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Frederick Douglass Essay

Life has many ups and downs. It is like a roller coaster ride in that it takes many turns. All the way through the life of a person, there will be good times and celebrations along with bad times and grief. The most significant thing to remember is to think positive and always stay strong mentally even at your lowest points. Frederick Douglass is a name of struggle.

Being born into slavery, he faced many hardships throughout his life that people of today will never know, but overcome all of them because of his relentlessness to never give up, his passion to learn, be his own man, and more significantly staying strong mentally and keeping faith in God. Mental stiffness is when all things seem to be going wrong and there are no signs of hope, but you continue to strive for what you believe in, and Douglass did a good job of that. Douglass never gives up even when there appears to be no hope, and in the end is rewarded for all of his commitment.

After the whole thing Douglass goes through, in the end he is not granted his freedom, but instead takes it on his own and his dream of being free is no longer a dream but in fact reality. Douglass resided in Baltimore intermittently from his arrival in the city in 1826 at the age of eight until he escaped from slavery twelve years later. Reflecting the uncertainties of black life in antebellum Baltimore, Douglass could state that “a city slave is almost a free man compared with a slave on the plantation” and lament that while in Baltimore “I often found myself regretting my own existence and wishing myself dead” (Narrative 50, 56).

Douglass’s conflicting impressions of his adolescence as a slave in Baltimore, impressions of comparative liberty and abject despair, reflected the larger paradox of African-American life in the city that claimed America’s largest black population at the time of the Civil War. Located on the border of slavery and freedom, Baltimore created space for African Americans to develop dynamic institutions that proved very important to their post-emancipation history.

Yet these institutions developed under harsh restrictions on the freedom of non-slave African Americans that white Baltimoreans devised to replace the increasingly impractical bonds of slavery. Black agency amid the constraints and opportunities of an urban slave society gave Douglass with his first classroom in the limits of freedom for nineteenth-century African Americans. When Douglass’s mother Harriet Bailey died he was hardly affected by the news for the reason that he rarely seen her.

Douglass’s father was a white man; slaveholders usually impregnated their female’s slaves to increase the number of slaves they owned. As a child Douglass didn’t work in the fields because children weren’t strong enough. Therefore, he had free time to do other things besides tasks. Sometimes he would go along wit the Colonel’s grandson, Daniel, as a servant when he went hunting. Daniel in time became close to Douglass which was an advantage. But, Douglass still suffered because slave children were only given a long linen shirt, therefore in the winter he would be really cold.

When Douglass was eight years old he was selected to go to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld. Douglass was not sad to leave the plantation because he had no family or any sense of home that children usually had. He believes that if he had not been removed that he would still be a slave today. Douglass was amazed how kind his new was; unlike other white women she did not punish him for looking her in the eye. But, after some time, her kindness turned to cruelty, and she completely changed as a person. When Douglass first moved in with the Aulds, Mrs.

Auld began teaching him the alphabet and some small words. When her husband found out he ordered her to sop because “education ruins slaves, making them unmanageable and unhappy. ” Douglass overhears this and comes up with the strategy of what white men use to enslave blacks. From that he now understands what he has to do to win his freedom. Douglass lived in the Auld’s household for seven years, he was able to learn how to read and write. Mrs. Auld became hardened and cruel and no longer tutored him. But, Douglass already learned the alphabet and was strong-minded to learn how to read.

Auld rents Douglass for one year to Edward Covey, who was known for “breaking” slaves. For the first six months Covey worked and whipped everything out of Douglass to the point where he no longer cared about reading or freedom. This all changed when Douglass and Covey had a clash and after the fight Covey never touched Douglass yet again. Douglass was then rented to William Freeland, even though Freeland was milder and a fairer man, he was still going to escape. Frederick went on to become a famous orator, U. S. minister to Haiti, and a leader of his people.

Douglass, like the other slaves is not born with this mental toughness, but acquires it mainly through his faith in God, hard work, and learning to read and write. Douglass’ faith in God is crucial because Douglass can turn to God at any point in his life. When Douglass is at his lowest, his faith in God is always there to lift him up. “O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! ” (72). Their are times where Douglass questions God because of brutal conditions with Mr. Covey, but Douglass still stays strong mentally and spiritually, and that is key to taking his freedom.

