Compare and Constrast Essay on Frederick douglass

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frederick douglass





-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Frederick
Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end
slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant
speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of
lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won
world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he bagan
publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. Douglass served as an adviser to
President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of
constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for
blacks. Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American
history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice. The
Slave Years
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Frederick
Baily was born a slave in February 1818 on Holmes Hill Farm, near the town of Easton on
Maryland's Eastern Shore. The farm was part of an estate owned by Aaron Anthony, who also
managed the plantations of Edward Lloyd V, one of the wealthiest men in Maryland. The main
Lloyd Plantation was near the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay, 12 miles from Holmes Hill
Farm, in a home Anthony had built near the Lloyd mansion, was where Frederick's first
master lived. Frederick's mother, Harriet Baily, worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes
Hill. He knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard
rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony, had sired him. Because Harriet Baily was required
to work long hours in the fields, Frederick had been sent to live with his grandmother,
Betsey Baily. Betsy Baily lived in a cabin a short distance from Holmes Hill Farm. Her job
was to look after Harriet's children until they were old enough to work. Frederick's
mother visited him when she could, but he had only a hazy memory of her. He spent his
childhood playing in the woods near his grandmother's cabin. He did not think of himself
as a slave during these years. Only gradually did Frederick learn about a person his
grandmother would refer to as Old Master and when she spoke of Old Master it was with
certain fear. At age 6, Frederick's grandmother had told him that they were taking a long
journey. They set out westward, with Frederick clinging to his grandmother's skirt with
fear and uncertainty They had approached a large elegant home, the Lloyd Plantation, where
several children were playing on the grounds. Betsy Baily had pointed out 3 children which
were his brother Perry, and his sisters Sara and Eliza. His grandmother had told him to
join his siblings and he did so reluctantly. After a while one of the children yelled out
to Frederick that his grandmother was gone. Frederick fell to the ground and wept, he was
about to learn the harsh realities of the slave system. The slave children of Aaron
Anthony's were fed cornmeal mush that was placed in a trough, to which they were called.
Frederick later wrote "like so many pigs." The children made homemade spoons from oyster
shells to eat with and competed with each other for every last bite of food. The only
clothing that they were provided with was one linen shirt which hung to their knees. The
children were provided no beds or warm blankets. On cold winter nights they would huddle
together in the kitchen of the Anthony house to keep each other warm. One night Frederick
was awakened by a woman's screams. He peered through a crack in the wall of the kitchen
only to see Aaron Anthony lashing the bare back of a woman, who was his aunt, Hester
Baily. Frederick was terrified, but forced himself to watch the entire ordeal. This would
not be the first whipping he would see, occasionally he himself would be the victim. He
would learn that Aaron Anthony would brutally beat his slaves if they did not obey orders
quickly enough. Frederick's mother was rarely able to visit her children due to the
distance between Holmes Hill Farm and the Lloyd plantation. Frederick last saw his mother
when he was seven years old. He remembered his mother giving a severe scolding to the
household cook who disliked Frederick and gave him very little food. A few months after
this visit, Harriet Baily died, but Frederick did not learn of this until much later.
Because Frederick had a natural charm that many people found engaging, he was chosen to be
the companion of Daniel Lloyd, the youngest son of the plantation's owner. Frederick's
chief friend and protector was Lucretia Auld, Aaron Anthony's daughter, who was recently
married to a ship's captain named Thomas Auld. One day in 1826 Lucretia told Frederick
that he was being sent to live with her brother-in-law, Hugh Auld, who managed a ship
building firm in Baltimore, Maryland. She told him that if he scrubbed himself clean, she
would give him a pair of pants to wear to Baltimore. Frederick was elated at this chance
to escape the life of a field hand. He cleaned himself up and received his first pair of
pants. Within three days he was on his way to Baltimore. Upon Frederick's arrival at the
Auld Home, his only duties were to run errands and care for the Auld's infant son, Tommy.
Frederick enjoyed the work and grew to love the child. Sophia Auld was a religious woman
and frequently read aloud from the Bible. Frederick asked his mistress to teach him to
read and she readily consented. He soon learned the alphabet and a few simple words.
Sophia Auld was very excited about Fredericks progress and told her husband what she had
done. Hugh Auld became furious at this because it was unlawful to teach a slave to read.
Hugh Auld believed that if a slave knew how to read and write that it would make him unfit
for a slave. A slave that could read and write would no longer obey his master without
question or thought, or even worse could forge papers that said he was free and thus
escape to a northern state where slavery was outlawed. Hugh Auld then instructed Sophia to
stop the lessons at once! Frederick learned from Hugh Auld's outburst that if learning how
to read and write was his pathway to freedom, then gaining this knowledge was to become
his goal. Frederick gained command of the alphabet on his own and made friends with poor
white children he met on errands and used them as teachers. He paid for his reading
lessons with pieces of bread. At home Frederick read parts of books and newspapers when he
could, but he had to constantly be on guard against his mistress. Sophia Auld screamed
whenever she caught Frederick reading. Sophia Auld's attitude toward Frederick had
changed, she no longer regarded him as any other child, but as a piece of property.
