland to work for Hugh Auld, Frederick was presented and opportunity to learn how to caulker. Quickly, Douglass was being paid the highest pay for a tradesman at his level. Slowly, he began to save money for his second escape attempt. After meeting his future wife to be, Anna, Douglass left Maryland and set off for a free life. Securing a home in New York, Anna and Frederick wed, and their first-born arrived in 1839 and a second the following year. In the 1840’s Douglass threw himself heavily into the black affairs (Russell 38).
At a meeting for the anti-slavery movement, Douglass saw William Lloyd Garrison speak, for the first time. August 1841, another meeting was held in Nantucket, among those attending, Frederick Douglass. Although Douglass preached at a local black church, he had never addressed a large crowd. William Coffin asked if Frederick would speak at the meeting, Douglass accepted but was so nervous he could barely stand up (Russell 12). He was able to talk about his life as a slave and all the horrors he endured but with hard work he overcame it all to be standing there in front of them. The audience was stirred by Frederick’s performance and touched by his words. By the end of the meeting, he was offered a position a travelling agent of American anti-slavery society (Russel14). During this time travelling Douglass became such a well-spoken man with amazing knowledge of literature that the people began to question if his stories were really true. Taking a blow to his reputation Douglass decided he had to maintain his status in order to help his cause. In 1845, he published 5’000 copies of his own biography and would become known throughout the world as a leader of anti-slavery. Douglass’s attendance to the Nantucket meeting in Garrison’s words was “ a most fortunate occurrence… fortunate.” “ … For the cause of the nergo emancipation, and of universal liberty.” (Russell 15) His book not only became a best seller but also threw Douglass into the spotlight