Frederick Douglass Essay, Research Paper
rederick Douglass was one of the most influential men of the anti-slavery movement. He stood up for what he believed in, fought hard to get where he got and never let someone tell him he could not do something. Frederick Douglass made a change in this country that will always be remembered.
Born Frederick Baily, Frederick Douglass was a slave, his birthday is not pin pointed but known to be in February of 1818. He was born on Holmes Hill Farm, near the town of Easton, Maryland. Harriet Baily was Frederick’s mother. She worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes Hill. As a boy, he knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony was his father. Frederick’s mother was required to work long hours in the fields, so he lived with his grandmother, Betsey Baily. Betsy Baily lived in a cabin a short distance from Holmes Hill Farm. Her job was to look after Harriet’s children until they were old enough to work. “Frederick’s mother visited him when she could, but he had only a hazy memory of her.” He did not think he was a slave during the years with his grandmother.
When Frederick was six he was put to work on the Lloyd Plantation. This was the last he saw of his grandmother as he realized that he was now a slave. He learned that the master, Aaron Anthony, would beat his slaves if they did not obey order. Luckily for Frederick he was picked to be Daniel Lloyd’s friend, the youngest son of the plantation’s owner. Frederick also found a friend in Lucretia Auld, the master’s daughter.
One day in 1826 Lucretia told Frederick that he was being sent to live with her brother-in-law, Hugh Auld, who managed a ship building company in Baltimore. When Frederick got to the Auld home his only duties were to run errands and care for the Auld’s infant son, Tommy. Frederick liked the work and grew to love the child. Sophia Auld was the master’s wife, she often read the bible to her son and Frederick. She started to teach Frederick to read and write but soon after the master learned of this and forbid it. Frederick only learned the abhalbit and some words. So he learned the rest by himself.
Soon Frederick bought a local paper and learned about abolitionist. This changed his views on many things but was soon sent back to work on a plantation, this time to Thomas Auld’s new farm near the town of Saint Michaels. Frederick was sad to leave Baltimore because he had recently become a teacher to a group of other young blacks. Frederick was put to work as a field hand and was extremely unhappy. Frederick then organized a Sunday religious service for the slaves which met near town. As quick as they started they were stopped, a mob led by Thomas Auld broke up the meetings and would not soon forget about them.
In January 1834, Frederick was sent to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had gained a reputation around town for being and expert “slave breaker” , Frederick was sent to work with him for the punishment of setting up the religious meetings. Covey hid in bushes and spied on the slaves as they worked, if he caught one of them resting he would beat him with thick branches. After being on the farm for one week, Frederick was beaten for letting an oxen team run wild. The months that followed weren’t much better, he was continually whipped until he began to feel that he was “broken” . So after working for Covey for a year, Frederick was sent to work for a farmer named William Freeland, who was a relatively kind master. Frederick did not care about having a kind master because of the hell he went through and all he wanted was freedom.
Soon Frederick planed an escape but a white man found out and Frederick was in jail for about a week. By surprise Thomas Auld came and released him. Then Frederick was sent back to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Frederick was now 18 years old, 6 feet tall and very strong from his work in the fields. So Hugh Auld decided that Frederick should work as a caulker in his boat factory. He quickly began apprenticing at the shipyard where Hugh Auld worked. Within a year, he was an experienced caulker and was being paid the highest wages possible for a tradesman at his level. Of which he gave all to his master.
Frederick also joined a learning group of blacks and met Anna Murray. He enjoyed her company and was with her when he wasn’t working. Around that time Thomas Auld had promised him that if he worked hard he would be freed when he turned 25. Unfortunately Frederick didn’t believe the master and he thought that he should escape. On September 3, 1838, he left on a northbound train. Escaping was a difficult decision for Frederick. He would be leaving his friends and life in Baltimore forever. He didn’t know when and if he would see his fiancee Anna Murray again. But freedom to Frederick was very important. With money that he borrowed from Anna, Frederick bought a ticket to Philadelphia.
