Frederick Douglass was a well spoken, highly descriptive author. His fluency with the English language was superb and, without a doubt, collegiate level. After reading his book, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, one would believe Douglass to be a highly educated man. The reality is, at the time Narrative was written, Douglass was a 27 year old escaped slave. Douglass was self educated, having no formal educational training. I was personally astounded by his spirit to learn, second only to his desire to be free.
In 1841, Douglass attended an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket. He had attended several before this one in particular but, “seldom had much to say. . . what I wanted to say was said so much better by others.” (p.151).
After being encouraged to speak, Douglass began reluctantly, but soon felt at ease speaking to the gathering. From that time forward, he became a leading speaker at anti-slavery meetings and wrote Narrative, his biography, in 1845 for use as an abolitionist tool. Douglass’ stated his driving force for this work as: “Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something toward throwing the light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds…” (p. 159).
Douglass himself was beaten, first by Master Thomas who he “…had lived with him nine months, during which time he had given me a number of severe whippings, all to no good purpose.” (p. 100) After which time he was rented out to Mr. Covey, a “nigger-breaker.” (p. 100) At the age of 15, Douglass lived with Mr. Covey and for the first time was required to perform field work. Covey’s slaves referred to him as “the snake” because he would go through great lengths to catch the slaves resting. Once he pretended to ride off only to double back to sneak upon the slaves. Other times Covey “…would sometimes crawl on his hands and knees to avoid detection…” (p. 103) Douglass admits that Covey succeeded in breaking him, telling us “I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” (p. 105) After six months with Mr. Covey, Douglass experienced a turning point, one he describes as “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” (p.
... this attitude toward female slaves through the story of a slave named Caroline. Douglass stated that her master, Mr. Covey "bought her, as he ... savagely as to leave the marks visible for a long time" (70). Men and women alike were physically abused by their masters, ... women must endure. Also brought forth was some trials of slavery which do not always come to mind, such as separation ...
107) On a hot August day, Douglass was apparently suffering from heat stroke. Covey beat Douglass in an attempt to make Douglass return to his work. Douglass, as soon as he was able, ran off to his master and begged to be removed from Mr. Covey’s employment. After his master refused his request, Douglass returned to Mr. Covey, but not before meeting a slave named Sandy Jenkins. Jenkins gave Douglass a root fabled to protect the wearer against the beatings of a white man. Two days later, Covey attempted to tie up and whip Douglass in the barn. Douglass told Covey “…come what might; that he had used me like a brute for six months, and that I was determined to be used so no longer.” (p. 112) After a two hour battle, Covey had received “…entirely the worst end of the bargain; for he had drawn no blood from me, but I had from him.” (p 113) It was after this confrontation that Covey never again whipped Douglass.