FREDERICK DOUGLASS Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1817, in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Because his slave mother, Harriet Bailey, used to call him her ‘little valentine,’ he adopted February 14 th as his birthday, not knowing the exact date of his birth. He knew very little about his mother since she was employed as a field hand on a plantation some twelve miles away, and she died when he was eight or nine years old. Douglass knew even less about his father, but it was rumored that he was the son of his White slave master, Aaron Anthony. Young Frederick was grossly mistreated. To keep from starving, on many occasions, he competed with his master’s dogs for table scraps and bones.
In 1825, he was sent to serve as a houseboy in the home of Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. Mrs Auld grew fond of him and sought to teach him to read and write. By the time her irate husband discovered the deed and put a stop to it, Douglass had acquired enough of the rudiments to carry on by himself. His life in Baltimore was interrupted in 1832 at the death of Captain Anthony. Frederick was passed along to the possession of Thomas Auld, Anthony’s son-in-law. The lessons he learned about the evils of slavery and his hatred of the institution was deepened during his stay with Thomas Auld.
He infuriated the Auld’s by his refusal to call his owner ‘Master’ instead of ‘Captain.’ Determined to crush the spirit of young Frederick, Thomas Auld hired him out to Edward Covey, a slave breaker who worked and whipped him mercilessly. He endured the mistreatment until one day he could stand it no longer and fought back. Soon thereafter, Fred was again sent to Baltimore, where he met Anna Murray. His love for and encouragement from Anna, a free Black woman, heightened his quest to be a free man. On September 3, 1838, Douglas, dressed in a sailor’s uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free Black seaman, managed to reach New York City.
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There he met David Ruggles, an Abolitionist, who sheltered Douglass and assisted him with his wedding plans. Frederick changed his surname from Bailey to Douglass, married Anna Murray, and the couple moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Douglass began reading the Liberator and frequenting Anti-Slavery meetings, and on one occasion was unexpectedly called upon to speak. In the presence of some of the most prominent Abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and William Collins, Douglass told his story, and he was immediately urged to become an Anti-Slavery lecturer. His towering, erect posture depicted dignity and strength, and when he spoke, his voice was a rich, powerful baritone. These attributes, when taken together, gave Douglass quite a commanding presence.
Yet he provided more than a mere presence. His enunciation and command of the English language armed him with a profound argument, which he reinforced by employing a quick wit and vivid imagery to describe the horror of slavery. So eloquent were his speeches that after a while the public began to wonder if this well-versed man was ever a slave. At the risk of capture, Douglass chose to remove this doubt by publishing an account of his slave experiences, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in 1845.
His freedom jeopardized by the detailed documentation presented in his book, Douglass fled to England and remained overseas for two years. With the financial aid of his European friends, Douglass returned to America, legally secured his freedom, and launched his newspaper, the North Star. Douglass wrote scathing editorials on a variety of topics; slavery was just one of his targets. About the need to remain adamantly concerned about the plight of slaves, he wrote: ‘Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.’ In an effort to attack job discrimination against Blacks, he wrote, ‘we need mechanics as well as ministers; we must build as well as live in houses; we must construct bridges as well as pass over them.’ He responded to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, by writing that the ‘true remedy’ to the legislation was a ‘good revolver, a steady hand and a determination to shoot down any man attempting to kidnap’ a fugitive slave. During this period, Douglass also found time to publish his autobiography, My bondage and My Freedom, in 1855.
... and gain the white man s knowledge. Douglass says, From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom (Douglass, 47). This revelation ... struggles against his white slave holders. I will focus on how education allowed Douglass to understand how slavery was wrong, and ... how Mr. Covey would recite scripture while beating a slave, Douglass says, he would quote this passage of scripture He ...
Douglass was a man of action, as well. His previous belief in ‘moral suasion’ was becoming dissatisfactory to him, and he began implementing more active ways to show his convictions. He focused attention on Jim Crow laws in the North, by entering public places in which he knew these laws were enforced, sometimes risking physical ejection. He also gave his money to aid fugitive slaves, and used his printing shop in Rochester, New York as an Underground Railroad station. In addition, he became impressed with the radical Abolitionist, John Brown, whose advocacy of revolutionary means to end slavery, intrigued Douglass.
However, he decided against joining Brown in his plan to overthrow the government. Still, his involvement with Brown was visible enough that a warrant for Douglass’ arrest was issued after the Harper’s Ferry raid, and Douglass had to again flee; this time, he went to Canada for several months.