Douglass has a strong mind of his own, and does not let anyone or anything change what he believes is right. Conditions for slaves are pretty much severe everywhere they go. Slaves work long hard hours, for pretty much nothing, and to go along with that are poorly nourished. Douglass is lucky enough to be sent to Baltimore to live with the Auld’s because conditions are a slightly easier there, but most importantly because that is where he learns to read and write. Luckily for Douglass, Mrs. Auld teaches him the alphabet and small words before her heart turns to stone. “Very soon after I went to live with Mr.

and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters. ” (45). Although reading lessons with Mrs. Auld eventually stop, this does not stop Douglass in trying to acquire as much knowledge as possible. This makes Douglass even hungrier for knowledge because he knows that being literate is key to being free. The poor white children of the neighborhood eventually teach Douglass how to read in return for some food. “As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers.

With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. ” (49). This is crucial for Douglass to gain his freedom, and help him believe in himself. Although brutal times are shortly ahead for Douglass at Mr. Covey’s, the slave tamer, this knowledge and insight is definitely one of the major factors that helps him get through it. Before going to Mr. Covey’s, Douglass’ been through a lot of mental and physical pain, but he does not know the worst is yet to come. Because of his disobedience and excessive curiosity in Baltimore, Douglass’ master sends him to Mr.

Covey’s, who is one of the cruelest slave tamer’s around. Douglass states that the first six months with Mr. Covey are unbearable. Douglass’ first task is to guide the oxen, and when he fails he barely leaves with his life. Covey whips him repeatedly, and continues to do so for weeks. Covey’s extreme work and brutal punishments drain Douglass mentally and physically; he feels his hope for freedom is slipping away. This is where Douglass’ faith in God is crucial because he literally has no one else to turn to except God. It seems as if Douglass is about to let Mr.

Covey win, and believe that all he is put on this earth to do is slave for others. But one day as Mr. Covey tries tying Douglass up for another brutal beating; Douglass defends himself and finds the courage within him to stand up to Mr. Covey by fighting back. Douglass injures Mr. Covey to the point where he is bleeding. Because of his courage to stand up for himself, Covey never lays a finger on Douglass again. This part of the autobiography is indeed a turning point because it restores Douglass’ confidence that he always had inside of him, and makes him believe that he will one day be a free man.

“This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning- point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. ” (78). This is indeed the turning point in his life because he stands up for what he believes in and actually wins. After this point Douglass is extremely confident in himself, and due to the knowledge he gains and his mental strength he is able to get through possibly his hardest obstacle in his life. “I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me.

” (78). This is such a powerful line in that it shows Douglass’ relentlessness to never give up, and it shows that he is once again strong, not necessarily physically, but more importantly mentally. This turning point helps Douglass stay on track, and eventually helps him escape to New York City. After New York Douglass goes to Massachusetts were he meets abolitionist Garrison, and is eventually employed as an abolitionist. All in all, Frederick Douglass achieves his goals due to hard work and his passion to learn.

After all, the struggle throughout his life, Douglass’ dream finally comes true, and it could not have happened to a more deserving man. One more Douglass’ master was Mr. Gore who was a key example of the many white people who let their power go to their heads. Frederick Douglass lived a hard life as a slave as pretty much all slaves did. He is pushed to the limit mentally and physically, and although there are times Douglass almost breaks down, he never lets that happen to him. By learning how to read and write he realizes that knowledge is power, just like it is today. Ignorance is ugly, and he does not want that to happen to him.

Douglass’ knowledge helps open doors for him that he would never have opened if he was not educated. Frederick Douglass is an amazing man, and shows that if you are strong mentally you can accomplish anything you put your mind too. Douglass accounts in his thrilling and morbid firsthand account of slavery in the south. Douglass lets the reader look at slavery in a style that reflects the desperation of slave life. Points covered range from the exploitation of slave women by their white masters to the violent treatment, and in some cases murder of slaves, to the back-breaking labor and lack of personal time.

The biography includes chilling accounts of his mother. She walked twelve miles every night to see him, in infancy, and when she died, Douglass was not even allowed to witness her burial. This was common practice in those times, but to the modern reader, this is quite appalling. Douglass’ life was only made more complicated by the accusation that his master, Captain Anthony, was also his father. The treatment of these ‘mixed’ children was often worse than that of regular slave children due to the fact that the mistress of the house felt animosity towards them.

As a result, Frederick had to face the wrath of Captain Anthony’s wife. What made Douglass’ experiences truly unique was the fact that he learned how to read and write. Most slaves were killed if they were caught doing so but in Douglass’ case, he was very lucky. When he was sent to Baltimore, Sophia Auld, his new mistress, taught him how to read a few simple words. From that point, he taught himself new words everyday through The Columbian Orator, a collection of speeches and essays dealing with liberty, democracy, and courage. Douglass saw this as his ticket to freedom.

