Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
A Book Review by Joseph Tuttle
In this book we read about the early life of an American Slave Frederick Douglass, it is in fact his autobiography. We will see that after getting sent to Baltimore, Frederick began to have ideas about freedom, after overhearing some cruel words from his master, and decided to escape to the Northern states where he might be free, like all men should be. This specific book also contains some of the various works of Frederick, which the author of this paper will not go over, due to the fact that they do not tell us about his life, only his literary skills which are quite impressive.
Frederick was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbout county, Maryland (Unfortunately Frederick did not know specifically when he was born, nor was he able to give any dates until a certain point in his narrative, although he had heard one of his masters say that he was about seventeen, in 1835. So the author of this paper will not be using dates until later). His mother's name was Harriet Bailey. His father was a white man (some believe that it was his original master, but about this Frederick is uncertain). He was separated from his mother when he was but an infant, and not many years later she died when Frederick was about seven years old. Under Frederick's first master Captain Anthony (a middle class farmer) there was a cruel overseer named Mr. Plummer, who would often beat slaves and whip them till they bled. Frederick happened to see him whip one of the slaves of the farm one day, and this scared him and shocked him that humans could be so evil and malicious toward other humans (17-22).
Captain Anthony was what we will call an overseer of the overseers, on a plantation for a Colonel Edward Lloyd. Colonel Lloyd had from three to four hundred slaves on his home plantation, and many more on neighboring farms belonging to him. At this home plantation of Colonel Lloyd, the slaves would receive their monthly allowance of food and yearly clothing. Their months worth of food would consist of eight pounds of pork or its equivalent in fish, and a bushel of corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two shirts, a pair of trousers, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes. No beds were given to the slaves, only a coarse blanket (23-28).
Through his early childhood Frederick had to deal with many different overseers, all of which were cruel individuals who had no respect for human life, and would often beat slaves, whip them, and sometimes even kill them (29-36). When he was about seven or eight years old, Frederick left this dreadful plantation with joy to head to a new master in Baltimore. He was going to live with Mr. Hugh Auld. He arrived in Baltimore on a boat on an early Sunday morning, landing at Smith's Wharf. From here he was conducted by one of the hands of the boat to his new home in Aliceanna Street. Mr. and Mrs. Auld met Frederick at the door with their son Thomas, with beaming smiling faces! Frederick was taken back by the kindness and generosity of Mrs. Auld, who began to teach him to read and write. This was cut short by Mr. Auld who said "Now if you teach the slave how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever make him unfit to be a slave." And after Mr. Auld said this to his wife, she changed entirely from nice to horribly mean. These words that Mr. Auld uttered stuck with Frederick all his life and inspired him all the more to learn to read and write (38-44).
Frederick lived with this master for about seven years. During this time in Baltimore he learned to read and write in a rather devious way. He would go down to the docks and look at the names on boats, and copy them down in the dirt. Then after mastering this he would go to hang out with the white children and tout that he could write excellently on a stone wall with chalk, and write down one of the ship's names. The white boys would laugh and write down something more intricate. Frederick would then copy what they wrote down, and thus learned how to write, and would ask the white boys to pronounce certain words that they spelled and in turn learned how to read (45-55).
(At this point in his life Frederick was finally able to give dates.) Frederick left baltimore and went to live with his Master Thomas Auld at St, Michael's in March 1832. Thomas Auld was a mean man, who would underfeed all his slaves with only a bushel of corn meal per week, and very little else. To the slaves underfeeding was one of the worst cruelties they could endure. Auld would also tie certain slaves up, and whip them till they bled and would leave them tied up until evening. "Master" Auld found Frederick unsuitable to his purposes, and sent him to be broken in to farm work by a Mr. Covey. Mr. Covey was a poor man, and a farm renter. He had a reputation for breaking in slaves. Frederick left Auld's house and went to live with Mr. Covey on the 1st of January, 1833 (57-62).
Now working for Mr. Covey, for a year, Frederick was a field hand. Unfortunately with his seven years of city life, he was no good at farmwork. For his lack of ability, Covey would give him severe whippings. Working for this man was difficult for Frederick, he thought of freedom more often than ever before. During a confrontation between Covey and Frederick there discussion came to blows, and Frederick won, and Covey never said a word after their fight. Frederick’s term of service to Covey ended on Christmas day 1833. On the first of January 1834, Frederick went to live with Mr. Freeland, who lived about three miles from St. Michael's. At the close of the year Frederick was hired again to his old master for the year of 1835, but he wanted to live on free land. Frederick planned an escape with some other slaves, but did not succeed, but his master never knew he was trying to escape. From there he went to live in Baltimore again with a Mr. William Gardner, who put him to work making pitch for vessels he was making (63-93).
In Frederick's narrative he finally escaped to the North, specifically New York. The circumstances and people who were involved are anonymous. Once in New York he married Anna Murray and moved to New Bedford where he got a job and became an abolitionist and gave great speeches on the evils on slavery (95-115).
- Quote paper
- Joseph Tuttle (Author), 2019, Book Review for "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/903165