Essay on Frederick Douglass Essay examples
In the book, “The life and time of Fredrick Douglass” which was written by Fredrick Douglass explores his early childhood life, his life as a slave, how he escaped from slavery and more importantly, how his life changed from being a slave to a world icon. Apparently, to contemplate the life of Fredrick Douglass, especially from being a slave to a successful man, it is important to examine how he managed to escape from slavery, as well as how his contributions to the abolitionist movement in the United States. His journey to success had been long and challenging, especially by taking into consideration that his mother was a slave and his destiny was to follow suit.
There are myriad of factors which stimulated Fredrick Douglass to escape from slavery, including his own experience as a slave, people, incidents, his reasoning skills and books. Reaching on the decision to escape was not a walk on the park, especially due to the fact that the slave master, Col. Lloyd, has establish strict measures which ensured that no one could have escaped from his plantation.
Fredrick Douglass` experience during his childhood as well as a slave greatly influenced him to make up the decision of escaping from slavery. To start with, he was born in Talbot County which is located on the Eastern Shore in the State of Maryland, a place which all aspects which can be used to describe poverty and a disillusioned state perfect matched it, including the hopelessness of its inhabitants, dilapidation and desert like appearances. He was brought up by his grandmother and grandfather, Betsey and Isaac Bailey respectively. He never got a chance of extensively interacting with his own mother or his father, especially due to the fact that his mother was busy working as a slave in agricultural plantations. His mother would rarely trek on foot for long distances in order to see him and then trek back in order to be on time with her daily tasks in the plantations. His grandparents had six daughters (including his mother), all of which were working as slaves. His father was a white man, and freed soon after his mother conceived. All at this time, Fredrick Douglass was too young to contemplate how life as a slave was, but with time, he came to understand how cruel the life of a slave was.
Precisely, he came to understand that when a slave woman happens to conceived, her child was being left under care of his or her grandparents while the mother returns back to work. The grandparents were mandated to take care of the child until when he or she attains a certain age, after which the child becomes part and parcel of the other slaves as well. Fredrick Douglass followed the same suit, and it was hurting to be detached from his own grandmother, who he had grown strongly believing that she had perfectly stood on the shoes of his mother in bringing him up. That pain of being eliminated from his loved ones by slave mothers was so deep that he felt that he could not bear it anymore, and at the same time, he felt empathy to numerous other children who used to follow the same suit. He also came to learn that the house that his grandparents used to live in, as well as those of the other children in his neighborhood belonged to an old master by name Captain Aaron Anthony, who owed a number of farms in Tuckahoe.
Moreover, numerous incidences also made Fredrick Douglass to make up his decision of escaping from the slave plantation. For example, the real experience of Fredrick Douglass started when he was brought to the home plantation of Col. Lloyd. Here, Douglass came to learn that at the place was the deport for all children who have been born by slave women, and were being raised up to a given age when they would be given tasks as slaves. It is at this place that he managed to meet his two older sisters, Sarah and Eliza, and his brother Perry, and this experience also pained him a lot, especially after considering the pain that his grandmother had been enduring leaving her grandsons and daughters on the hands of slave masters. In addition, the ill-nature and cruelty of Aunt Katy, who had been mandated to take care of all the children in that home, also made him learn and hate the plight of slaves. Aunt Katy used to beat and starve them often, to such an extent that Fredrick Douglass and the rest were reduced to dogs which eat left overs on the ground. Another incident which encouraged Fredrick Douglass to escape was how masters used to mistreat their slaves. A good incident was when he witnessed old Barney being whipped by Col. Lloyd without a shirt and on his knees. Another incident was when Mr. Thomas Lanman, who was a ship carpenter of St. Michaels murdered two slaves by butchering their brains with a hatchet.