However, Frederick gradually learned to read and write. With a little money he had earned
doing errands, he bought a copy of The Columbian Orator, a collection of speeches and
essays dealing with liberty, democracy, and courage. Frederick was greatly affected by the
speeches on freedom in The Columbian Orator, and so began reading local newspapers and
began to learn about abolitionists. Not quite 13 years old but enlightened with new ideas
that both tormented and inspired him. Frederick began to detest slavery. His dreams of
emancipation were encouraged by the example of other blacks in Baltimore, most of whom
were free. But new laws passed by southern state legislators made it increasingly
difficult for owners to free their slaves. During this time, Aaron Anthony died, and his
property went to his two sons and his daughter, Lucretia Auld. Frederick remained a part
of the Anthony estate and was sent back to the Lloyd plantation to be a part of the
division of property. Frederick was chosen by Thomas and Lucretia Auld and was sent back
to Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. Seeing his family being devided up increased his
hatred of slavery, however, he was hurt the most that his grandmother, considered too old
for any work, was evicted from her cabin and sent into the woods to die. Within a year of
Frederick's return to Baltimore, Lucretia Auld died. The two Auld brothers then got into a
dispute, and Thomas wrote to Hugh and demanded the return of his late wife's property,
which included Frederick. Frederick was sorry to leave Baltimore because he had recently
become a teacher to a group of other young blacks. In addition, a black preacher named
Charles Lawson had taken Frederick under his wing and adopted him as his spiritual son. In
March of 1833, the 15 year old Frederick was sent to live at Thomas Auld's new farm near
the town of Saint Michaels, a few miles from the Lloyd plantation. Frederick was again put
to work as a field hand and was extremely unhappy about his situation. Thomas Auld starved
his slaves, and they had to steal food from neighboring farms to survive. Frederick
received many beatings and saw worse ones given to others. He then organized a Sunday
religious service for the slaves which met in near by Saint Michaels. The services were
soon stopped by a mob led by Thomas Auld. Thomas Auld had found Frederick especially
difficult to control so he decided to have someone tame his unruly slave. In January 1834,
Frederick was sent to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had gained a reputation
around Saint Michaels for being and expert "slave breaker". Frederick was not too
displeased with this arrangement because Covey fed his slaves better than Auld did. The
slaves on Covey's farm worked from dawn until after nightfall, plowing, hoeing, and
picking corn. Although the men were given plenty of food, they had very little time
allotted to eat before they were sent back to work. Covey hid in bushes and spied on the
slaves as they worked, if he caught one of them resting he would beat him with thick
branches. After being on the farm for one week, Frederick was given a serious beating for
letting an oxen team run wild. During the months to follow, he was continually whipped
until he began to feel that he was "broken". On one hot August afternoon his strength
failed him and he collapsed in the field. Covey kicked and beat Frederick to no avail and
finally walked away in disgust. Frederick mustered the strength to get up and walk to the
Auld farm, where he pleaded with his master to let him stay. Auld had little sympathy for
him and sent him back to Covey. Beaten down as Frederick was, he found the strength to
rebel when Covey began tying him to a post in preparation for a whipping. "At that moment
- from whence came the spirit I don't know - I resolved to fight," Frederick wrote. "I
seized Covey hard by the throat, and as I did so, I rose." Covey and Frederick fought for
almost two hours until Covey finally gave up telling Frederick that his beating would have
been less severe had he not resisted. "The truth was," said Frederick, "that he had not
whipped me at all." Frederick had discovered an important truth: "Men are whipped oftenist
who are whipped easiest." He was lucky, legally, a slave could be killed for resisting his
master. But Covey had a reputation to protect and did not want it known that he could not
control a 16 year old boy. After working for Covey for a year, Frederick was sent to work
for a farmer named William Freeland, who was a relatively kind master. But by now,
Frederick did not care about having a kind master. All Frederick wanted was his freedom.
He started an illegal school for blacks in the area that secretly met at night and on
Sundays, and with five other slaves he began to plan his escape to the North. A year had
passed since Frederick began working for William Freeland and his plan of escape had been
completed. His group planned to steal a boat, row to the northern tip of Chesapeake Bay,
and then flee on foot to the free state of Pennsylvania. The escape was supposed to take
place just before the Easter holiday in 1836, but one of Frederick's associates had
exposed the plot and a group of armed white men captured the slaves and put them in jail.
Frederick was in jail for about a week. While imprisoned, he was inspected by slave
traders, and he fully expected that he would be sold to "a life of living death" in the
Deep South. To his surprise, Thomas Auld came and released him. Then Frederick's master
sent him back to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. The two brothers had finally settled their
dispute. Frederick was now 18 years old, 6 feet tall and very strong from his work in the
fields. Hugh Auld decided that Frederick should work as a caulker (a man who forced
sealing matter into the seams in a boat's hull to make it water tight) to earn his keep.
