Narrative of Frederick Douglas Essay

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The Narrative of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, by Frederick Douglass

Like many slaves, it is unsure about Frederick Douglass’s exact birthdate. “By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant. I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday (Douglass, 1).” This was one of the ways that the slave owners mentally suppressed their slaves. Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. He was born into slavery on the plantation of Captain Anthony as Frederick Bailey around 1818. Captain Anthony is the clerk and superintendent of Colonel Lloyd. Anthony was considered the overseer of overseer’s. Douglass is separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, the daughter of Isaac and Betsy Bailey, and soon after he is born. It was whispered that most likely his father was their white master. Douglass only saw his mother five or six times in his life. Life on the plantation, like that on many Southern plantations, was brutal. Slaves were overworked and exhausted, receive little food, few articles of clothing, and no beds. Many slaves were beaten or whipped, and sometimes even shot by the plantation overseers. Douglass speaks of the cruelest of which was Mr. Severe and Mr. Hopkins, the lesser cruel overseer. Mr. Hopkins replaced Mr. Severe after he died. Overseers were known for senseless beatings of slaves, whether they had did wrong or not. Douglass served as a slave on farms on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in Baltimore throughout his youth. Frederick Douglass is taught to read by Sophia Auld, the wife of Captain Anthony’s soninlaw’s brother, Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore. Douglass was given to Auld as a present at the age of seven. She eventually stopped because her husband orders her to, saying that education makes slaves unmanageable. To use his own words, further, he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master -- to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy (Douglass, 20)." As he learns to read and write, Douglass becomes conscious of the evils of slavery and of the existence of the abolitionist, or antislavery movement. Douglass is rented to Edward Covey for a year in order to break his spirits. Here he is beaten and whipped repeatedly. The turning point comes when Douglass resolves to fight back against Covey. The two men have a two‑hour fight, after which Covey never touches Douglass again. His year with Covey over, Douglass is next rented to William Freeland for two years. At Freeland’s, Douglass begins educating his fellow slaves in a Sabbath school at the homes of free blacks. Here he also tries to escape for the first time. Someone betrays his plans to Freeland. Douglass is taken to jail but later released to Hugh Auld in order to learn the trade of caulking. Douglass quickly learns the trade of caulking and soon earns the highest wages possible, always turning them over to Hugh Auld. Eventually, Douglass receives permission from Hugh Auld to hire out his extra time. He saves money bit by bit and eventually makes his escape to New York. In New York, Douglass fears recapture and changes his name from Bailey to Douglass. Soon after, he marries Anna Murray, a free woman he met while in Baltimore. They move north to Massachusetts, where Douglass becomes deeply engaged with the abolitionist movement as both a writer and an orator. This book relates to…