A miracle career • Douglass was born a slave. His name was Frederick Augustus. He was unaware of his own birthdate; he believed he was born in 1817, records show that he was actually born in February of 1818. His father was actually white, most likely his original owner (he had more than one in his lifetime). He hardly knew his mother, at times she would come visit him in the night but their relationship ended while he was still a child when she either died or was sold to another owner on a different plantation. Being a slave he witnessed disturbing things like his aunt being severely whipped by her owner in front of him and he was beaten regularly by one owner. When an owner of his died, Aaron Anthony, he was taken in by Lucretia Auld, wife of Thomas Auld. She sent him to work for Thomas’ brother Hugh Auld in Baltimore. His moving to Baltimore was key in his development into the monumental progressive figure that he was to become. His career of accomplishments was a miracle because of his poor disadvantageous beginning.
Education • Hugh Auld’s Wife Sophia began to teach Frederick (then still Frederick Augustus) how to read at age 12. With this skill he was able to understand Abolitionist writings that would inspire him and give him hope for the future.
Escape from slavery • At age 18 he was working as a ship caulker in Baltimore. He escaped from slavery armed with borrowed papers from a sailor he knew, in case he was questioned. He had a close encounter with the conductor of a train he was riding to new york city from Maryland. The conductor was checking the free- papers of all the black passengers aboard the train and when he came to Douglass he briefly glanced at his faked papers and moved on, without suspicion. Had the conductor taken a closer look, or inspected the papers more thoroughly, douglass would have had his cover blown and been arrested and returned to his owner in Baltimore.
INVOLVEMENT IN ABOLITION movement • After living in New York City for a while, Douglass moved to New Bedford Massachusetts where he was first exposed to the abolitionist movement, and was surprised by the number of white abolitionists and the fierce commitment of some of them to the cause. He came across a copy of William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, which was an abolitionist paper that he founded in 1831.
Involvement in abolition movement cont. • Upon hearing Garrison deliver a pro-abolition speech In New Bedford Douglass was inspired and captivated. During the speech, Garrison had gotten word that a former slave, Douglass, was present in the audience so in the middle of the speech he asked Douglass to stand and say a few words about his experiences as a slave. The audience, including Garrison, were awe struck by how articulate this former slave was. Garrison, after hearing Douglass’s impressive speech, asked if he would become an official speaker for the Abolition and Douglass began to tour around Massachusetts and the greater part of New England giving anti-slavery speeches, and becoming very famous.
Paranoia • Douglass, in part to prove those who doubted his authenticity wrong; who believed it impossible for a former slave to possess such brilliant oration skills published an autobiography called Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. It increased his fame considerably and as he was already famous it had a large audience of readers. His growing fame although encouraging and exciting for Douglass, also produced in him anxiety about his possible recapture by his previous owner, as he was never officially free, and his owner had probably heard of him and his whereabouts. So Douglass decided, after a friend gave him the idea, to tour England and Ireland giving speeches and promoting his book. He stayed in the UK for around 2 years giving many lectures in churches and chapels. It was in this time spent there that he became legally free after his British supporters paid for his freedom from his owner Thomas Auld. So he returned to the states a Free Man.
"Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” –fREDERICK DOUGLASS
reTURN TO THE STATES • Upon returning to the states, although he was a published author, and a famous figure of the abolitionist movement; respected by blacks and whites alike, Douglass did not rest on his laurels. He wanted to hold office in some form of government of the united states. He eventually was made ambassador to Haiti. He and President Lincoln were on speaking terms and knew each other personally . He was the only African American to attend the Seneca Falls Convention as he was a firm believer in women’s equality to men, and was a supporter of the idea of women’s suffrage; very progressive for that time period. After his first wife, with whom he had several children, died, he married a white woman, which was very rare, and controversial even in the north. Douglass did not believe in violent measures to abolish slavery and had disagreements with the abolitionist figures who did like John Brown. Shortly after he arrived in America from the UK, he started a weekly anti-slavery newspaper called the North Star.
Legacy and impact on america • Douglass was a perfect example of African Americans potential back then, a transcendent sufferer of a corrupt depraved institution. He proved wrong what a lot of whites used to justify having blacks as slaved; the notion that blacks were innately inferior as a race. Douglass was a necessary success in the African American battle for equality and liberty in a far from perfect (even today) America.