He was hired out to a local shipbuilder so that he could learn the trade. While
apprenticing at the shipyard, Frederick was harassed by white workers who did not want
blacks, slaves or free, competing with them for jobs. One afternoon, a group of white
apprentices beat up Frederick and nearly took out one of his eyes. Hugh Auld was angry
when he saw what had happened and attempted to press charges against the assailants.
However, none of the shipyard's white employees would step forward to testify about the
beating. Free blacks had little hope of obtaining justice through the southern court
system, which refused to accept a black person's testimony against a white person.
Therefore, the case had to be dropped. After Frederick recovered from his injuries, he
began apprenticing at the shipyard where Hugh Auld worked. Within a year, he was an
experienced caulker and was being paid the highest wages possible for a tradesman at his
level. He was allowed to seek his own employment and collect his own pay, and at the end
of each week he gave all his earnings to Hugh Auld. Sometimes he was allowed to keep a
little money for himself. But as time passed, he became resentful of having to give up his
hard earned pay. In Frederick's spare time he met with a group of educated free blacks and
indulged in the luxury of being a student again. Some of the free blacks formed an
educational association called the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, which
Frederick had been admitted to. This is where Frederick learned his debating skills. At
one of the society's meetings, Frederick met a free black woman named Anna Murray. Anna
was a few years older than Frederick and was a servant for a wealthy Baltimore family.
Although Anna was a plain, uneducated woman, Frederick admired her qualities of
thriftiness, industriousness and religiousness. Anna and Frederick were soon in love and
in 1838 they were engaged. Love and courtship increased Frederick's discontent with his
status. After Frederick's escape attempt, Thomas Auld had promised him that if he worked
hard he would be freed when he turned 25. But Frederick did not trust his master, and he
resolved to escape. However, escaping would be very difficult due to professional slave
catchers patrolling the boarders between slave states and free states, and free blacks
traveling by train or steamboat had to carry official papers listing their name, age,
height, skin color, and other distinguishing features. In order to escape, Frederick
needed money to pay for traveling expenses. Frederick arranged with Hugh Auld to hire out
his time, that is, Frederick would take care of his own room and board and pay his master
a set amount each week, keeping any extra money for himself. This also gave him the
opportunity to see what it was like living on his own. This arrangement had been working
out quite well until Frederick returned home late one night and failed to pay Hugh Auld on
time. Auld was furious and revoked his hiring-out privilege. Frederick was so enraged over
this that he refused to work for a week. He finally gave in to Auld's threats, but he also
made a resolution that in three weeks, on September 3, 1838, he would be on a northbound
train. Escaping was a difficult decision for Frederick. He would be leaving his friends
and his fairly comfortable life in Baltimore forever. he did not know when and if he would
see Anna Murray again. Furthermore, if he was caught during his escape, he was sure that
he would be either killed or sold to slave traders. Taking all of this into consideration,
Frederick was resolved to escape to freedom. With money that he borrowed from Anna,
Frederick bought a ticket to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also had a friend's "sailor's
protection," a document that certified that the person named on it was a free seaman.
Dressed in a sailor's red shirt and black cravat, Frederick boarded the train. Frederick
reached northern Maryland before the conductor made it to the "Negro car" to collect
tickets and examine papers. Frederick became very tense when the conductor approached him
to look at his papers because he did not fit the description on them. But with only a
quick glance, the conductor walked on, and the relieved Frederick sank back in his seat.
On a couple of occasions, he thought that he had been recognized by other passengers from
Baltimore, but if so they did not turn him in to the authorities. Upon arriving in
Wilmington, Delaware, Frederick then boarded a steamboat to Philadelphia. Even after
stepping on Pennsylvania's free soil, he knew he was not yet safe from slave catchers. He
immediately asked directions to New York City, and that night he took another train north.
On September 4, 1838, Frederick arrived in New York City. Frederick could not find the
words to express his feelings of leaving behind his life in slavery. He later wrote, "A
new world had opened upon me." "Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be
depicted, but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil." From
Slave to Abolitionist/Editor
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alone in
New York, Frederick soon realized that although he was free, he was not free of cares.
Through word of mouth on the street, Frederick learned that southern slave catchers were
roaming the city looking for fugitives in boarding houses that accepted blacks. He learned
that no one, black or white, could be trusted. After finding out this news, Frederick
wandered around the city for days, afraid to look for employment or a place to live.
Finally, he told an honest-looking black sailor about his predicament. The man took him to
David Ruggles, an officer in the New York Vigilance Committee. Ruggles and his associates
were the City's link in the underground railroad, a network of people who harbored runaway
slaves and helped transport them to safe areas in the United States and Canada. Secure for
the moment in Ruggle's home, Frederick sent for his fiancee, Anna Murray. The two were
married on September 15, 1838. Ruggles told Frederick that in the port of New Bedford,
Massachusetts, he would be safe from slave catchers and he could find work as a caulker.
