Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

What role did Douglass play in the Abolitionist movement

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narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass

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Douglass first hears the term "abolition" when he is living in Baltimore. Intrigued, the young slave tries to puzzle out the meaning. He eventually succeeds when he attains some of the city newspapers and reads about the current political endeavors to end the slavery in Washington, DC. He writes that the words "abolition" and "abolitionist" were attractive to him forever afterward. He read of emancipation in The Columbian Orator. It was not until he moved to New Bedford after he escaped slavery, however, that he was really able to embrace the abolitionist ideology and cause. He began reading William Lloyd Garrison's "The Liberator," writing "the paper became my meat and drink. My soul was set all on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds...sent a thrill of joy through my soul..." (80). At the end of the text Douglass explains that he was attending an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket when he was asked to speak. He nervously took the stage and began orating. This, he wrote, began his long career in "pleading the cause of my brethren" (80)


Fredrick Douglas

Fredrick Douglas played a role as one of the most influential leaders of the abolitionist movement. He was born into slavery around the year 1818 in Talbot County. He escaped from slavery in 1838, but before he did he became educated by his masters wife before he escaped. He escaped slavery by fleeing to New York on a boat. That following year he became a preacher for his own church.Fredrick Douglass had two owners in his whole life. His first owners name was Anthony who usually went by the name of Captain Anthony. A title he claimed by sailing a craft on the Chesapeake bay. he wasn't really a rich slave holder. (only owning about 2-3 farms and around 30 slaves). But his farms were watched by an overseer who went by the name of Plummer. He was rough and a drunkard and a horridly profane swearer he was in the words of Fredrick " A savage Monster." He witnessed that Mr.Plummer was always armed with a cow skin and a heavy cudgle. " I have known him to slash the women's so horridly that even master would be enraged at his cruelty" as said by Fredrick Douglass. The master was kinder and even threatened to whip the overseer if he didn't stop his Cruelty. but at the same time master was a hardened man by the stuff he experienced in his life. "He would at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave. I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush" Which is an excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.(this excerpt shows just how gruesome Fredrick's life was)

Fredrick Douglass lived in a horrible environment. slaves were given barley any food and care. The hut he lived in had no beds and only one measly blanket. at the end of his working day he and all of the other slaves would drop down on there one Measly bed (which was the cold, damp floor) and huddle next to each other and throw the blankets on everyone. The next morning everyone would have to rise at the sound of the drivers horn and for the ones who were unfortunately late or didn't hear the horn would be greeted by a man called Mr.Sever who waited with a cow skin for the late comers. Through everything that goes on only one thought stays in the Back of Fredrick's head was"“Give him a bad master and he aspires to a good master; give him a good master, and he wishes to become his own master”

He only saw his mother roughly four to five times in his whole life and never during the daylight hours. His mother lived 12 miles away from him and was owned by somebody else. Usually slaves weren't allowed to go anywhere away from where they were kept but every once in a while you would find a master that might let you, but if you weren't back by morning you would have serious consequences as in a long whipping session one lick after another. By the time his mom ever came she only stayed for a few hours to help her son to bed and when he would wake up she would be gone. His mother died a little bit later from sickness and he never found out until a year later.

Defying a ban on teaching slaves to read and write, Baltimore slaveholder Hugh Auld’s wife Sophia taught Frederick Douglass the alphabet when he was around 12. When Auld forbade his wife to offer more lessons, Douglass continued to learn from white children and others in the neighborhood.

It was through reading that Douglass’ ideological opposition to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers avidly and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights.

Douglass shared his newfound knowledge with other enslaved people. Hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly church service. Interest was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. Although Freeland did not interfere with the lessons, other local slave owners were less understanding. Armed with clubs and stones, they dispersed the congregation permanently.

With Douglass moving between the Aulds, he was later made to work for Edward Covey, who had a reputation as a "slave-breaker.”

A few years later Fredrick went to work for a new master (Colonel Lloyd) for which his house contained a spectacular garden where people from near and far came to witness and gaze upon during the summer months. The garden had been filled with tantalizing fruits ranging from huge apple trees from the north and the citrus filled oranges from the south...but of course if a slave was caught stealing from the trees they were severely whipped. Fredrick recalled the master setting tar all around the garden so if any slave had tar anywhere upon there body they where whipped to a bloody pulp. which he had witnessed countless times in his life. But he was one of the ones who were able to re-fuse the devils sweet sweet temptations.

All that happened fulled his head with ideas of escaping.while trying to escape slavery Fredrick had help from a women named Anna Murray. They met as slaves, but on the day of September 3, 1883 Fredrick Douglas disguised himself as a Sailor after sneaking on board a train heading northbound with money he had gotten from Anna to pay for his ticket. A while after escaping slavery Fredrick married Anna but made the decision to move from New York thinking it was no safe. The two moved down to New Bedford, Massachusetts. At the same time they adopted the last name Douglas and had five children Rosetta, Lewis, Fredrick, Charles, and Annie.

After finding employment as a laborer, Douglass began to attend abolitionist meetings and speak about his experiences in slavery. He soon gained a reputation as an orator, landing a job as an agent for the Massachuettes Anti-Slavery Society. The job took him on speaking tours across the North and Midwest.

Douglass's fame as an orator increased as he traveled. Still, some of his audiences suspected he was not truly a fugitive slave. In 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, to lay those doubts to rest. The narrative gave a clear record of names and places from his enslavement.

A while after Frederick Douglas published his own book Douglass' friends and his mentors were frightened that the publicity would completely draw the attention of his previous owner, Hugh Auld, who might try to get his "property" back. They encouraged Douglass to tour Ireland, as many former slaves before him had done. Douglass set sail on the Cambria for Liverpoolon August 16, 1845. He traveled in Ireland as the Irish Potato Famine was beginning.