Moreover, Fredrick Douglass was also influenced to escape by a number of individuals whom he encountered in his life. For example, when he was about seven or eight years old, his Aunt Jennie and Uncle Noah managed to escape from captain Antony`s slavery and run to free states. Though the old master was furious and determined to catch them and bring them back to the plantation, he never managed. This occurrence made him gain hope and knowledge that one can really escape, and from that time, he started formulating a strategy which he can use to escape as well. In addition, his cousin Tom also encouraged Fredrick Douglass to escape from slave plantations. Tom was about two or three years older than Douglass, and had mentioned some wise words to him that it was better to be hanged in hanged in England than dying a natural death in Ireland. At that time, Douglass was thinking of a place where he would run to, and when he remembered these words from his cousin Tom, he managed to make up his mind to run to Baltimore. In addition, Miss Lucretia also influenced Douglass to escape, especially after learning that she and her Husband Mr. Hugh lived in Baltimore. It is at this point that Mrs. Auld started teaching Douglass on how to read and write, and this became the turning point of his life. Other individuals who greatly influenced Douglass to escape were his young white playmates, which were not limited to Charles Farity, Josegh Bailey, Gustavus Dorgan, and William Cosdry, who tirelessly taught him to read and spell different English words.
Consecutively, Douglass` passion of enriching his reading and writing skills also stimulated him to make up the decision to escape from slavery. He spent most of his free time reading a book or a newspaper, and even when he realized that his master, Mr. Auld was against his reading culture, he was determined to learn on how to read at any cost. In addition, in order to enrich his learning skills, he used to buy a variety of newspapers and books, including the word spelling book and the Columbian Orator, out of which he learnt about human rights. Douglass was also influenced to escape by his critical reasoning skills, which made him start challenging why there are slaves whose lives are characterized by continuous suffering and mistreatment, and why there are masters, who are rich and powerful. His reasoning skills made him start challenging himself that he would not live as a slave forever.
After Fredrick Douglass managed to escape from slavery in the South, he joined Abolitionists in the North and became a vibrant abolitionist. He played numerous roles in the Abolitionist movements both in the United States and abroad. He first learnt about abolitionists from his former master, Mr. Auld, who used to mention that word with his friends. He also managed to come across this word in the newspaper when he was learning to read, and contemplated that one of the main agenda of the spearheads of the abolitionist movement was the abolition of slavery. After escaping from slavery, Douglass moved to New Brandford, Massachussets. His passion for abolition was within him, especially due to the fact that he was aware that the movement`s aim is to address issues concerning slavery. This stimulated him to start attending abolition meetings. It was through the process of attending abolitionist meetings that he happened to meet one of the prominent abolitionist, William C. Coffin, who gave him a chance to narrate his experiences as a slave to the rest of the group members. His narration skills moved many of the abolitionists, to such an extent that they nicknamed him an orator. Besides this, the narration concerning his slavery experience also landed him a job as an agent for the Massachuettes` Anti-Slavery Society, and through this platform, he managed to have speaking tours across the Midwest and the North. In 1845, he released his autobiography entitled, “Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass”, and through this narrative, together with the numerous abolition speeches that he was making in various parts, made him win the hearts of many, and this made his fame as a prominent abolitionist to expand in the U.S and beyond.
Douglass was in the forefront in ensuring that the U.S Constitution seriously declared bans slavery in all states. He constantly advocated and preached anti-slavery in most northern states, and formed allies with similar minded individuals and groups such as Abraham Lincoln. Actually during the civil war, Fredrick Douglass was Lincoln`s consultant, and he played a great role in Emancipation Declaration which took place on January 1863.
After reading Fredrick Douglass`s book, “The life and time of Fredrick Douglass” I have come to understand that escaping from the slave plantations was not a walk on the park. Most slaves who managed to escape had for years psychologically and physically disturbed by the life of slavery to such an extent that they could not bear the pain any longer. The sufferings as well as the challenges that most slaves were encountering while escaping has also been elaborated by professor Foner in his book entitled, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.” My clear understanding of how slaves used to escape from the chains of slavery was achieved when I read the transcript which entails the fugitive slaves as revealed during the interview of Eric Foner in the NPR program. When I compared the experiences of slaves who had managed to escape as stipulated in Professor Foner`s book with the experience of Fredrick Douglass, I established that there were numerous similarities between them.
