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The Life Of Frederick Douglass Essay, Research Paper

The Life of Frederick Douglass

Fredrick Douglass was perhaps the most influential African American of the nineteenth century. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave brought the issue of slaves as people to the fore front and gave it a human perspective for perhaps the first time. His narrative was one of the key documents that set the abolition movement into high gear. His narrative describes his life from his earliest memories of childhood until he settled in New Bedford after escaping slavery in Maryland.

Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland around 1817, the offspring of a slave women and a white slave owner. Shortly after his birth, his mother was moved to a neighboring farm. During his life he would only see her a few times before her death. His first owner was a man he called Captain Anthony. His first overseer, Mr. Plummer, provided the first lasting memories of how cruel people could be to slaves. Mr. Plummer would regularly whip his aunt relentlessly until the women was soaked in blood and tears. Now as a boy he was raised on a smaller farm. He related how as a child he had no clothes the majority of the year except for a course shirt. He had no bed to sleep on other than the cold damp floor. As a slave, his kind were expected to labor from sun-up until sun-down and then carry on with whatever duties that had of their own. They then would simply fall out on the floor on and wait for the morning work bell. Occasionally a slave was picked to go get the yearly allotment of clothing and monthly food ration from the Great House Farm. This was an honor that was bestowed on only the most trusting and loyal of the slaves, and one looked on with great privilege. Many times the chosen slave was heard to belt out songs on his trip. To many this was a sign on happiness but Douglass explained that this was actually a song of sorrow. Every song was one of woe and bitter anger, crying about the wrongs of slavery. Slaves are also thought of generally being happy with there masters at most times, but this too was merely a mask. They were often forced into this because of the threat of a severe lashing if the master was to find any one of his slaves in ill spirits with him. Frederick s tasks on the farm were simple, he had to drive up cattle in the evening, keep birds out of the garden, keep the front yard clean and run errands for the master s daughter. If not doing these he was in the company of Master Daniel Lloyd. This was advantageous to Frederick because Daniel would always keep him protected and fed. Frederick was seldom whipped and suffered from little but hunger.

Around the age of seven or eight he was moved to Baltimore to live with Mr. Hugh Auld. His job here was to take care of young Thomas. While in Baltimore Mrs. Auld showed him more love and affection than anyone else in his life had. She also planted the root of his greatness when she taught him the alphabet. Upon this discovery, Mr. Auld firmly scolded the both of them and from then on it wasn t allowed for Frederick to pursue education. He did so anyway teaching himself to read and write by trading bread and favors with other young children in the area. He proclaimed that slavery changed white people too as was told of Mrs. Auld. She slowly changed over time and grew to be ill-willed and short with him. Education was the key to the end of slavery, but once Mrs. Auld discovered it she would have no part of it. His first experience with the thoughts of freedom came after he discovered the book The Columbian Orator. He read it and reread it and soaked in the abolitionist words and thoughts. This book fueled his thoughts and imagination and let him know that one day he would be free himself.

In 1832 he was moved to St. Michael s with Master Thomas Auld. Even though they were friends as children they were strangers upon arriving here. Captain Auld here received a new sense of religion, and helped implant one of Douglass key thoughts; religious slave holders were the meanest and cruelest of the kind. They used religion to fortify there argument for slavery and at the same time refused to bestow the kindness and understanding that was its basis. Frederick didn t get along well with his master by this point and was sent to a slave-breaker , Edward Covey. Here he was subjected to relentless work and little time to enjoy the food he received. Mr. Covey was a very sneaky man and at every chance would beat Douglass severely. Finally after enough of these beating and cruel treatment, he made a stand and fought Mr. Covey one day. That was the turning point in his career as a slave and after that he was never again whipped. After Covey, Douglass was moved to the care of William Freeland, a fair master and true southern gentlemen. While here his first plans of escape were laid, and even though they were unsuccessful, kept alive the hope that freedom wasn t far away. After this event he was sent to Baltimore once more and learned the trait of ship calking. He got into a few scuffles with some white dock-workers and received a severe beating. After this he was allowed to contract his own work and save a little money as long as his fee of three dollars was paid every Saturday to his master Hugh Auld. This didn t last long and when this freedom was taken away from Frederick, he knew that his run for freedom wasn t far away. As much as it hurt him to go, on the third day of September, 1838, he fled for New York and made it there safely. He was taken in by a Mr. Ruggles, a lawyer who fought to get slaves freed from the chains of slavery. He then married a free black, Anna Johnson, and with the help and advice of Mr. Ruggles moved to New Bedford. Here he settled and made a living doing anything he could, there was no work to hard or long, as long as he had his freedom.

Douglass autobiography proved us with a glimpse into why slavery was wrong for society as a whole at the time. It was blatantly unfair to the blacks who were robbed from Africa and then diluted with the white population as an underclass of animals. It seemingly brought out the cruelty in people to see how mean and unkind they could be to these people. Whites were changed in some instance by slavery, bringing about a manner with which no one should be treated. Slavery was by far one of the most evil things ever witnessed upon the shores of this great country, and Frederick Douglass showed us how great a person it took to break these chains of ignorance. By freeing the slaves of the day, we in turn freed our minds and souls as well.

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