Fredrick Douglas describes his childhood in the plantations as a slave. In his description, slaves in the farm went through very tough living conditions and harsh treatment by the owners. He even explains how the workers were whipped, for example, Captain Anthony whips Douglas aunt in the farm. Colonel Lloyd's valued his horses more than the workers in the farmer as he always gave them very special treatment.
In fact, some people are tortured and killed for failing to handle their jobs efficiently or delaying the work. More so, slaves are killed for trespassing on another person's property. Slaves are also separated from their families so that they could not know how the other family members were doing. This could subject the slaves into a lot of pain and loneliness because they were forced to live away from their relatives. For instance, Douglas is alienated from his mother as a baby (Douglass 15).
The slaves also face hostile living conditions and treatment because they lined in houses that were in bad shape. Although they got food, it is not of good quality and very inadequate. At times, Colonel Lloyd and his sons could beat the slaves claiming that they were disobedient. For example, Douglas says that he saw his beautiful aunt Hester being whipped by their master for disobedience. In addition, Douglas' young brother was thrown into the ground as his masters stumped on his face. All the horrible experiences that Douglas encountered in the farm gave him very negative attitude about the farm owners as excessively brutal and inhuman (Douglass 20).
After some time, Douglas is moved to Baltimore by his master and he finds that life in the city was much better than in the countryside. He even confirms that the rural slaves faced more challenges than those that he met in the city. "A city slave is almost a freeman, compared with a slave on the plantation" (Douglass 32). Douglas uttered these words to mean that the slaves in the plantation were subjected to a lot of pain, torture and suffering. This is because he witnessed his masters torturing the slaves including his own relatives.
Douglas found out that the slaves in the city are fewer than those in the plantations.
Therefore, they were better clothed and fed and enjoy more privileges than those in the plantation. He realizes that town slaves were less looked down upon by their slaveholders as those of Colonel Lloyd whose slave were driven by whips (Douglass 34). Furthermore, the slave holders in Baltimore dreaded the thought of becoming cruel masters unlike those in the plantations. Although the city slaveholders used their slaves, they never starved them. Nevertheless, some of these masters, such as, Hamilton mistreated their slaves as those in the countryside.
Within his first days in the city, Douglas wishes to go back to the plantation as he finds the city pavements and streets so uncomfortable for him. He even encounters hostility among the fellow slave boys in the city before he gained full moral acclimatization. Nonetheless, he realizes that he is treated more like a child than in the plantation where he was treated as a pig. This is evident in the manner in which Mrs. Auld treats her and calls her child. There, Douglas feels much at home as she stays in the master's home with his children (Douglass 36).
Douglas' opportunity to live in the master's house opened many other doors for him to enlighten himself. The hearing of the master's frequent reading of the bible aroused a desire to learn to read and write in him. Mrs. Auld's kind nature also motivated him to learn and therefore he requested her for lessons which she readily gave in the absence of her husband. Since Douglas was progressing fast, Mrs. Auld got stimulated to teach him. Therefore, the young boy got to learn the alphabet, reading and writing. Nevertheless, the lessons were terminated when the master found out about them (Douglass 40).
The slave holders had a philosophy that forbids learning by the slaves. This is because they believed that the skills would make the slave very mischievous and stubborn. The masters fear that the learned slaves would get enlightened and would incite others against them. Additionally, masters believe that learning would make slaves rebel against them or run away as they would be unfit for such conditions. It is for this reason that the Douglas develops a rebellious spirit in him in that he discovered the cause of his social status. In fact it is this revelation that triggers a lot of desire in him to flee from slavery (Douglass 45).
Mr. Haugh reason to object Douglas's learning because he felt that he was going to challenge him apart form inciting other slaves. To him, slaves must remain ignorant in order to continue serving them. However, Douglas feels so relieved to discover the truth that he is determined to seek intelligence (Douglass 43). At this point, Douglas feels that literacy is indispensable as it was the only way out of slavery. Literacy would make him a free person, decent and respected by the slaveholders. Additionally, literacy would enable him enlighten other slaves and together fight slave trade in the society.
After many years of working in slavery, Douglas plans an escape with some other slaves that he has enlightened. However, he had fears that their plans would not succeed, and that he would be arrested. Truly, their hopes of freeing themselves are shattered when they are caught and jailed by the slave owners, but for Auld who came to his rescue. Luckily, his second attempt succeeds and he went to the North. He has hopes that he would be a freeman once there. However, he felt unsafe when he arrived since he risked being captured by slave traders. Therefore, Douglas decided to go to New York City. He was also lonely, with no food and money to use (Douglass 60).
Thinking that he was safe there, Douglas went about looking for a job. Later, he realizes that the slave catchers are still in the city looking for slaves. Fearing to get caught, Douglas decides to stop looking for a job till he felt it was safe to do so. Another misassumption that he had about the North is that people are as poor as those in the south. Surprisingly, he discovered that they were wealthier than the southerners. He also thought that New Bedford was paradise, but later realized that blacks were discriminated. For example, they would sit on a different section in church and school from that of the whites (Douglass 62).
Douglas still finds a little difference between the northern and southern slaveholders.
He realizes that the southern ones were hypocrites since they pretended to be Christians yet they did not uphold the Christian values. In the south, many slave holders went to church, but they mistreated their slaves. That is, they made their slaves go through a lot of torture, suffering and harsh living conditions. According to Douglas, he finds that the northerners are more humane than those in the south. The northern blacks were allowed in church and schools unlike those in the south. Therefore, Douglas disliked the Southern Christian masters than those in the North.