Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

In his masterful work titled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick unveils a touching story by initially speculating his own idenitity and family background. Born in February of 1818 on the Holme Hill Farm in Talbot County, Maryland, he grows to become an adventurer in a life that turns out to be more tumultuous than any other. His mother was a slave named Harriet Bailey and his father was an unknown white man who was a slave owner. He so movingly recounts how women were raped under the guise of increasing the slave population. He sees this as one of the male scapegoats in meeting their insatiable sexual desires. In the text religious practice of the slave owners remains a recurrent theme. Douglass describes the conditions that they faced together with the other slaves. He was a slave of Captain Anthony and Colonel Lloyd. As a slave he witnessed a brutal beating and murder of his fellow slave which the law and community do not notice.

The exploration of slave trade and its biting effects on the then slaves makes this work very realistic. It elicits feelings and invokes anybody to share in the pains of the suffering majority who wallowed under the heavy weight of slave trade and labor. Douglass attaches a catharsis quality in the entire work revisiting modern themes of gender and racial discrimination. When he was eight Douglass was sent to Baltimore to take care of Thomas a son of the Auld family. He later got reading lessons from Mrs. Auld but her husband intervened after knowing this. Douglass however did not lose interest in education and he continued with lessons by trading bread with poor white boys who were his neighbors and by using Thomas’s books. He then discovered abolitionist movements in the North as well as those by Irish Catholics. After several years Frederick’s original owner Anthony died and he was lent to a poor farmer called Covey. He cruelly and brutally beats Douglass who in turn fights back and Covey decided to leave Frederick alone since that day.

Frederick then moved to live with William Freeland who was a very kind master and as a result he finds a family among his fellow slaves. Douglass then became a Sunday school teacher and he liked this position though it was still a far cry for freedom and he attempted to escape by canoeing the Chesapeake Bay. This plan failed and after being caught he was moved back to work for Hugh Auld in Baltimore. He was assigned to help out the shipyard workers but was later beaten nearly to death after some of the workers heckle and strike when he tried to fight back. He was moved to another shipyard where he became proficient at ship caulking but his wages were forcefully turned over to Auld. Douglass later made arrangements with Auld and he hired himself out giving Auld a certain amount every week. He is now allowed to pocket the rest of the money and he saved it until it was enough for him to escape to New York.

Douglass was advised to move to New Bedford, Massachusetts. By this time he had married and he settled there with his wife Anna Murray. They had five children: Lewis Henry Douglass, Frederick Douglass Jr, Rosetta Douglass, Charles Raymond Douglass, and Annie Douglass who died at the age of ten. He failed to find a job as a caulker and he turned to odd jobs for a living. White caulkers did not want to work with blacks because they thought the former slaves would take over their jobs. Douglass later attended an Anti-slavery convention despite the fear of being caught and returned back to the South where he was encouraged to address people. This marked the start of his life in the eyes of the public, speaking and writing about the abolition of slavery.

Later Douglass was invited to work as a lecturer for the Massachusetts Antislavery society by William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionist leaders. By 1845 Douglass’s oratory made so many people to doubt whether he was indeed a former slave. He later fled to Great Britain and was highly honored by great reformers of the days. In 1847, he returned to United States where received funds that were enough to purchase his freedom and he then established The North Star which was a weekly abolitionist newspaper. He continued with his activities of being abolitionist speaker, journalist and autobiographer. Douglass later emerged as a nationally recognized spokesman for black Americans by the outbreak of the civil war. He advised President Abraham Lincoln about the treatment and use of black soldiers in the Union Army in 1863. This paved way for him to be associated with political and public institutions.

In 1874, Douglass was selected to be the president of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company and later in 1877 he was appointed US Marshall for the District of Colombia. At this time he was living in his home Cedar Hill in Anacostia, Washington, D.C.  Douglass’s wife Anna died on 4 August 1882 and he later married his white secretary Helen Pitts (1838-1903). Frederick finally completed his journey of life on 20 February 1895 in his home in Anacostia, District of Colombia and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York beside Helen’s grave.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Frederick was his third and final work that he penned in 1881. Douglass started to write the article in 1845 though and it cannot be viewed as modern.  It is a realistic work that is valued to be detailed and credible account of slave life though it is acclaimed as a story of self liberation and discovery. Douglass presents his reactions to degradation and bondage by use of skillful economy of words and straightforward realism. This writing is regarded as one of the most effective Antislavery article produced by a fugitive slave as well as an eloquent argument for human rights. It has been looked at as a landmark in American autobiography and as a classic work that symbolizes the black role of struggle, protest and aspiration in American life. In the whole writing Douglass outlined the miserable life he lived as a slave and his struggles to obtain freedom.
As a diehard abolitionists, Douglass aimed at showing the entire world how bad the slavery issue was bad in his writings. This was successive since he made abolitionists out of many people and made them be aware of the unknown. In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick applies an approach that is simple but educated to convey a message of how he felt as a slave growing up in Maryland. This narrative was viewed as an easy piece of literature to read that is brief and descriptive. It outlined the hardships that slaves encounter and it also expresses a nation’s discontent for the harsh treatment of African slaves in the South. This work documents how a slave rose to a free man, a famous writer, politician and a respected speaker.

To conclude Frederick’s writings talked about a lot of American views that were affected by national division. Douglass was a successful abolitionist and he strived at changing the views of Americans on the issue of slavery. He was in the rank of the best black speakers and writers ever. He had enough reason to participate in antislavery movement as he was initially a slave. This narrative helped to define the way literature grew in the period of the Civil War. Douglass changed many people’s lives and he helped the African Americans attain respect up to date.


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