Frederick Douglass









Frederick Douglass was one of the most important black leaders of the Antislavery movement. He

was born in 1817 in Talbot County, MD. He was the son of Harriet Bailey and an unknown white man.

His mother was a slave so therefore he was born a slave. He lived with his grandparents until the age of

eight, so he never knew his mother well. When he turned eight, he was sent to "Aunt Kathy," a woman

who took care of slave children on the plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. When he was nine, he was

sent to Baltimore where he lived with Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld. He started to study reading with Mrs.

Auld but Mr. Auld forbid it. However, he still managed to learn anyway. To cause him to comply with

slavery more easily, Mr. Auld sent to him to Edward Covey, a man who specialized in breaking down the

spirits of rebellious slaves, or a "slave breaker." While there, he was beaten daily for the slightest offense

against the strict rules. One day he finally fought back in a fight !

that lasted two hours, and forced Covey to stop trying to "break" him. He was returned to Auld, where he

was sent to a shipyard to learn the caulker's trade. But that didn't stop his education, he not only learned

caulking but he also learned to write by tracing the letters on the ship front. Using seaman's papers given to

him by a free black he escaped by sea. He tried to get work as a caulker but racial discrimination forced

him to become a common laborer. To avoid being taken back, he changed his last name to Douglass. He

soon became a large part of the antislavery movement when he came in association with The Liberator,

which belonged to William Lloyd Garrison, and he also joined the black Garrisonians of New Bedford. He

attended the Massachusetts Anti- Slavery Society in Nantucket, in 1841. When they asked him to speak, he

spoke of his experiences as a slave. His speech made a deep impression, and the society hired him as a

full-time speaking agent. He spoke at !

many conventions and spoke against slavery and the rights of free blacks. Sometimes white mobs broke up

his conventions but he continued as a lecturer. He soon became on of the leading black abolitionists and on

of the most famous lecturers of that time period. As his speeches grew became more cultivated, people

began to doubt that he was ever a slave. So he wrote an autobiography entitled Narrative of the Life of

Frederick Douglass in 1845. In this book he described every detail of his life as a slave. He then later

wrote two more autobiographies entitled My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855 and Life and Times of

Frederick Douglass in 1882. Since his books were so greatly detailed, he was in danger of being

recaptured. So he went away. He toured Britain for two years. While there he spoke against slavery and

his speeches had as much impact on audiences as they did in the United States. He returned to the United

States after his British friends acquired his freedom. Si!

nce blacks were considered inferior then, Douglass decided to start a newspaper of his own that was run

entirely by blacks. Garrison complained saying that Douglass' talents as a speaker would be wasted. Yet in

spite of Garrison's objections, Douglass moved to Rochester, N.Y., and started the weekly The North Star

which was later changed to Frederick Douglass' Paper. He continued to publish it from December 1847 to

May 1863. In the paper he advocated the rights of free blacks and slaves. Douglass also supported may

causes such as women's rights. Since Douglass was a Garrisonian he didn't believe in politics since it

supported the constitution which Garrisonians thought supported slavery. When he moved to Rochester, he

met "political abolitionists". They supported the constitution saying that it forbid slavery. The called for

electing abolitionists into public office. Garrison felt that the north should separate its self from the south.

However, Douglass was convince!

d that this would leave the slaves to their masters. Garrison then accused him as an "apostate" and the two

parted. Douglass worker closely with the small Liberty Party which called for the total elimination of

slavery, from 1848 to the 1850's. However, on occasion he