Eventually, however, Douglass fought back, in a scene rendered powerfully in his first autobiography. After losing a physical confrontation with Douglass, Covey never beat him again. Douglass tried to escape from slavery twice before he finally succeeded. Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman, on September 15, Douglass had fallen in love with Murray, who assisted him in his final attempt to escape slavery in Baltimore. Murray had provided him with some of her savings and a sailor's uniform.
He carried identification papers obtained from a free black seaman. Douglass made his way to the safe house of abolitionist David Ruggles in New York in less than 24 hours. Anna and Frederick then settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which had a thriving free black community. There they adopted Douglass as their married name. Charles and Rosetta assisted their father in the production of his newspaper The North Star. Anna remained a loyal supporter of Frederick's public work, despite marital strife caused by his relationships with several other women.
Pitts was the daughter of Gideon Pitts Jr. Their marriage caused considerable controversy, since Pitts was white and nearly 20 years younger than Douglass.
Nonetheless, Douglass and Pitts remained married until his death 11 years later. After settling as a free man with his wife Anna in New Bedford in , Douglass was eventually asked to tell his story at abolitionist meetings, and he became a regular anti-slavery lecturer.
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Several days after the story ran, Douglass delivered his first speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society's annual convention in Nantucket. Crowds were not always hospitable to Douglass. While participating in an lecture tour through the Midwest, Douglass was chased and beaten by an angry mob before being rescued by a local Quaker family. Following the publication of his first autobiography in , Douglass traveled overseas to evade recapture. He set sail for Liverpool on August 16, , and eventually arrived in Ireland as the Potato Famine was beginning.
He remained in Ireland and Britain for two years, speaking to large crowds on the evils of slavery. In , the famed writer and orator returned to the United States a free man. In New Bedford, Massachusetts, Douglass joined a black church and regularly attended abolitionist meetings. At the urging of Garrison, Douglass wrote and published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave , in The book was a bestseller in the United States and was translated into several European languages. Douglass published three versions of his autobiography during his lifetime, revising and expanding on his work each time.
My Bondage and My Freedom appeared in Elizabeth Cady Stanton asked the assembly to pass a resolution stating the goal of women's suffrage. Many attendees opposed the idea. Douglass, however, stood and spoke eloquently in favor, arguing that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. The resolution passed. By the time of the Civil War , Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the country. He used his status to influence the role of African Americans in the war and their status in the country.
President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation , which took effect on January 1, , declared the freedom of slaves in Confederate territory. Despite this victory, Douglass supported John C. Slavery everywhere in the United States was subsequently outlawed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. Douglass was appointed to several political positions following the war. After two years, he resigned from his ambassadorship over objections to the particulars of U.
DOUGLASS could be persuaded to consecrate his time and talents to the promotion of the anti-slavery enterprise, a powerful impetus would be given to it, and a stunning blow at the same time inflicted on northern prejudice against a colored complexion.
2. Natural Law
I therefore endeavored to instil hope and courage into his mind, in order that he might dare to engage in a vocation so anomalous and responsible for a person in his situation; and I was seconded in this effort by warm-hearted friends, especially by the late General Page vi Agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, Mr. JOHN A. At first, he could give no encouragement; with unfeigned diffidence, he expressed his conviction that he was not adequate to the performance of so great a task; the path marked out was wholly an untrodden one; he was sincerely apprehensive that he should do more harm than good.
After much deliberation, however, he consented to make a trial; and ever since that period, he has acted as a lecturing agent, under the auspices either of the American or the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In labors he has been most abundant; and his success in combating prejudice, in gaining proselytes, in agitating the public mind, has far surpassed the most sanguine expectations that were raised at the commencement of his brilliant career. He has borne himself with gentleness and meekness, yet with true manliness of character. As a public speaker, he excels in pathos, wit, comparison, imitation, strength of reasoning, and fluency of language.
There is in him that union of head and heart, which is indispensable to an enlightenment of the heads and a winning of the hearts of others. May his strength continue to be equal to his day! May he continue to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God," that he may be increasingly serviceable in the cause of bleeding humanity, whether at home or abroad! Let the calumniators of the colored Page vii race despise themselves for their baseness and illiberality of spirit, and henceforth cease to talk of the natural inferiority of those who require nothing but time and opportunity to attain to the highest point of human excellence.
It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any other portion of the population of the earth could have endured the privations, sufferings and horrors of slavery, without having become more degraded in the scale of humanity than the slaves of African descent. Nothing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!
To illustrate the effect of slavery on the white man,--to show that he has no powers of endurance, in such a condition, superior to those of his black brother, -- DANIEL O'CONNELL, the distinguished advocate of universal emancipation, and the mightiest champion of prostrate but not conquered Ireland, relates the following anecdote in a speech delivered by him in the Conciliation Hall, Dublin, before the Loyal National Repeal Association, March 31, It has a natural, an inevitable tendency to brutalize every noble faculty of man.
An American sailor, who was cast away on the shore of Africa, where he was kept in slavery for three years, was, at the expiration of that period, found to be imbruted and stultified--he had lost all reasoning power; and having forgotten his native language, could only utter some savage gibberish between Arabic and English, which nobody could understand, and which even he himself found difficulty in pronouncing. DOUGLASS has very properly chosen to write his own Narrative, in his own style, and according to the best of his ability, rather than to employ some one else.