When he left he had a sailor’s protection, a document that certified that the person named on it was a free seaman, of course that was fake and luckily did not get caught with it. He had made it to Philadelphia and was still worried about the slave catchers so he left for New York City. Not knowing what to do Frederick told an honest-looking black sailor about his situation. The man took him to David Ruggles, an officer in the New York Vigilance Committee and also associates of the city’s link in the underground railroad. Ruggle trusted Frederick and had him stay in his home. Then Frederick sent for Anna Murray. The two were married on September 15, 1838.
Ruggles told Frederick that in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he would be safe from slave catchers and he could find work as a caulker. So Frederick and Anna moved, they stayed in the home of a wealthy black family, that of Nathan Johnson. But to live his new life, Frederick would have to change his name so the slave catchers would not catch him. So by the suggestion of Johnson, Frederick Baily became Frederick Douglass. In June 1839 Anna gave birth to their first child Rosetta, the next year they had a son Lewis.
Douglass became involved in the abolitionist movement next. Someone approached Douglass and asked him if he wanted a subscription to the Liberator, an abolitionist paper written by William Lloyd Garrison. Like Garrison, most of the leaders in the society were white, and black abolitionists sometimes had a difficult time making their voices heard within the movement. Douglass also became very involved with the local black community, and he served as a preacher at the black Zion Methodist Church. Douglass, along with others in the abolitionist movement were opposed to African colonization schemes, believing that the United States was the true home of black Americans. In March 1839 some of Douglass’s anticolonization statements were published in the Liberator.
In August 1841 at an abolitionist meeting in New Bedford, Douglass saw William Lloyd Garrison, for the first time. A few days later Douglass spoke before a crowd attending the annual meeting of the Massachusetts branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison saw Douglass’s and thought he could be a speaker, so he hired him as agent for the society. His job was to talk about his life and to sell subscriptions to the Liberator and the Anti-Slavery Standard. “The paper became my meat and drink,” Douglass said, For the next ten years Douglass was associated with Garrison and the antislavery movement.
For three months in 1851, Douglass traveled with other abolitionists to lectures through Massachusetts. Introduced as “a piece of property” or “a graduate from that peculiar institution, with his diploma written on his back,” he launched into stirring recollections of his years in slavery. Many of his friends in New Bedford thought that the publicity was dangerous for him, but he was careful to omit details that would identify him as the fugitive slave Frederick Baily.
Douglass did very well and had success on the lecture circuit. Douglass’s early speeches dealt with his own experiences. He told stories about the brutal beatings given by slaveowners to women, children, and elderly people. He loved to imitate clergymen who warned slaves that they would be offending God if they disobeyed their masters. The stories that Douglass told were just what the people wanted to hear. After Douglass’s first trial period as a lecturer was over he was asked to continue with his work, and he agreed. During 1842, he traveled throughout Massachusetts and New York with William Lloyd Garrison and other speakers.
With his reputation at stake, Douglass decided to publish the story of his life. During the winter of 1844-45, he wrote down all the facts, even the actual names of the people who enslaved him. When he finished this he showed it to abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips. Phillips told him that he should throw it away before he was found out and sent back to Maryland. Douglass didn’t care and wanted his story printed. He did not care if Thomas Auld and every southern slave catcher learned who he was. He also wanted the rest of world would to hear his story too. In May of 1845, 5,000 copies of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published. William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips wrote introductions to the book. Immediately it became a best seller. Federal laws gave Thomas Auld the right to seize his property, the fugitive slave Frederick Baily. So Douglass decided to go to England.
