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Frederick Douglas – Character Sketch

Hello, my name is Frederick Douglas. Please excuse my hairdo, I know it’s changed a little bit since The 1800’s, but when the 1970’s came around I just couldn’t resist going with the new styles. Throughout history others have noted me for my ability as a powerful speaker. People have said that my charm, wit, intelligence and humor, all contributed to my fame as one of the strongest abolitionist voices ever heard, and one of the foremost spokesman for black americans I was born a slave in February of 1818 near the town of Easton on the shore of Maryland.

My mother used to call me little Valentine so I adopted February 14 as my birthday not ever really knowing the true date. I didn’t really know my mother very well, because she was very busy working in the cornfields, so I had to go live with my grandmothere, Betsey Baily. I don’ t know much about my father, except he was white. At age 6, I learned the harsh realities of the slave system. My master, Aaron Anthony fed me and the other slave children cornmeal out of a trough. We ate like so many pigs, and I competed with the master’s dogs for food and bones, becasue I was so hungry.

We had no beds or warm blankets, and on cold winter nights we would huddle together on the kitchen floor. Aaron Anthony made a habit of whipping us if we didn’t folow orders orders quick enough. My hatred for slavery increased over the years. A hatred for lavery and a desire for freedom burned with in me. 1 thing that increased my hatred for this horrible institution was when I saw my grandmother sent into the woods to die because she could no longer work. At 16, I was sent to work on a new farm. One hot August afternoon my strength failed me and I collapsed.

Covey, the master of the plantation, kicked me and beat me to no avail. When I was finally able to walk, Covey tried to tie me to a post for a whipping and “at that moment, from whence came the spirit I don’t know- I resolved to fight. I seized Covey hard by the throat , and as I did so I rose. We fought for almost 2 hours until covey finally gave up telling me that my beating would have been less severe, had i not resisted, but “the truth was, he had not whipped me at all” After working there, I was sent to another farm where I ran an illegal school for blacks.

I wound up in jail because I was planning to escape and mine plan was exposed. I wound up in Baltimore, where I learned to caulk ships and was payed well for my work, but had to give it all to my master. I met my 1st wife Anna Murray in Baltimore, where we got engaged. While i n Baltimore I decidede that I would escape to the north on a northbound train. It was risky, but I had to do it. I borrowed money from Anna, and a friends “sailors protection” which said I was a free seaman, and bought a ticket to Philadelphia. My train ride was so frightening.

I could have sworn that people from Baltimore recognized me, but if they did they didn’t report me. On September 4, 1838 I arrived in NYC, and a new world had opened upon me. It is very hard to describe my emotions at that time. Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted, but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil. My first few days in America were very scary and I wandered around too afraid to talk to anyone, becasue i did not know if they were slave catchers or not, but I soon became linked with the Underground railroad, through an honest looking black sailor.

I then sent for Anna, and on September 15, 1838 we were married. We moved to New Bedford Massachusetts, and that was when I changed my name from Frederick Baily to Frederick Douglas. While in New Bedford I subscribed to the anti-slavery Liberator, which was edited by abolitionist William Loyd Garrison. The paper became my meat and drink. My soul was set all on fire , and soon thereafter I became involved in the abolitionist movement. I met Garrison for the first time inAugust of 1841, and he hired me to be an agent for the American Anti-Slavery SOciety.

My job was to tour the country and lecture on slavery and sell subcriptions to the LIberator and another newspaper, the Anti-slavery standard. I believed that I had found my purpose in life. I toured the country and many people were moved by my speches, but others found it hard to believe, that someone only 6 years out of eloslavery could speak so quently. So they in turn had a hard time believing my story. My reputation wasa t stake, so during the WInter of 1844 i wrote an autobiography, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave.

It is a sermon on how slavery corrupts the human spirit and robs both master and slave of their freedom. Because my freedom was at jeopardy after publishing my book, I decided to go to England. I made antislavery speeches there, and when i wanted to return home recapture was a frightening possiblity, so 2 of my friends in England raised the money to buy my freedom from my master, Thomas Auld. Back in America in 1817 I was living in ROchester and working in a parto f the Undergroudn Railroad. I continued making speeches and I began publishing the North Star, an abolitonist paper which I edited for 17 years..

The topics which were very important to me, were not only slavery, but women’s rights also. After working with Garrison for so long , tension between us began to build because Garrison did not believe that we should get involved in politics, but i realized that that was the only way to make a difference. During this time, in the mid 1850s, I was living in Rochester with my family. Me and Anna had 6 children. I campaigned to end segregation in the Rochester’s school system and in 1857 succeeded. In 1852 the leading citizens of Rochester asked me to give a speech as part of their 4th of July celebration.

My speech I delivered was a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of the nation. Here is a small excert from it. What to the American Slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all theother days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim… To him your celebrationis 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 practes more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States.

During the election of 1860, I gave my support to Abraham Lincoln, but was dissapointed with him becasue in his address, he promised to uphold the fugitive slave law. In 1861, the Civil war began. the south was fighting to secede, the north to uphold the union, but for me and other abolitionists the war was to end slavery. On December 31, 1826 the president issued the emancipation proclamation. This was such a great victory, because the end of slavery was in sightThe next struggle was to allow blacks to enlist in the army, and in 1863 we were granted that right.

One story which I remember, is when black were refused teh right to attend president Lincoln’s evening reception after his second inagural address, but when LIncoln heard of this, i was quicky ushered in and he greeted me with the words Here comes my friend, Douglas. On April 9, 1865 the civil war was over. When Lincoln, the man who I had grown to respect and admire was shot, I mourned his death for some time, but the sadness could not completely overshadeomy joy at this time, becasue the fact remained, the war to end slavery had been won.

I continued traveling around making speeches, but now they were on the rights of black sand women, mainly their suffrage. My work in politics continued and I spoke out about such things as the Klu Klux Klan. Rebellion had been subdued, slavery abolished, and peace proclaimed, yet our work was not done. we were face to face with the same old enemgy of liberty and progress, the south was a field of blood.

I remained very involved in politics and at the age of 60, i was appointed as a U. S. Marshall, and in 1881 i was appointed the post of recorder of deeds for Washington under President Garfield. During that year I also published the life and times of Frederick Douglas. In 1882, my wife anna died after a long illness. I was very upset and grieved for a year. In 1884 though I announced that I was marrying Helen Pitts, a white woman. She was nearly 20 years younger than I , but I loved her. We enjoyed 9 years of marriage, but on February 20 1895 I was struck by a massive heart attack, and died, but my spirit lives on in the hearts of all free men and women.

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