Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapters 10–11

While under the control of Mr. Covey, Frederick Douglass bites Covey's hand and has an especially hard time at the tasks required of him. He is harshly whipped almost on a weekly basis, apparently due to his awkwardness. He is worked and beaten to exhaustion, which finally causes him to collapse one day while working in the fields. Because of this, he is brutally beaten once more by Covey. Douglass eventually complains to Thomas Auld, who subsequently sends him back to Covey. A few days later, Covey attempts to tie up Douglass, but he fights back. After a two-hour long physical battle, Douglass ultimately conquers Covey. After this fight, he is never beaten again. Douglass is not punished by the law, which is believed to be due to the fact that Covey cherishes his reputation as a "negro-breaker", which would be jeopardized if others knew what happened. When his one-year contract ends under Covey, Douglass is sent to live on William Freeman's plantation. Douglass comments on the abuse suffered under Covey, a religious man, and the relative peace under the more favorable, but more secular, Freeman. On Freeman's plantation, Douglass befriends other slaves and teaches them how to read. Douglass and a small group of slaves make a plan to escape, but before doing so, they are caught and Douglass is put in jail. Following his release 2 years later, he is sent to Baltimore once more, but this time to learn a trade. He becomes an apprentice in a shipyard under Mr. Gardener where he is disliked by several white apprentices due to his slave status and race; at one point he gets into a fight with them and they nearly gouge out his left eye. Woefully beaten, Douglass goes to Master Hugh, who is kind regarding this situation and refuses to let Douglass return to the shipyard. Master Hugh tries to find a lawyer but all refuse, saying they can only do something for a white person. Sophia Auld, who had turned cruel under the influence of slavery, feels pity for Douglass and tends to the wound at his left eye until he is healed. At this point, Douglass is employed to be a caller and receives wages, but is forced to give every cent to Master Auld in due time. Douglass eventually finds his own job and plans the date in which he will escape to the North. He succeeds in reaching New Bedford, but does not give details of how he does so in order to protect those who helped him and to allow the possibility for other slaves escape by similar means. Douglass unites with his fiancée and begins working as his own master. He attends an anti-slavery convention and eventually becomes a well-known orator and abolitionist.


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