Frederick Washington Bailey was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland, on 7th February 1818. He was later renamed as Frederick Douglass. He lived with his grandmother on a plantation until the age of eight, when he was sent to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. The wife of Auld defied state law by teaching him to read. Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. Although best remembered today for his autobiographical writing, Douglass was best known in his own time as an orator, as well as an activist and journalist.
A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America’s first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks.
Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice. The narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass is not merely an example of self-elevation, it is, a noble justification of the highest aims of the American anti-slavery movement. The real object of that movement was not only to liberate, but also, to give upon the slave the exercise of all those rights, from the possession of which he/she has been so long debarred.
Frederick Douglass dwelt on the nature of real Christianity, showing it to be a worldwide faith recognizing all as brethren, raising up the degraded, freeing the slave, and strengthening the weak. He spoke in a feeling manner, which drew tears from many eyes, of the cruel discrimination against his race, and gave a simple narrative of some of his own experience of good and ill treatment as a colored man. The slaves were physically distinguished with respect to physiognomy. Their huge jaws, full muscles big eyes (not present in other men) regarded them as a race that was meant for slavery.
It was declared that slavery was a system of labor, which exchanges subsistence for work, which secures a life-maintenance from the master to the slave, and gives a life-labor from the slave to the master. The slave is an apprentice for life, and owes his labor to his master; the master owes support, during life, to the slave. Slavery is the Negro system of labor. He is lazy and improvident. Slavery makes all work, and it ensures homes, food and clothing for all. It permits no idleness, and it provides for sickness, infancy and old age.
It allows no tramping or skulking, and it knows no pauperism. Men and women were ranked equal in terms of brutality. It was legal to kill a run away slave or a slave who was disrespectful towards their master. A slave was severely whipped for no reason; they were not properly fed and dressed and had almost no time to rest. When Douglas was a kid he was separated from his mother and he never got a chance to know her well. “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant–before I knew her as my mother.
It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it is to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child.
This is the inevitable result. ” She used to come and visit him during night and leave before he woke up in the morning. One day she died. As a child slave Douglass was used to small works, which didn’t required a lot of labor. He still remembers being whipped as a child. Slaves were treated alike irrespective of their sex and age. The number of slaves a man owned reflected how affluent he was. In addition to contributing to the American discussion of slavery, Douglass’s Narrative also contributes to the discussion of other themes in the long conversation about the American identity.
Douglass contributed to the discussion of major issues in American thought and life, The Value of Work, the Meaning of the Marketplace, Manners, Morality, and Christianity. As a child slave he was indirectly hinted by his master that reading, education, and self-cultivation was what made a man and depriving the slaves with this would keep slavery forever. This inkling motivated him to continue his hideout studies and he firmly believed that through this he could win his freedom. He also was a social reformer.
He was one of those who believed that it is the mission of this war to free every slave in the United States. Douglass had also participated in the movement for women’s equality from its beginnings at the Seneca Falls meeting in 1848. The slogan for his second newspaper was “All rights for all,” and women’s rights advocates numbered among his close friends. Although he had parted ways with many of them over the exclusion of women from the fifteenth amendment, he continued to advocate women’s suffrage and equality literally until his dying day.
After attending a women’s rights rally in Washington, D. C. on February 20, 1895, Douglass returned home to his house in Anacostia where he died. The author has beautifully sketched his autobiography capturing his state of mind during the transition of the slavery years to his freedom. This autobiography is very well articulated with excellent use of vocabularies. The author has vividly described his life in less than hundred pages and it hardly accounts to any missing years and incomplete descriptions of the events that take place.