Upon arriving in New Bedford, Anna and Frederick stayed in the home of the well-to-do
black family of Nathan Johnson. To go along with his new life, Frederick decided to change
his name so as to make it more difficult for slave catchers to trace him. Nathan Johnson
was at the time reading The Lady of the Lake, a novel by Scottish author Sir Walter Scott,
and he suggested that Frederick name himself after a character in the book. Frederick
Baily thus became Frederick Douglass. Once settled, Douglass was amazed to find that his
neighbors in the North were wealthier than most slave owners in Maryland. He had expected
that northerners would be as poor as the people in the South who could not afford slaves.
Many free blacks lived better than Thomas Auld or Edward Covey. On the New Bedford
wharves, he saw how industry made extensive use of labor saving mechanical devices. In
loading a ship, 5 men and an ox did what it took 20 men to do in a southern port. To
Douglass's eye, men who neither held a whip nor submitted to it worked more quietly and
efficiently than those who did. Still, New Bedford was not a paradise. Although black and
white children attended the same schools, some public lecture halls were closed to blacks.
Churches welcomed black worshipers but forced them to sit in separate sections. Worst of
all, white shipyard employees would not allow skilled black tradesmen, such as Douglass,
to work beside them. Unable to find work as a caulker, Douglass had to work as a common
laborer. He sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars, and loaded and unloaded ships. Anna
Douglass worked too as a household servant and laundress. In June 1839, Anna gave birth to
their first child, a daughter which they named Rosetta. A son, Lewis was born the
following year. After living in New Bedford for only a few months, a young man approached
Douglass and asked him if he wanted to subscribe to the Liberator, a newspaper edited by
the outspoken leader of the American Anti-Slavery Society, William Lloyd Garrison.
Douglass immediately became caught up in the Liberator's attacks on southern slaveholders.
"The paper became my meat and drink," wrote Douglass. "My soul was set all on fire."
Inevitably, Douglass became involved in the abolitionist movement, regularly attending
lectures in New Bedford. The American Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was a member, had
been formed in 1833. Like Garrison, most of the leaders in the society were white, and
black abolitionists sometimes had a difficult time making their voices heard within the
movement. Nonetheless, the black leaders kept up a constant battle to reduce racial
prejudice in the North. Douglass also became very involved with the local black community,
and he served as a preacher at the black Zion Methodist Church. One of the many issues he
became involved in was the battle against attempts by white southerners to force blacks to
move to Africa. Some free blacks had moved to Liberia, a settlement area established for
them in West Africa in 1822. Douglass, along with others in the abolitionist movement were
opposed to African colonization schemes, believing that the United States was the true
home of black Americans. In March 1839 some of Douglass's anticolonization statements were
published in the Liberator. In August 1841, at an abolitionist meeting in New Bedford, the
23 year old Douglass saw his hero, William Lloyd Garrison, for the first time. A few days
later, Douglass spoke before the crowd attending the annual meeting of the Massachusetts
branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison immediately recognized Douglass's
potential as a speaker, and hired him to be an agent for the society. As a traveling
lecturer accompanying other abolitionist agents on tours of the northern states, his job
was to talk about his life and to sell subscriptions to the Liberator and another
newspaper, the Anti-Slavery Standard. For most of the next 10 years, Douglass was
associated with the Garrisonian school of the antislavery movement. Garrison was a
pacifist who believed that only through moral persuasion could slavery end, he attempted
through his writings to educate slaveholders about the evils of the system they supported.
He was opposed to slave uprisings and other violent resistance, but he was firm in his
belief that slavery must be totally abolished. In the first issue of the Liberator in
1831, he had written: "On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with
moderation .....Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to
moderately rescue his wife from the hands of a ravisher.....but urge me not to use
moderation in a cause like the present.....I will not retreat a single inch----AND I WILL
BE HEARD." Ever controversial, Garrison made many enemies throughout the country. He made
sweeping attacks on organized religion because the churches refused to take a stand
against slavery. He also believed that the U.S. Constitution upheld slavery, for it stated
that nonfree individuals (slaves) should be counted as three-fifths of a person in the
census figures used for determining a state's share of the national taxes and its number
of seats in the House of Representatives. Garrison said that abolitionists should refuse
to vote or run for political office because our government was so ill founded. He also
called for the Union to be dissolved, demanding that it be split between a free nation in
the North and a slavehold confederacy in the South. Garrison also supported political
equality for women and he fought to make it part of the abolitionist program. Some men
were entirely against him on this issue, while others thought that it distracted attention
from the struggle against slavery. In 1840, when he insisted that women be allowed to
serve as delegates to abolitionist conventions, much of the membership of the American
Anti-Slavery Society split off and formed a separate organization. The new group, the
Foreign and American Anti-Slavery Society, was not opposed to working with political
organizations, and many of its members supported the small, newly formed antislavery
Liberty party. Although the often abrasive Garrison splintered the antislavery movement,
he was a powerful leader. His sincerity and passionate devotion to the abolitionist
inspired many people, and his views had a strong effect on Douglass. For three months in
1851, Douglass traveled with other abolitionists to lectures through Massachusetts.