To start with, life in the slave plantations was full of mistreatments, hard work, starvation and separation of loved ones such as relatives. Professor Foner`s book was compiled out of the recorded narratives of individuals who had managed to escape from the plantations, and one thing that was common to all was the physical and psychological sufferings that they experienced while in the slave plantations. Douglass revealed how he experience an old man being whipped by his master without mercy as well as being given insufficient food despite the hard labor that they were being subjected in. the unfair treatments sensitized most individuals to think of ways of escaping.
In addition, the process of escaping was full of challenges and fears especially due to the fact that being caught escaping was a crime that could have amounted to death. Precisely, from Professor Foner`s book, most individuals who had managed to escape explained the fairs that they had along the way. There were professional slave catchers along the transportation networks, in towns, and to the worst, at the north where most of the slaves were seeking refuge after escaping. The slave catchers and slave patrols would always ask any slave they may happen to come across to produce free papers, which were used as a prove that the slave was off the plantations with the permission from their masters. Douglass revealed the fears he had on his way to freedom, especially due to the fact that he had earlier tried to escape from the slave plantations but in vain, and he feared that he can as well be among the unfortunate many who are caught escaping and returned back into the slave plantations.
Consecutively, it was common to all the individuals who managed to escape that each had to leave his or her relatives behind. Precisely, it was close to impossible for an entire family to succeed in escaping. For Douglass, he had to leave his grandmother, grandfather, aunties, and the painful one, his brother and two sisters. This was the same story to every fugitive slave. Moreover, as stipulated in the record, most of the slaves who managed to escape from the slave plantations were young men and women, who were in their 20s. it is worth noting that the number of men who escaped by far surpassed that of women. Most youths possibly managed to escape because they were energetic, active, and a strong mind to take risks.
In addition, each of the individual who managed to escape had to formulate his or her own wat of escaping. Some had to collaborate with other black sailors in order to be transported away from the south, others would steal carriages of their masters, while others would sail by boat all the way. This was the similar case to Fredrick Douglass. Moreover, all the slaves who managed to escape wanted to move to the northern states, especially due to the fact that most leaders, led by Abraham Lincoln had managed to convince the Northern Americans to abolish slavery. The slaves knew that the only refuge that they can get after escaping was the north, otherwise they would still be caught and be returned into the slave plantations.
The Columbian University professor and historian Eric Foner gather a lot of information about fugitive slaves from the record that was written by Sydney Howard Gay. The information from the recordings was by far reliable and valid due to a number of factors. First, Mr. Gay was a key underground Railway operative between the mid-1840s up to the onset of the Civil War. This means that he had witnessed a lot of slaves escaping to the north, especially those who were using rail as their means of escaping. Secondly, Mr. Gay was also the editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, which was a weekly newspaper.
Concerning the fugitive slave act, professor Foner hailed the heroic and patriotic acts of the abolitionist movement, claiming that their contribution, suffering and the numerous lives that they lost did not go into waste, since at last, slavery was abolished in both the Southern and Northern states. He was amazed by the manner in which the slaves managed to find their way out of slavery even when it seemed impossible. He also hailed the individuals who in one way or the other helped the fugitive slaves to escape.
Fredrick Douglass. The Life and Times of Fredrick Douglass. De Wolfe and Fiske Co., Boston 1892 print. Accessed from, http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/dougl92/dougl92.html
Eric Forne. Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of The Underground Railroad. Accessed from, https://www.npr.org/2015/01/19/377606644/gateway-to-freedom-heroes-danger-and-loss-on-the -underground-railroad