Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Summary and Analysis of Chapter V


As Douglass was a child on Lloyd's farm, he did not have much to do and in fact had a lot of leisure time. His scant duties included driving up the cows at evening, keeping the fowls out of the garden, and running errands for Lucretia Auld. He was a favorite of Master Daniel Lloyd and was thus often protected from bullying from older children.

Douglass did not suffer whippings very often, but experienced privation in the form of hunger and cold. In both winter and summer he was nearly naked; he wore only a "coarse tow linen shirt" and would have died of cold unless he did not find an old sack to sleep in at night. As for food, the slaves at the plantation did not receive regular allowances, mostly eating coarse corn meal boiled into mush. The children fought over the mush to try and get as much as they could.

When Douglass was seven or eight he was informed that he was to go to Baltimore to live with Mr. Hugh Auld, the brother to Colonel Lloyd's son-in-law. Douglass's last three days at the plantation were some the happiest of his life. Lucretia told him he had to be clean for Baltimore, so he was scrubbed thoroughly and was given his first real pair of trousers.

Douglass was not sad to depart; his mother was dead, his grandmother lived far away, and he did not have strong feelings for anyone else. He believed he would probably be as likely to find home elsewhere as here. Even if he experienced the same hunger, cold, whipping, and toil, it would be no different if he had stayed. Furthermore, he had always wanted to see Baltimore, having often heard of it in good terms.

On a Saturday morning the boat departed down the Miles River for Baltimore. Douglass took a long look at the plantation, believing it to be the last time he would see it in his lifetime. The sloop reached Annapolis in the afternoon. This was Douglass' first glimpse of a large town. He arrived at Baltimore early Sunday morning. After driving a flock of sheep that was onboard to a slaughterhouse, Douglass was finally escorted to his new home on Alliciana Street on Fell's Point.

When Douglass was introduced to his new master and mistress, he glimpsed something he had never seen before on a white person's face: "the most kindly emotions." He was utterly shocked at this strange picture, and was filled with gladness.

Leaving Colonel Lloyd's plantation was an unequivocally profound event in his life. It is unlikely, he surmised, that he would have attained his current freedom and happiness if he had not been sent away. There was really no reason for him amongst all of the slave children to be sent away; he had not disguised himself very much.

However, Douglass attributed this fortuitous removal from the Great House Farm to divine Providence; he writes, "I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind Providence which has ever since attended me, and marked me with so many favors." He was not afraid of being seen as superstitious or egotistical in this belief; rather, he firmly believed that this was the first time he experienced the deep and abiding conviction that he was not always to be held in the chains of slavery.


One of the most significant events in Douglass's life was being chosen amongst a number of slave children to go to Baltimore and reside with Hugh Auld, the brother-in-law of Lucretia's husband Thomas, and his wife. Hugh Auld worked as a ship's carpenter, a master shipbuilder, a shipyard foreman, and a magistrate. His wife was Sophia Keithly. Douglass lived and worked in their household from 1826-1833 and 1836-1838. Auld was enraged at his depiction in Douglass's autobiography and bought Douglass from his brother while the abolitionist toured England. He swore, as Blassingame writes in the annotations to the Narrative, to "place him in the cotton fields of the South" if he ever returned to America. However, two British abolitionists offered to buy Douglass for a large sum, and Auld signed his manumission (emancipation) papers in 1846.

Douglass mentions two sisters and a brother in this chapter. His eldest sister was Sara Bailey, owned by Captain Anthony. At his death she became the property of his son, Andrew Skinner Anthony, who then sold her to Perry Cohee in Lawrence County, Mississippi. In 1883 Sarah wrote to her brother and the two reestablished their relationship, which had been nonexistent since Douglass's initial move to Baltimore. His other sister was Eliza Bailey, the property of Captain Anthony until he died. She was then owned by Thomas Auld. She married a free black man who bought her and their children from Auld. She and her brother had not spoken since his escape from slavery, but reunited in 1865 when Douglass stopped in Baltimore on a speaking circuit.

His brother was Perry Bailey and also belonged to Captain Anthony. After he was inherited by Anthony's son Andrew J. Anthony and then to John P. Anthony, he followed his recently-sold wife to Texas and began to earn wages. He reunited with his brother in 1867, and he and his family lived on Douglass's Rochester estate for two years.

When Douglass moved to Baltimore he resided near Fell's Point, an enclave outside Baltimore annexed to the city in 1773. Blassingame writes that when Douglass moved there, it was a "heavily-populated neighborhood whose residents worked in shipbuilding and other maritime pursuits. Shipyards and wharves for unloading cargo lined its waterfront."

In this chapter Douglass's religious views are explicitly expressed for the first time. He believes God has intended him to someday escape the bonds of slavery. He understands that there must be some interference from Providence to choose him from amongst all of the slave children to move to Baltimore where the events that allowed him to truly become "Frederick Douglass" took place. Douglass's own faith is contrasted to that of the hypocritical white southerners throughout the text; what becomes clear is that Douglass is a truer embodiment of the Christian spirit than the rapacious, evil, merciless, and false slaveholders.