Frederick Douglass Summary Essay, Research Paper
Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland, near Hillsborough. He
doesn t know for sure of his age, he has seen no proof and his master will not inform him.Most masters prefer for their slaves to stay ignorant. He believes that he was aroundtwenty-seven and twenty-eight when he began writing his narrative – he overheard hismaster say he was about seventeen years of age during 1835. His mother, Harriet Bailey,was separated from him when he wasaninfant and she died when he was seven years old.Frederick s father was awhite man who could have been his master but he never foundout.
Education was of utmost importance in his life. He received his first lesson whileliving with Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Sophia Auld, Frederick s “mistress”,was very humane tohim and spent time teaching him the A,B, C s. After he mastered this, she assisted him inspelling three and fourletter words. At this point in his lesson Mr. Auld encountered whathis wifewas doing for Frederick and forbid her to continue. He believed that “ifyou give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” and continuing with “learning would spoil the bestnigger in the world”. The masters felt that an ignorant slave formed a choice slave andany beneficial learning would damage the slave and therefore be futile to his master.
His next step on the road to success was during his seven years living withMaster Hugh s family. Frederick would make friends with as many white boys as hepossibly could on the street. His new friends would be transformed into teachers. Whenhe could, Frederick carried bread on him as a means of trade to the famished kids forknowledge. He would also carry a book anytime he had an errand to run. The errandwould be completed quickly, allowing extra study time. When Frederick was working inDurgin and Bailey s ship-yard he would notice timber marked with various letters. Hesoon discovered how the letters matched the type of wood and the names of these letters.Any boy he met that could write he would challenge them to a writing contest. Frederickwould use the letters he recently learned and told the child to challenge that. He thencopied the Italics in Webster s Spelling Book until he knew them well. All this hard workand years of practice gave Frederick the knowledge to write.
After his relocation to Mr. Freeland, who was the owner of two slaves, Frederickdevoted his Sundays teaching these two and other slaves how to read. Frederick heard theword abolitionists a few times but it wasn t for a while until he found out what it meant.If a slave succeeded in escaping from his Master or performing a radical action such asburning a barn or killing his Master, it was considered to be a form of abolition. One daywhile running an errand, Frederick ran into two Irishmen hard at work. Frederick assistedthe Irishmen and soon after they asked if he was a slave. The men then advisedFrederickto run away to the north to find friends and freedom. Ever since this encounterhe hasdreamed of the day he could safely escape. An attempt to carry out his dreams surfacedduring his stay with Master Thomas. He did not attempt to escape, however he regrets notdoing so since the chances of succeeding are ten times greater from the city than from thecountry. Anthony, one of Frederick s two masters, was not a humane slaveholder.Frederick was awakened habitually by the sounds of his own aunt being whippedrepeatedly because she was caught away for the evening with a man.
Slaves, when unhappy, sing songs to help drown their sorrow. Frederick wouldoften sing for this purpose, and not to express his happiness as some slaves also do. Themen and women slaves received eight pounds of pork or fish and one bushel of corn mealmonthly. On a yearly basis, they received very little along the lines of clothing. Thechildren unable to work in the field were given two shirts per year. If they happen to wearout, the children would have to go naked until the next year. No beds were supplied, only
coarse blankets. Master Thomas would not even give a sufficient amount of food to eat,which was usually mush (coarse boiled corn meal). This was considered to be the mostpitiful act even among slave holders. The general rule is, no matter how coarse the foodis, just make sure there is enough of it. Mr. Severe, one of the overseers, was a cruel andheartless man. He seemed to treasure the time spent with his whip. Mr. Severe wasreplaced by Mr. Hopkins, a very different man. He was not as brutal as Mr. Severe; hewhipped when he felt it was necessary, but took no joy in it. The slaves considered Mr.Hopkins a good overseer. This was rarely the case, however. Colonel Lloyd, for example,would tar his gardening fence to keep the slaves from eating his fruit. If his horses didn tmove fast enough or wasn t clean enough, the blame would go to the keepers. The slavecould never answer to any complaints, just stand, listen, and tremble. One time ColonelLloyd passed a slave on the street that belonged to him, but the slave did not know whohe was. The slave told the Colonel that his master did not treat him well. Three weekslater, that slave was shipped off to Georgia, away from his family and friends, to serve hispunishment for answering a simple question truthfully. Mr. Gore, an overseer for ColonelLloyd, was strict, serious, and had no sense of humor. This man had the audacity to shoot another man in the face simply because he would not remove himself from a creek wherehe was recovering from his wounds. Mr. Gore s response was that this slave was out ofcontrol and if he wasn t controlled then the other slaves would see this and copy theexample. Mr. Gore s explanation was adequate and all was forgotten.
A city slave differs greatly from a slave on the plantation. A slave from the cityreceives more food and clothing. A city slaveholder will have it known that they provideplenty of food to their slaves. After leaving Master Thomas s house and living with Mr. Covey, Frederick, for the first time, discovered what it was like to be a field hand. He feltvery awkward in his new environment and came to prove it soon enough. A week afterhis arrival he received a generous number of lashings. Frederick had never maneuvered
oxen before and was required to take them out to the woods by Mr. Covey. He wreckedthe oxen, the cart, and nearly his life on his journey. Upon arrival, Mr. Covey orderedFrederick to return to the forest as to show him the correct way to handle oxen.Surprisingly Mr. Covey ordered Frederick to remove his clothes. Frederick refused to doso, and therefore this is where his first of many whippings came from.
As an infant, Frederick was separated from his mother. This is common inMaryland in an attempt to destroy the child s relationship with their mother. Theseparated child is placed with an older woman who cannot work. He never saw hismother more than five times, and each time being in the dark. Since she was a field hand,she was unavailable from sun up until sun down. Around Frederick s age of seven hismother died. She had passed away and was buried before Frederick knew anythingaboutit. He remembers that time in his life as receiving “the tidings of her death with much thesame emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger”. She never oncementioned who his father was and rumors went around that his master was his father. Hewas unable, however, to find out the truth behind those rumors.