Introduced as "a piece of property" or "a graduate from that peculiar institution, with
his diploma written on his back," he launched into stirring recollections of his years in
slavery. Many of his friends in New Bedford thought that the publicity was dangerous for
him, but he was careful to omit details that would identify him as the fugitive slave
Frederick Baily. Douglass was an immediate success on the lecture circuit. "As a speaker,
he has few equals," proclaimed the Concord, Massachusetts, Herald of Freedom, the
newspaper praised his elegant use of words, and his debating skills. "He has wit,
arguments, sarcasm, pathos - all that first rate men show in their master effort." His
flashing eyes, large mass of hair, and tall figure added to his performance. Douglass's
early speeches dealt mainly with his own experiences. With dramatic effect, he told
stories about the brutal beatings given by slaveowners to women, children, and elderly
people. He described how he had felt the head of a young girl and found it "nearly covered
with festering sores." He told about masters "breeding" their female slaves. But he also
used humor, making his audiences laugh when he told how he broke the slave breaker Edward
Covey. He especially delighted in imitating clergymen who warned slaves that they would be
offending God if they disobeyed their masters. The stories that Douglass told were just
what the people wanted to hear. At the time, a flood of proslavery propaganda had been
disbursed by southern writers to combat abolitionist literature. According to these
articles, most slaves were content with their easy life. Supposedly, slaves worked only
until noon, dressed and ate better than most poor whites, and enjoyed job security that
would be envied by most northern factory workers. Many people in the North were taken in
by the slaveholders' fictions, and abolitionists were often harassed by hostile mobs.
Douglass's life story refuted the proslavery accounts; even so, he declared, his years in
bondage would be deemed blissful by many slaves laboring in the Deep South. After a few
months of speaking, Douglass began to add comments about the racial situation in the
North. He reminded the people in his audiences that even in Massachusetts a black man
could not always find work in his chosen profession. He described how he had been thrown
out of railroad cars that were exclusively for white passengers. Even here, he said,
churches segregated their congregations and offered blacks a second place in heaven. After
Douglass's first trial period as a lecturer was over, he was asked to continue with his
work, and he eagerly agreed. During 1842, he traveled throughout Massachusetts and New
York with William Lloyd Garrison and other prominent speakers. He also visited Rhode
Island, helping to defeat a measure that would have given voting rights to poor whites
while denying them to blacks. In 1843, Douglass participated in the Hundred Conventions
project, the American Anti-Slavery Society's six month tour of meeting halls throughout
the west. Although Douglass enjoyed his work immensely, his job was not an easy one. When
traveling, the lecturers had to live in poor accommodations. Douglass was often roughly
handled when he refused to sit in the "Negro" sections of trains and steamships, and worst
of all some of the meetings that were held in western states were sometimes disrupted by
proslavery mobs. In Pendleton, Indiana, Douglass's hand was broken when he and an
associate were beaten up by a gang of thugs. Such incidents were common on the western
frontier, where abolitionists were often viewed as dangerous fanatics. Despite these
incidents, Douglass was sure that he had found his purpose in life. His abilities as a
speaker grew as he continued to lecture in 1844. Many abolitionists thought he was growing
in his ability too quickly and that audiences were no longer as sympathetic to him, they
thought it was best to keep a little of the plantation speech, it was not a good idea for
him to seem too learned. They advised him to stick to talking about his life as a slave
and not about the goals of the antislavery movement. To some degree, the fear proved to be
correct. People gradually began to doubt that Douglass was telling the truth about
himself. Reporting on a lecture that he gave in 1844, the Liberator wrote that many people
in the audience refused to believe his stores: "How a man, only six years out of bondage,
and who had never gone to school could speak with such eloquence - with such precision of
language and power of thought - they were utterly at a loss to devise." With his
reputation at stake, Douglass decided to publish the story of his life. During the winter
of 1844-45, he set down on paper all the facts - the actual names of the people and places
connected with his years in slavery. When Douglass showed the finished manuscript to
abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips, his friend suggested that he dispose of it before he
was found out and shipped back to Maryland. Douglass was adamant about having his story
printed. He did not care if Thomas Auld and every southern slave catcher learned who he
was, the rest of world would hear his story too. In May 1845, 5,000 copies of the
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published. William
Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips wrote introductions to the book. Almost immediately,
Douglass's autobiography became a best seller. The success brought by Douglass's Narrative
after its publication in 1845 was due in large part to its moral force. His book is a
story of the triumph of dignity, courage, and self-reliance over the evils of the brutal,
degrading slave system. It is a sermon on how slavery corrupts the human spirit and robs
both master and slave of their freedom. The book enjoyed widespread popularity in the
North, and European editions also sold very well. However, Douglass's fame as an author
threatened his freedom. Federal laws gave Thomas Auld the right to seize his property, the
fugitive slave Frederick Baily. The fear of losing his freedom prompted Douglass to pursue
a dream he had long held; in the summer of 1845 he decided to go to England. There he
would be free from slave catchers, and also have the opportunity to speak to English
audiences and try to gain support for the American antislavery movement. By 1838 all
slaves within the British Empire had been given a gradual emancipation and were free. The
vigor of the English abolition movement was still very strong. As the wife of a traveling
lecturer, Anna Douglass had probably grown used to her husband's long absences. By August
1845, the Douglasses had 4 children: 6 year old Rosetta, 5 year old Lewis, 3 year old
Frederick and 10 month old Charles. Anna not only raised the children, but also toiled in
a shoe factory in Lynn, Massachusetts where the Douglasses had moved in 1842. Douglass
sailed to England on the British steamship Cambria. He was forced to stay in the steerage
(second class) area of the ship, but he made many friends on board and was even asked to
give a lecture on slavery by the captain. Some men were so angry at his speech that they