Douglass sheds some light on several areas such as the reason behind the slave songs and what it feels like to watch a family member be beaten and abused. His narrative does a very thorough job of conveying the slave experience to an audience that has no idea. The image conjured of slave owners and all of southern society in the 18th and 19th century is a negative one. This caricature holds shockingly true in Douglass’ narrative. However, there is a lot more complexity to Southern society show in Douglass’ well-crafted words. There are different kinds of slave owners in different parts of the south.

People like Captain Anthony and Thomas Auld, who reside in the deep south, are cruel to the slaves they own, as they are property. Like the cotton gin, they are there to turn a profit. As long as they can work and do work, nothing else really matters. In Baltimore, a different type of slave owner is known. Sophia and Hugh Auld live next to neighbors that do not own slaves and are therefore, conscious of how they treat their slaves in public. Sophia had not even owned slaves before Douglass, so in the beginning, she was very kind and treated Douglass as you would treat any child.

The abolitionist movement is a larger concern in Baltimore, because it is in the very streets. In the deeper south, though they are concerned about slaves escaping and abolitionists, the threat is not as axiomatic. Douglass also exposes the false piety of slave owners. Though many of them are bible thumping, none of them truly understands the lessons they are preached. Douglass analyzes the moral woes of slavery and the unnatural state that all involved are subjected to. Douglass’ words give the reader a depiction of southern life and morality in an intricate and intriguing way, which is fair and abrasively honest.

In modern times, people think of slavery and think that it was north against south. In reality, many Northerners were indifferent to the plight of slaves. When Fredrick Douglass first escapes to the north, he finds that there are many people who support slavery and many that oppose it, but most of them are indifferent. This is because most northerners have no idea what is going on in the south. Therefore, they are ignorantly blissful with their lives. Douglass addressed this issue in letter to an abolitionist associate. Douglass moved to New Bedford in the year 1838 and found work as a caulker for whaling ships.

In New Bedford, he decided to drop the name “Bailey,” in order to defend himself from slave catchers, and became famous as Frederick Douglass. Between the time of 1790 and 1860, the institution of slavery declined in Baltimore but the boundaries of African-American freedom narrowed significantly. When free black people posed little threat to white people, as in the 1790s, whites imposed relatively few limitations on them. But as the free black population grew so did racial competition for jobs and social power. White privilege responded to the dynamism of free blacks by circumscribing their liberty.

Douglass lived in Baltimore when free African Americans made considerable economic gains and expanded an already powerful network of black institutions. By the time of the Civil War whites rolled back many of the gains of the 1830s and pushed free blacks to the edge of slavery. Douglass first witnessed white racism towards free black people during this tightening of Baltimore’s restrictions on non-slave African Americans that coincided with slavery’s end.

Work cited

Browne, Gary Lawson. Baltimore in the Nation, 1789-1861. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980. Douglass, Frederick. Letter to an abolitionist associate. In Organizing for Social Change: A Mandate for Activity in the 1990s. Edited by K. Bobo, J. Kendall, and S. Max. Washington, D. C. : Seven Locks Press. [1849] (1991) Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 1892. New York: Collier, 1962. Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. 1855. New York: Dover, 1969. Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. 1845. New York: Penguin, 1968. Fields, Barbara Jeanne. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

Frey, Sylvia. Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Gardner, Bettye. “Ante-bellum Black Education in Baltimore. ” Maryland Historical Magazine 71 (Fall 1976): 360-366. Gardner, Bettye. “Free Blacks in Baltimore, 1800-1860. ” Diss. George Washington University, 1974. Garonzik, Joseph. “Urbanization and the Black Population of Baltimore, 1850-1870. ” Diss. State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1974. Graham, Leroy. Baltimore: The Nineteenth-Century Black Capital. New York: University Press of America, 1982.

Maryland. House of Delegates. “An Act Relating to Paupers, Beggars, Vagrants, Vagabonds and Disorderly Persons in the City of Baltimore. ” The Laws of Maryland ch. 116. March 10, 1854. Muller, Edward K. and Paul A. Groves. “The Emergence of Industrial Districts in Mid-Nineteenth Century Baltimore. ” Geographical Review 69 (1979): 159-177. Steffen, Charles G. The Mechanics of Baltimore: Workers and Politics in the Age of Revolution, 1763-1812. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984. Wesley, Charles H. Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom. 1935. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1969.


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