It is, therefore, entirely his own production; and, considering how long and dark was the career he had to run as a slave,--how few have been his opportunities to improve his mind since he broke his iron fetters--it is, in my judgment, highly creditable to his head and heart. He who can peruse it without a tearful eye, a heaving breast, an afflicted spirit,--without being filled with an unutterable abhorrence of slavery and all its abettors, and animated with a determination to seek the immediate overthrow of that execrable system,--without trembling for the fate of this country in the hands of a righteous God, who is ever on the side of the oppressed, and whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save,--must have a flinty heart, and be qualified to act the part of a trafficker "in slaves and the souls of men.
Many have suffered incomparably more, while very few on the plantations have suffered less, than himself. Yet how deplorable was his situation! This Narrative contains many affecting incidents, many passages of great eloquence and power; but I think the most thrilling one of them all is the description DOUGLASS gives of his feelings, as he stood soliloquizing respecting his fate, and the chances of his one day being a freeman, on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay--viewing the receding vessels as they flew with their white wings before the breeze, and apostrophizing them as animated by the living spirit of freedom.
Who can read that passage, and be insensible to its pathos and sublimity? Compressed into it is a whole Alexandrian library of thought, feeling, and sentiment--all that can, all that need be urged, in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime of crimes,--making man the property of his fellow-man! O, how accursed is that system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image, reduces those who by creation were crowned Page x with glory and honor to a level with four-footed beasts, and exalts the dealer in human flesh above all that is called God!
Why should its existence be prolonged one hour? Is it not evil, only evil, and that continually? What does its presence imply but the absence of all fear of God, all regard for man, on the part of the people of the United States? Heaven speed its eternal overthrow! So profoundly ignorant of the nature of slavery are many persons, that they are stubbornly incredulous whenever they read or listen to any recital of the cruelties which are daily inflicted on its victims.
They do not deny that the slaves are held as property; but that terrible fact seems to convey to their minds no idea of injustice, exposure to outrage, or savage barbarity. Tell them of cruel scourgings, of mutilations and brandings, of scenes of pollution and blood, of the banishment of all light and knowledge, and they affect to be greatly indignant at such enormous exaggerations, such wholesale misstatements, such abominable libels on the character of the southern planters! As if all these direful outrages were not the natural results of slavery!
As if it were less cruel to reduce a human being to the condition of a thing, than to give him a severe flagellation, or to deprive him of necessary food and clothing! As if whips, chains, thumb-screws, paddles, bloodhounds, overseers, drivers, patrols, were not all indispensable to keep the slaves down, and to give protection to their ruthless oppressors! As if, when the marriage institution is abolished, concubinage, adultery, and incest, must not necessarily abound; when all the rights of humanity are annihilated, any barrier remains to protect the victim from the fury of the spoiler; when absolute power is assumed over life and liberty, it will not be wielded with destructive sway!
Skeptics of this character abound in society. In some few instances, their incredulity arises from a want of Page xi reflection; but, generally, it indicates a hatred of the light, a desire to shield slavery from the assaults of its foes, a contempt of the colored race, whether bond or free. Such will try to discredit the shocking tales of slaveholding cruelty which are recorded in this truthful Narrative; but they will labor in vain.
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DOUGLASS has frankly disclosed the place of his birth, the names of those who claimed ownership in his body and soul, and the names also of those who committed the crimes which he has alleged against them. His statements, therefore, may easily be disproved, if they are untrue.
In the course of his Narrative, he relates two instances of murderous cruelty,--in one of which a planter deliberately shot a slave belonging to a neighboring plantation, who had unintentionally gotten within his lordly domain in quest of fish; and in the other, an overseer blew out the brains of a slave who had fled to a stream of water to escape a bloody scourging. The Baltimore American, of March 17, , relates a similar case of atrocity, perpetrated with similar impunity--as follows" Shooting a Slave. The letter states that young Matthews had been left in charge of the farm; that he gave an order to the servant, which was disobeyed, when he proceeded to the house, obtained a gun, and, returning, shot the servant.
He immediately, the letter continues, fled to his father's residence, where he still remains unmolested. By the slave code, they are adjudged to be as incompetent to testify against a white man, as though they were indeed a part of the brute creation. Hence, there is no legal protection in fact, whatever there may be in form, for the slave population; and any amount of cruelty may be inflicted on them with impunity. Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of a more horrible state of society? The effect of a religious profession on the conduct of southern masters is vividly described in the following Narrative, and shown to be any thing but salutary.
In the nature of the case, it must be in the highest degree pernicious. The testimony of Mr. He is a felon of the highest grade.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Reader’s Guide
He is a man-stealer. It is of no importance what you put in the other scale. If with the former, then are you the foe of God and man. If with the latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in their behalf? Be faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom review: a monumental biography | Books | The Guardian
My Dear Friend:. You remember the old fable of "The Man and the Lion," where the lion complained that he should not be so misrepresented "when the lions write history. One might, indeed, rest sufficiently satisfied with what, it is evident, must be, in general the results of such a relation, without seeking farther to find whether they have followed in every instance.
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