threatened to throw him overboard. The captain had to step in and threaten to put the men
in irons if they caused any more trouble. The rest of the voyage was peaceful. For nearly
two years, Douglass traveled throughout the British Isles. Everywhere he went, prominent
people welcomed him to their homes. Everywhere he spoke, enthusiastic crowds came to hear
the fugitive slave denounce the system which he had grown up in. He was quite happy in his
new surroundings. As he wrote to William Lloyd Garrison in January 1846, "Instead of the
bright blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft gray fog of the Emerald Isle. I
breathe and lo! The chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question
my equal humanity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an insult." He was also astonished
that he encountered so little racial prejudice among the British. The main topic of
Douglass's lecturers were slavery, but he also discussed a number of other causes that had
become important to him. Douglass had hated the way slaveowners would encourage their
workers to drink themselves into a stupor during Christmas holidays. He saw alcohol as
another means used to humiliate slaves. During his stay in Ireland, he also met with
Daniel O'Connell, the Irish Catholic leader who was fighting to end British rule in his
country. Douglass spoke out in favor of Irish independence. In the summer of 1846,
Douglass was joined by William Lloyd Garrison, and they traveled around England as a
powerful team of antislavery lecturers. In Scotland, the two became involved in a campaign
against the Free Church of Scotland. The church was partly supported by contributions from
American slaveholders of Scottish ancestry. Douglass and Garrison added their voices to
the cries of local antislavery activists: "Send the money back." The church kept the
money, but the dispute gained publicity for Douglass's battle against American slavery.
The World Temperance Convention that was held in London in August 1846 was the scene of
Douglass's most controversial speech. There he attacked the American temperance movement
because it failed to criticize slaveowners who used alcohol to pacify their workers. He
also felt that the temperance activists were hostile to free blacks. The Reverend Samuel
Cox, a member of the American delegation, publicly accused him of trying to destroy the
unity of the temperance movement. Douglass responded that Cox was a bigot and, like many
other clergymen, a secret supporter of slavery. By the fall of 1846, Douglass was ready to
return home. Garrison and other friends convinced him to stay another six months, but
Douglass rejected suggestions that he settle in England. His work lay in America where his
people labored in bondage. However, recapture remained a frightening possibility for
Douglass if he returned to the United States. The problem was unexpectedly resolved when
two English friends raised enough money to buy his freedom. The required amount, $710.96,
was sent to Hugh Auld, to whom Thomas Auld had transferred the title to Douglass. On
December 5, 1846, Hugh Auld signed the papers that declared the 28 year old Douglass a
free man. Douglass appreciated the gesture of his English friends, even though as an
abolitionist he did not recognize Hugh Auld's right to own him. In the spring of 1847,
Douglass sailed from England aboard the Cambria. He had left the United States as a
respected author and lecturer and was returning with a huge international reputation.
Thousands of people heard his lectures and he aroused much goodwill for the abolitionist
cause in the British Isles. His tour had been an unqualified success. Douglass was met by
friends and family upon returning home. However, some abolitionists criticized him for
letting his freedom be bought because he was thereby acknowledging Hugh Auld's right to
own him. Douglass's rebuttal was that his freedom was the gift of friends and that he
recognized Hugh Auld as his kidnapper, not his master. Now that the ransom had been paid,
he could fight the battle against slavery with a free mind. During his travels in England,
Douglass had demonstrated some independence from the Garrison abolitionist faction,
addressing a meeting sponsored by a rival antislavery group. Upon his return to America,
he decided to found and edit a new abolitionist newspaper with the help of funds raised by
his English friends. Garrison was opposed to this because he needed Douglass as a lecturer
and thought there were already enough abolitionists papers at the time. Douglass dropped
the idea for a while. In August 1847, he joined Garrison on a lecture tour throughout the
North, Garrison became seriously ill and Douglass was forced to continue the tour without
him. After finishing the tour in the fall of 1847, he again began drawing up plans for a
new abolitionist paper. The goal of his paper would be to proclaim the abolitionist cause
and fight for black equality. Rather than publish his paper in New England,, where the
Liberator was based, Douglass decided to move farther west, to Rochester, New York. The
Rochester Years
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Douglass
bought a two story home in Rochester, New York for Anna and the children and on December
3, 1847, Douglass began his second career, when his four page weekly newspaper, the North
Star, came off the presses. On the masthead appeared the motto, "Right is of no sex -
Truth is of no color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren." Once the
North Star began to circulate, Douglass's friends in the abolitionist movement rallied to
join in praising it. However, not everyone was pleased to see another antislavery paper -
especially one edited by an ex-slave. Some local citizens were unhappy that their town was
the site of a black newspaper, and the New York Herald urged the citizens of Rochester to
dump Douglass's printing press into Lake Ontario. Gradually, Rochester came to take pride
in the North Star and its bold editor. The town had a reputation for being
pro-abolitionist. Rochester's women were active in antislavery societies, and through them
Douglass kept in close contact with the leaders in the fight for women's rights, among
them Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Along with the good will
of Rochester's abolitionist and female political activists, Douglass received
encouragement from the local printer's union. The North Star received a number of glowing
reviews, but unfortunately the praises did not translate into financial success. The cost
of producing a weekly newspaper was high and subscriptions grew slowly. For a number of
years, Douglass was forced to depend on his own savings and contributions from friends to
keep the paper afloat. He was forced to return to the lecture circuit to raise money for
the paper. During the paper's first year, he was on the road for six months. In the spring
of 1848, he had to mortgage his home. In the midst of these troubles, a friend from
England arrived to help Douglass with his financial problems. Julia Griffiths had raised
enough money to help launch the paper, and now she was prepared to fight for its survival.