In the summer of 1845 he decided to go to England. There he would be free from slave catchers. He had the opportunity to speak to English audiences and try to gain support for the American antislavery movement. At this time Frederick and Anna Douglass had four children. There was 6 year old Rosetta, 5 year old Lewis, 3 year old Frederick and 10 month old Charles. Leaving the family in the states Douglass traveled throughout the British Isles for 2 years. He was also amazed that he encountered so little racial prejudice among the British. In the summer of 1846, Douglass was joined by William Lloyd Garrison, and they traveled around England as a powerful team of antislavery lecturers.
The World Temperance Convention that was held in London in August 1846 was were Douglass gave his most controversial speech. After bashing the American temperance movement he was ready to go home. Luckily for him 2 English friends raised the money to have him freed, so on December 5, 1846, Frederick Douglass was a free man and had no worries of being captured. Douglass was met by friends and family upon returning home.
After another year of lecturing Douglass decided to move to Rochester, New York and start a newspaper. The North Star was a four page weekly paper, there motto was, “Right is of no sex – Truth is of no color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren” . Some local people were unhappy that their town was the site of a black newspaper. The New York Herald also urged the people of the town to dump Douglass’s printing press into Lake Ontario. But little by little the people of Rochester came to like and feel pride in the North Star.
Unfortunately money was an issue for the paper. Not soon enough a friend from England arrived to help Douglass. She was here to help with his financial problems. Julia Griffiths had raised the money to help launch the paper, and now she was here to fight to keep it around.
By the end of the 1840’s, Douglass was well on his way to becoming the most famous and respected black leader in the country. He was in great demand as a speaker and writer. He also believed that women’s rights were important and he communicated with and stay friends with Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.
Douglass was a good father although he was often gone. His wife had their fifth child Annie. She was born in 1849. Unfortunately Rochester’s public schools would not admit black students, so for Douglass’s children school was private. But Douglass fought to end segregation in the Rochester school system. He got his wish for his children to go to school in 1857 when the school system allowed black students. Along with his fight for integration he was an important part of the underground railroad.
After meetings with John Brown, Douglass started believing that pacifist means could not bring an end to slavery. During the mid-1850s, John Brown was the leader of one of the Free Soil bands fighting the proslavery forces in Kansas. He wrote for Douglass to join him but Douglass refused, but soon after John Brown raided Harpers Fairy, officials found the writings to Douglass and implemented him in the raids. After notified of the implementations Douglass decided to flee to Canada knowing that he stood little chance of a fair trial if he were captured and sent to Virginia. While in Canada, Douglass wrote letters in his own defense, justifying both his flight and his refusal to help Brown. Still fear of being arrested kept Douglass away.
In November 1859, Douglass sailed to England again. He began a trip he had planned long before the incident at Harpers Ferry. But his lecture tour was cut short because his youngest daughter died in 1860, Douglass decided to go home. He was glad to be back with his family again. Even though he was happy to be with is family he knew that there were problems with up coming elections.
Douglass decided to support Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Lincoln won and then South rebelled. The North was fighting to preserve the Union and the South was fighting for the right to have slaves. For Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists, the war was a battle to end slavery. Douglass continued to fight with his speeches and newspaper editorials, they continued to say, “the aim of the war must be to abolish slavery and that blacks must be allowed to join in the battle for their freedom.” On the night of December 31, 1826, the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This was the wish that Douglass had sought and he was elated to see his fellow brother freed. Lincoln’s act freed millions of blacks, who fled from their masters and took “freedom’s road” to areas controlled by Union forces.
Even though the blacks were now freed they wanted to fight for the Union Army. Douglass was there to help recruit black men and to even fight to legislation. As he watched 2 of his sons walk of to battle he was proud for the were going to fight for their freedom. Even though the blacks did receive a reduced pay it was just the fact that Congress passed the legislation to let them serve.
Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a meeting in August 1864 to discuss the up coming elections and how to end the war. The president was doubting that the war could be won and all the slaves would remain. So Lincoln asked Douglass to draw up plans for leading slaves out of the South in the event that a Union victory seemed impossible. Douglass left the interview convinced that the president was a friend of blacks. The evacuation plan that Douglass sent to Lincoln never had to be used. For the Union won the war and Lincoln was re-elected. Lincoln was then assassinated shortly there after and Douglass mourned the loss of a friend and a great man to the black community.
With the Thirteenth Amendment passed in December 1865, slavery was officially abolished. Frederick Douglass was 47 years old, he still was active. He stepped in as an advocate for the blacks. He also kept the American Anti-Slavery Society alive after the civil war because he believed that the blacks should be allowed to vote. During 1865 Douglass traveled throughout the North he spoke out for black suffrage and then warned the country that the former slaveholders were regaining control of the South.
In February 1866, Douglass talked with another President, President Andrew Johnson. Frederick went with his son Lewis and three other black leaders. They talked to Johnson about the need for changes in the southern state governments. The president did not really take much note just saying he would bring it to the people of the country. Douglass vowed to do the same. Douglass also was a delegate for New York at a meeting in 1866 dedicated to the resolution of black suffrage. Even though the Republicans could not look at him as an equal Frederick Douglass still spoke out and made himself know on this view. Because of Douglass speeches and hard work black suffrage was know an amendment to the Constitution, the Fourteenth. That meant that voting was guarantied by the Constitution and could not be dined.
As 1867 came Douglass was asked by President Johnson to take charge of the Freedman’s Bureau. He dined this offer, for he did not want to be associated with this President after he dined blacks so many programs.
During the 1868 presidential election Douglass campaigned for the Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant. In a famous speech, “The Work Before Us,” Douglass went after the Democratic party for ignoring black citizens. He also warned about the rise in the South of white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Douglass was afraid that the tactics of the Klan would frighten blacks into giving up the civil rights they had gained in the South.
The Republicans won the 1868 election with the support of the black vote. Later that year after the Fifteenth Amendment was passed the last meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society was held. Douglass spoke very highly of the many people who helped the blacks win their struggles and get to where they were at. He was modest about his own achievements though but no one had fought harder for black rights than Douglass.
In 1870 Frederick Douglass was asked to serve as editor of a newspaper based in Washington, DC. The goal was to recognize the progress of blacks throughout the country. It failed in 1874, 4 years after starting. Douglass campaigned hard for the reelection of President Grant. He stuck with the President even though there was major corruption. The President won re-election and Douglass returned to giving speeches and touring the country.
In 1874 Douglass also was appointed president of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. This bank was started to help blacks in financial trouble. The bank had loaned out an extremely large amount of money at a very low interest rate. This caused the bank to be losing money, Douglass applied for Federal help but that was dined and so he tried to bail the bank out with his own money. This was a large mistake because he lost all of his money when the bank folded. Eventually he made the money back by lecturing.
In 1875 Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill, which gave blacks the right to equal treatment in theaters, inns, and other public places. This pleased Douglass because of the time spent working for this. He also received his first political post. In 1877 after Republican president, Rugherford B. Hayes, was signed in Douglass was given the ceremonial position of marshal for Washington, DC. He enjoyed this post that had a large staff responsible for the overseeing the criminal justice system in Washington D.C.
As he got older Douglass settled down doing fewer speeches each year and concentrated on being Marshall. This was until he was appointed to the post of recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C., after the election of 1880. He held the job for 5 years over seeing the department that made records of property sales for the capital. This job left him time to write. He was with his wife until she died in August of 1882.
He married again in 1884 to Helen Pitts who was 20 years younger than him. They remained together for 9 years, that was until his sudden death of a heart attack on February 20, 1895. He was 77. Frederick Douglass was laid to rest in Rochester, New York. All of the black public schools closed for the day that he died. Frederick Douglass was a man that touched the hearts of millions and spoke out when no one else would. He fought for the freedom of the black man and stride for the basic human rights they deserved. Frederick Douglass was truly a great man who cried out for freedom.