Fredrick Douglass


Fredrick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist, was a well respected man and his life was a great step toward the abolishment of slavery. Even though he was born into slavery he never lost the thought of getting free, with the exception of one instance. Fredrick Douglass died in 1885, but he will always be remembered as the leading spokesman of African Americans in the 1800’s and a person who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the fight for black rights. His years of slavery, his life after slavery, and his accomplishments are very important historical facts of a man’s life that included overcoming tremendous hardships and prejudice.


Fredrick Douglass was born in February of 1818 as Fredrick Augustus Washington Bailey at Holme Hill Farm in Maryland. No one knows exactly what day he was born on because slave births were not kept track of. He was born a slave and because he was a slave and a very young child he could not do a thing when his mother, Harriet Bailey, was sold. His father was always unknown to him because he was a white man. Fredrick lived with his grandmother until 1826 when, at age eight, he was sent to live with his master’s brother, Hugh Auld, in Baltimore. Fredrick was treated extremely well in this house as a slave and he was very happy to be a house slave instead of a laborer. While Hugh Auld’s wife, Sophia, was teaching her son his letters she began to let Fredrick learn some of his letters, but when Hugh found out he told her to stop because it made a slave rebellious and made them think that they were unfit for slavery. Fredrick kept on learning his letters by trading bread for lessons in the dirt with the aid of schoolboys in the street during his free time. When Hugh Auld died Fredrick was returned to the Holme Hill Farm as a field hand at the age of sixteen. In 1833 he and three other slaves planned an escape attempt but someone informed their master of their plans and they got caught. Fredrick was hired out to Edward Covey, who had a reputation as a slave breaker, to break Fredrick’s will and make him accept slavery. He lived there for a year and while there Mr. Covey did his best to break Fredrick of his disrespectful nature by whipping him, making him do massive amounts of physical labor, and by giving him little food. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking Fredrick of his ways for a little while but then the resilient Fredrick Douglass bounced back. On one occasion when Mr. Covey tried to whip Fredrick he fought back and ended up whipping Mr. Covey. After that Mr. Covey did not attempt to force Fredrick accept slavery anymore. From 1836 until 1838 Fredrick was hired out to a shipyard in Baltimore as a caulker. In 1838 he escaped from slavery with his love Anna Murray to New York and marries her.


After moving to New York he and his wife moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he changed his last name to Douglass to elude the slave hunters. In New Bedford Fredrick worked as a ship caulker but not for long because, even though he could do just as good or better job of caulking, the white workers refused to work with him.. In 1839 Fredrick subscribed to “The Liberator”, a newspaper published by the radical abolitionist William Garrison. In 1841 he attended a meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society who ask him to come speak about his feelings of being a slave and to describe the things that happened to him. The people of the Society liked him so well and felt that he was such a splendid orator that they made him an agent with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. From that time on Fredrick never again strayed from the abolitionist cause. In 1845 Fredrick publishes his autobiography about his life in the bondage of slavery and calls it The Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglass: An American Slave. In the book he says the name of his former master that he escaped from and to keep from being recaptured by his former master Fredrick went on a two year speaking tour of