Griffiths put the North Star's finances in order, and Douglass was eventually able to
regain possession of his home. By 1851, he would be able to write to his friend, the
abolitionist publisher and politician Gerrit Smith, "The North Star sustains itself, and
partly sustains my large family. It has reached a living point. Hitherto, the struggle of
its life has been to live. Now it more than lives." Despite the ups and downs, Douglass's
newspaper continued publication as a weekly until 1860 and survived for three more years
as a monthly. After 1851, it would be titled Frederick Douglass' Paper. Douglass's
newspaper symbolized the potential for blacks to achieve whatever goals they set. The
paper provided a forum for black writers and highlighted the success achieved by prominent
black figures in American society. For Douglass, starting the North Star marked the end of
his dependence on Garrison and other white abolitionists. The paper allowed him to
discover the problems facing blacks around the country. Douglass had heated arguments with
many of his fellow black activists, but these debates showed that his people were
beginning to involve themselves in the center of events affecting their position in
America. By the end of the 1840's, Douglass was well on his way to becoming the most
famous and respected black leader in the country. He was in great demand as a speaker and
writer, he had proved himself to be and independent thinker and courageous spokesman for
black liberty and equality. During his years in Rochester, Douglass continued to grow in
status as the editor of the nation's best known black newspaper, in which he was free to
attack slavery with all the power of his intellect. Yet the turmoil of the 1850's would
severely test his faith in the ability of America to rid itself of the institution that
kept his people in bondage. Some of the turmoil made its way into Douglass's home. While
he roamed far beyond his original bounds, his wife, though hard-working, remained
uneducated and politically unambitious. Douglass hired a teacher for Anna in 1848, hoping
to bridge the gap between them. But his effort failed and Anna remained almost totally
illiterate. Douglass appreciated his wife's domestic skills, but he also admired the
educated, politically active women who served in the antislavery and women's rights
movements. He was grateful for all the help the women abolitionists had given blacks, and
in 1848, he showed his support for the feminist cause by attending the first women's
rights convention. The movement drew much hostile press, and the 35 women and 32 men who
went to the convention were described as "manhaters" and "hermaphrodites" (people with
both male and female sexual features). The women delegates hesitated to make the demand
for voting rights (suffrage) a part of their movement's platform, and the feminist leader
Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked Douglass to speak on the matter. With an appeal for bold
action, Douglass convinced the women that political equality was an essential step in
their liberation. The cause of women's rights continued to remain important to Douglass.
Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott among many other feminists would be his lifelong
friends. A scandal erupted in 1848 when Julia Griffiths began to serve as Douglass's
office and business manager and soon became his almost constant companion. She arranged
his lectures, dealt with the paper's finances and accompanied him to meetings. People in
Rochester gradually adjusted to the sight of the black leader and the white woman walking
arm in arm down the street. Rumors began to fly because Griffiths lived in the same house
with Douglass and his wife. Anna Douglas was uneasy about the local talk, but did not
speak much about the situation. The controversy was reported in the newspapers, and
Douglass was attacked by the Garrisonians for involving the abolitionist movement in a
scandal. In 1852, Griffiths decided to spare Douglass further embarrassment by moving out
of his home. She remained his close associate until 1855, when she returned to England.
Tensions between Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison began to mount because Douglass's
views on how to fight slavery gradually began to change and differed sharply from
Garrison's. The first principles of Garrison that Douglass began to question was the idea
that resisting slavery through violent means was wrong. In 1847, Douglass met with the
militant white abolitionist John Brown, who helped to convince Douglass that pacifist
means could not by themselves bring an end to slavery. Brown had told him that
slaveholders "had forfeited their right to live, and that slaves had the right to gain
their liberty in any way they could." At abolitionist meetings Douglass began telling his
audiences that he would be pleased to hear that the slaves in the South had revolted and
"were spreading death and destruction." Ten years later, he had completely abandoned the
idea that slavery could be ended peacefully. Douglass began widening his circle of
abolitionist friends and thus began to question Garrison's opposition to seeking
antislavery reforms through the political process. In 1848, he urged women to fight for
the vote. Garrison's view of the Constitution as a proslavery document was not accepted by
all abolitionists, as Douglass began to talk with these dissenters, he began to see the
matter in a different way. The Constitution, with its emphasis on promoting the general
welfare and securing the blessings of liberty for all, clearly seemed to be antislavery.
