The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass





The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass came into existence at around 1817 or 1818. Similar to the vast majority of the slaves, Douglass was not particular about the exact time he was born. His mother (Harriet Bailey) and he parted ways soon after Douglass was born. Captain Anthony, their white master, is speculated to be his father. Captain Anthony served as Colonel Lloyd’s clerk. Under Llyod’s authority, there are hundreds of slaves and often refers to Lloyd’s central plantation as “Great House Farm.” In all of Colonel Llyod’s plantations, life is brutal, as in the case of Southern plantation. Slaves were working for long hours and drained, get small quantities of food, lack beds, and adequate clothing (Douglass, Pg. 3). Going contrary to the rules, not to mention even following them, guarantees being whipped or beaten. In some cases, one could be shot by the plantation overseers. Mr. Severe and Mr. Austin Gore are believed to be the cruelest.

In comparison with other slaves on this plantation, Douglass’s life is a bit fair. As a child, Douglass worked in households as opposed to the fields. Douglass was taken to Captain Anthony’s son-in-law’s brother while he was still aged seven. The guy lived in Baltimore, and Douglass’s life was relatively freer in that city. Generally, individuals owning slaves in the city are cautious about not ruining their reputation to the non-slave-owning neighbors. Their neighbors might term them as neglectful and cruel towards their slaves. Sophia Auld is married to Hugh and is surprising showing kindness to Douglass at first as she has never had slaves before. She introduces Douglass to reading until the time Hugh orders her not to do it, insisting that enlightening the slaves makes them unmanageable. Finally, Sophia succumbed to the idea of slave-owning and no longer showed her natural kindliness (Douglass, Pg. 52). Despite the couple being cruel to Douglass, he prefers Baltimore by far as, through the help of local boys, he learns how to read. Following his enlightening, Douglass is now conscious of slavery evils and the abolitionist existence movement. Eventually, Douglass resolves to run away to the North.

Following Captain Anthony and his heirs’ death, Douglass is returned to Thomas Auld as a server. Auld is naturally mean and cruel based on his false religious piety. Auld views Douglass as somebody who cannot be managed. Consequently, he rents Douglass to Edward Covey for a year, a man recognized for “breaking” slaves. In the first six months, Covey does well in working and whipping all the demons out of Douglass. Douglass turned into a brutish man, uninterested in both freedom or reading, only capable of taking a break from exhaustion and injuries. A point of no return came Douglass resolves to riot against Covey. Their fight lasted for roughly two hours, and since then, Covey ceased from touching Douglass.

The contract ended, and now Douglass is next rented William Freeland for two years. Despite Freeland being a mild and fairer person, Douglass’s desire to run away is nonetheless renewed. There, Douglass started educating other slaves during Sabbath services at the free blacks’ homes. Showing little or no concerns to threats of severe punishments and violence, most slaves from around turned up to Douglass, motivated to learn diligently. Douglass thinks of escaping from Freeland’s, together with the other three slaves. Their mission backfired as someone snitched their plan to Freeland, and were taken to jail. Douglass is sent back to Baltimore by Thomas Auld to learn ship caulking trade. In the trade industry of Baltimore, Douglass faces strained race relations. Free blacks and white employees have been working together, but the white started fearing the rising numbers of free blacks will jeopardize their job positions. Douglass is still a slave and apprentice but faces full weight of intimidation through violent tactics from white colleagues and retreats to switch shipyards (del Mar, Pg. 120). Under the new apprenticeship, he swiftly learned the caulking trade and managed the highest wages possible, at any time handing them over to Hugh Auld.

Ultimately, Hugh Auld grants Douglass permission to hire out his free time. Bit by bit, Douglass saved the money and finally ran away to New York. Douglass could only withhold from explaining his escape details to safeguard the future slaves willing to try the journey. The fear of recapturing makes Douglass change his name from Bailey to Douglass (Zubak, Pg. 2). After some time, Douglass ends up marrying Anna Murray, whom they met in Baltimore. The couple relocated to Massachusetts, where Douglass actively joined the abolitionist movement serving as both an orator and a writer.

In this narrative, Douglass addresses the issue of slavery and is vigorously against slavery. Douglass sought to demonstrate how cruel, unfair, unethical, and ungodly slavery is and should be abolished. His antislavery rebellion started, as he dated while he was still a slave. The major of his argument in the narrative inclines on the recognition of black communities, social injustice, slavery, brutality, and unnaturalness (Murwantono, Pg. 138). Based on his argument concerning slavery, some slavery apologists considered the black community as beats and degenerated subhuman forms of the human species. Concerning the black community being beasts, Douglass emphasized that instead, slavery had brutalized them. He looked at the obviousness of black humanity to that of apologists’ hypocrisy for American slavery on the below question. What is the essence of special laws barring the free actions of African Americans? Why did the slave-owners motivated slaves’ Christianization but banned their religious gathering? Besides those questions, the slaveholders in the United States were afraid and banned black communities from education, taking advantage of their development in the skilled trade.

Another social issue is natural law. As per the narrative, Douglass’s ideas of natural rights were drawn from natural law tradition concerning his antislavery argument. Douglass was a critical thinker who believed in the development of man and civilization. Thus, he viewed slavery in America as brutal backwardness running to counter the progress of history. According to Douglass, the supreme God and history progression are the essentials of truth, justice, and humanity (Blumenthal, Pg. 185). Douglass had numerous sources of belief, such as the American founding document, acquaintances, friends, famous intellectuals, among others. His visions concerning human rights encompass actions. Providential justice is resisted by humans, as seen in the slave-holding states’ resistance concerning slavery abolition and the apathy of other citizens of America about slavery.

Violence and self-respect come as another social issue in this narrative. As the narrative indicates, Douglass actively led up to the United States Civil War and protested against the decision of Dred Scott, distressed by the laws protecting the slaveholders’ property rights over their servants in a free country and the increasing slavery into the United States protectorates. Through his time as a slave, Douglass thinks of liberation and attaining personal freedom as the only way to get self-respect. Douglass tries hard to get educated and eventually manages to know how to read and write. As a result, his education opens the door for him to get an apprenticeship and learn the caulking trade. Douglass was against the cruel treatment of slaves. Following the change of his demeanor, Douglass is taken by Auld to Edward Covey, who was a well-known disciplinarian. He persevered brutal treatment by Covey for six months and eventually retaliated. The pair engaged in a fight that lasted for two hours, and from then henceforth, Douglass earned his self-respect from Covey following his violence.

Works Cited

Blumenthal, Rachel A. “Canonicity, genre, and the politics of editing: how we read Frederick Douglass.” Callaloo 36.1 (2013): 178-190.

del Mar Gallego Durán, María. “WRITING AS SELF-CREATION:” NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS”.” Atlantis (1994): 119-132.

Douglass, Frederick, and Jake Meador. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Random House, Incorporated, 1992.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. JA, 2018.


Zubak, Goran. Using the slave narrative Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave to promote intercultural competence in the English Language Classroom. MS thesis. 2020.