.. reaker. This marked the first time Douglass worked as a field hand and the change from being an urban domestic slave was very hard for him. It was also the first time he was regularly whipped, the sores were kept open all the time by his coarse clothing. After a few long months of being worked to exhaustion and gruesome physical assaults Douglass was broken.
My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye, died out.5 Even after this he still clung to thoughts of freedom and that is what kept him going. More and more Douglass realized the inhumanity of the religion of Christian slave holders. Once after a brutal flogging by Covey, Douglass struggled back to his master, Thomas Auld. He complained to him about Covey’s mistreatment of him, but was only answered with Auld’s contention that he probably deserved it. Frederick anticipated a beating when he returned and Sandy, a well respected wizard-like character, proposed that he take a magic root. Returning on the Sabbath kept him clean for a day but Monday Covey made up for it.
Douglass stood firm, determined to win the battle. It was a long and hard fought victory for Frederick. The tyrant had been defeated. Douglass later recalled this moment as the turning point in his life as a slave. It inspired him with the idea to become a free man.
He knew he could not resist forever, and the only course left in his mind was his escape to freedom in the North. Anon thoughts of escape attempts entered his mind. Frederick was sure not to exclude his family and friend, and also his pupils. These included Henry and John Harris, Sandy Jenkins, Charles Robertson and Henry Bailey. Although Douglass was the youngest, he had some knowledge of the geography of the surrounding area and was very persuasive, so he became the leader of the pack. They were to escape in a stolen canoe and paddle to the head of Chesapeake Bay, then follow the North Star to freedom.
Sandy withdrew from the plan following a nightmare about Frederick in the claws of a giant bird. On the day of the planned escape, as it happened, they were betrayed and jailed. Thomas Auld sent him to work with his brother Hugh and learn about trade and the caulking business. He made a promise at to Frederick at this time, if he behaved, he would be free by 25. Shortly, Douglass was transformed into a skillful caulker.
He began to make friends at secret meetings he attended for free blacks, like the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society. Here he met the love of his life, Anna Murray. They planned to marry as soon ad Frederick could escape. The time for his freedom was now. September 3rd, 1838, dressed as a sailor and carrying the papers of a retired black merchant sailor, he took a train from Baltimore to the Susquehanna River, crossed the ferry to Wilmington, Delaware, and never looked back. From there he traveled to Philadelphia by steamboat and caught another train to New York City. Eleven days later he and Anna were married by J.W.C. Peterson. They decided to settle in New Bedford, Massachusetts, to avoid the slave catchers who ran so rampant in New York.
He would have been most happy as a ship caulker, but due to opposition by whites was forced to become a common laborer. The quality of life here was a big improvement from the South but racial prejudice was still far and wide. Frederick Bailey wanted to assume a name that was better suited to his new persona. He chose the hero of Sir Walter Scott’s book, The Lady of the Lake, because he reminded him of himself. He was a character who can be described as, a brave and transcended character in search of a lost patrimony.6 Frederick was fascinated and sensed it was destiny.
He took the name. While in New Bedford, Douglass became entranced by the work of William Lloyd Garrison. In particular, his magazine, The Liberator. Garrison became his teacher, hero and idol. It gave Frederick a clear understanding of the principles of the Anti-Slavery Movement.
He began to attend anti-slavery meetings in New Bedford. This enlightenment of Negroes, which he had never seen before inspired him and filled him with pride, although he did not show his talent of speaking just yet, he just sat and listened approvingly. At a Christian Church on March 12th, 1839, Douglass signed a resolution condemning slavery and African colonization and praised Garrison as deserving of our support and confidence. This event was noted in the columns of the Liberator. After hearing Garrison speak at Liberty Hall, Douglass determined that it was not fanciness or eloquence that made him a great speaker, but his effectiveness sprung from the inner fire inside him.
Over the next two years Douglass listened to Garrison more and more and agreed continuously. He felt Garrison was speaking the spontaneous feeling of my own heart. During this exciting time, Frederick and Anna’s first two children were born. Rosetta, in June of 1839, and Lewis in 1840. Frederick supported the family by working at a brass foundry while Anna worked over washtubs and did house cleaning. By June 30, 1841 Douglass had become a leader of the group that met at Liberty Hall. He served as chairman of a meeting to censor the Maryland Colonization Society for threatening to remove free blacks from the state by force.
His life of diligent work for the government and for his people was just beginning. In the winter of 1844 he began writing an account of his slave experiences to put down people’s thoughts of him never being a slave. These speculations were only due to the integrity and intelligence he had shown recently. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave came out in May of 1845. The introduction was written by William Lloyd Garrison himself.
This book found much success and by 1848 more than 11, 000 copies had been published. This success led to his second work, My Bondage and My Freedom, in 1855. These were regarded as unparalleled abolitionist propaganda. His beliefs and character began to come out in the things he spoke of and accomplished. Of abolitionists Douglass had this to say, Whites became abolitionists out of choice, blacks became abolitionists out of necessity.7 His abolition combined the subjective and objective dimensions of description and analysis.
He knew how much this abolition movement meant to Southern slaves, and that it increased their hope for liberty. Douglass also maintained that they wouldn’t revolt knowing that this action was already going on. White and black abolitionists both agreed on two things, that slaves needed to have their freedom, and after that, their level in society must be elevated. The American Anti-Slavery Society adopted these two goals in their original Declaration of Sentiments in December 1833. Even though white abolitionists were much, much different than the vast majority of Whites, they were hardly as committed to achieving racial equality than the black abolitionists.
Douglass tested this commitment by observing how Northerners treated their black neighbor. Those who only cared about abolition in the South and were not interested in the elevation of the blacks were known to him as sham abolitionists.8 He knew that full slavery wasn’t just the end of slavery but the end of racism. He agreed with many free blacks that a good way to combat this was to have a population of industrious, enterprising, thrifty, and intelligent free blacks. In one speech Douglass could condemn the United States for slavery, that it’s existence in the past and present bind it to exist in the future, but in the same speech he could lift up listeners spirits. He would tell them of the forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.9 This referred to his belief in a moral universe ruled by God.
Douglass drew a lot of hope from the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the obvious tendencies of the age like, growing civilization, progress, and internationalism. Douglass was committed to making whites aware of the injustice blacks endured through his lectures and writings. His oratorical abilities made him one of the most popular anti-slavery speakers ever. He was described by his contemporaries as graceful, distinguished, imposing, strong, manly, confident and modest. He charmed the audiences with his style10 In 1847 Frederick and the family moved to Rochester, where he began his independent career as an abolitionist editor. His thousands of editorials in The North Star reflect his interest in the tensions between hope and despair among his people who were struggling for their freedom and their own survival.
He would try to dig deep into listeners’ and reader’s own conscience like a sermon of deliverance. He never stopped believing that the universe we live in is a moral one. He compared the struggle between slavery and freedom to similar conflicts that occur in nature. Like the great forces of the physical world, fire, steam and lightning, they had slumbered in the bosom of nature since the world began.11 During the 1850s Douglass moved beyond Garrison’s philosophy of nonresistance and said it was a slave’s moral right to overthrown their oppressors. Douglass accomplished many feats worth noting.
In the 1860s he was the station master and conductor of the Underground Railroad in Rochester. He helped raise two regiments of black soldiers during the Civil War, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts. After the war he fought for enactment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. He became U. S.
marshal for the District of Columbia in 1877 and recorder of deeds in Washington D. C. in 1881. He was also the U. S.
minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891. Frederick Douglass stood at the center of the crisis black intellectuals faced at the end of the Civil War and thereafter. He was the most influential of all the black leaders throughout the mid 19th century. American History.