The North, Douglass realized, would never abolish slavery if that could only be done by
dividing the Union and dismantling the Constitution. He therefore decided that slavery
would have to be ended through political reforms. Garrit Smith, who was a leader in the
antislavery Liberty party became associated with Douglass and got him involved in
politics. In 1848, he attended a convention of the Free Soil party, which was trying to
stop the spread of slavery into areas west of the Mississippi River. The final split
between Douglass and Garrison took place in June, 1851 at the annual meeting of the
American Antislavery Society. Douglass shocked his old associates by publicly announcing
that he intended to urge the readers of the North Star to engage in politics. The
Garrisonian press launched a vicious assault against him during the following months. The
disputes between the antislavery factions did not dominate Douglass's life. He was active
in any cause that furthered the cause of his people. Douglass also tried to establish a
black vocational school, an institution that would train its students to become skilled
tradesmen. Among the people he visited in his efforts to raise funds for the school was
Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the immensely popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom's
Cabin . Unfortunately, Douglass was unable to raise enough money to start the school.
Douglass was a proud and loving father although he was often away from home. A fifth
child, Annie, was born in 1849. Rochester's public schools would not admit black students
so Douglass enrolled his oldest child, Rosetta, into a private school. However, even there
Rosetta was segregated from white students, and Douglass finally hired a woman to teach
his children at home. Never one to let racial discrimination go unchallenged, Douglass
campaigned to end segregation in Rochester's school system, and in 1857 his efforts
succeeded. In 1850 Douglass became strongly involved in the underground railroad, the
system set up by antislavery groups to bring runaways to sanctuaries in the North and in
Canada. Douglass's home in Rochester was near the Canadian border, and during the 1850s it
became an important station on the underground railroad. Eventually, he became the
superintendent of the entire system in his area. He often found runaways sitting on the
steps of his newspaper office when he arrived for work. At times, as many as 11 fugitives
were hiding in his home. Over the years, he and Anna fed and sheltered hundreds of these
men and women. Only a few of the slaves who tried to escape from the South were
successful. Douglass fiercely attacked the fugitive slave laws and the many atrocities
that were being committed against runaway slaves. In a speech given in Rochester on
Independence Day in 1852, Douglass pointed out how differently blacks and whites viewed
the day's celebrations: What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day
that reveals to him more than all the other days of the year, the gross injustice and
cruelty to which he is the constant victim...To him your celebration is a sham...a thin
veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of
the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United
States. The sufferings of the hunted fugitive slaves reminded Douglass that freedom for
his people would not come easily. In a speech he made at a Canandaigua, New York,
convention celebrating the 20th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the British
West Indies, Douglass preached that blacks must unite to gain their liberty and that they
must be prepared for a hard struggle. Blacks, he said, would have to pay a heavy price to
win their freedom. "We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be,
by our lives and the lives of others." During the mid-1850s, John Brown was the leader of
one of the Free Soil bands fighting the proslavery forces in Kansas. But Brown wanted to
start a slave revolt in the South. In 1859, he decided to lead an attack on the northern
Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, seize the weapons stored in the nearby federal armory, and
hold the local citizens hostage while he rounded up slaves in the area. Gathering a small
force of white and black volunteers, Brown rented a farm near Harpers Ferry and made his
preparations for attack. From the farm, Brown wrote to Douglass, asking him to come to a
meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in August. There Brown announced his plans and
urged Douglass to join in the attack. Douglass refused. He had agreed with Brown's earlier
ideas, but he knew that an attack on federal property would enrage most Americans. This
was the last time Douglass and Brown met. On October 16, 1589, Brown and his men seized
Harpers Ferry. The next night, federal troops led by Colonel Robert E. Lee marched into
the town and stormed the armory where Brown's band was stationed. Brown was captured, and
two of his sons were killed in the fighting. In less than two months, Brown was tried for
treason, found guilty, and hanged. Douglass was lecturing in Philadelphia when he received
the news about Brown's raid, and he was warned that letters had been found that implicated
him in the attack. The headlines for the newspapers' accounts of the incident featured his
name prominently. Knowing that he stood little chance of a fair trial if he were captured
and sent to Virginia, Douglass fled to Canada. While in Canada, Douglass wrote letters in
his own defense, justifying both his flight and his refusal to help Brown. One of the men
captured during the raid said that Douglass had promised to appear at Harpers Ferry with
reinforcements. Douglass denied this accusation, saying that he would never approve of
attacks on federal property. But though he could not condone the raid, he praised Brown as
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