Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Summary Frederick Douglass was born into slavery sometime in 1817 or 1818, and like many slaves, he is unsure of his exact date of birth. Douglass is separated from his mother soon after he is born. His father is most likely their white master, Captain Anthony. Captain Anthony works for a man named Colonel Lloyd. Lloyd owns hundreds of slaves on the “Great House Farm. ” Douglass’s life on this plantation is not as hard as most of the other slaves. As a child, he served in the household instead of in the fields.
When he was seven, he was given to Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore. Douglass enjoyed a relatively open life there. Sophia Auld, Hugh’s wife, never had slaves before, and she is kind to Douglass at first. She began to teach Douglass to read until her husband ordered her to stop. Douglass was able to teach himself to read with the help of local boys. As he learned to read and write, he became aware of the evils of slavery and of the existence of the abolitionist movement. He plans to escape to the North eventually.
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After the deaths of Captain Anthony and his remaining children, Douglass is taken back to serve Thomas Auld. Auld considers Douglass unmanageable, so he rents him for one year to Edward Covey. Covey manages in the first six months to “break” Douglass, so much that he can barely work due to his injuries and exhaustion. The turning point comes when Douglass decides to fight back against Covey. They have a two hour fight, and Covey never touches Douglass again. After his year with Covey was over, Douglass was rented to William Freeland for two years.
Freeland was a fairer guy, but Douglass’s urge to escape came back. At Freeland’s, Douglass began teaching other slaves how to read and write. He also formed a plan to escape with three other slaves. Someone tells Freeland their plan, and Douglass and the others are taken to jail. Thomas Auld then sent Douglass back to Baltimore with Hugh Auld, to learn the trade of ship caulking. Douglass learned how to do it and earned the highest wages possible, and always had to turn them over to Hugh Auld at the end of each week.
Eventually, Douglass received permission from Hugh Auld to hire out his extra time. He saved money little by little and over time maked his escape to New York. Douglass doesn’t describe the details of his escape; in order to protect the safety of future slaves who may try to escape too. In New York, Douglass fears being captured again and changed his last name from Bailey to Douglass. Soon after, he married Anna Murray. They moved north and Douglass became deeply engaged with the abolitionist movement as both a writer and an orator.
I found this story to be very moving. Douglass really goes into all the details of what he and his fellow slaves had to endure growing up and working on plantations. Their masters were so unbelievably cruel to them and their housing conditions were terrible. They were treated like animals, sometimes worse. After he was lucky enough to leave the plantation, I was extremely impressed with his motivation to learn how to read and write, and the fact that he never gave up his dream of escaping slavery and becoming a free man.
What I found to be one of the saddest parts in this book was when he was describing his grandmother. She basically started everything herself by giving the owner her children and grandchildren as slaves, and then when he died and new owners came, she was forced out to die alone because she was deemed too old and “useless. ” This story really gives the reader an idea on just how heartless and inconsiderate the owners of slaves were, and how hard life was for slaves themselves.