Home » Frederick Douglass – one of the most influential men of the anti-slavery movement

Frederick Douglass – one of the most influential men of the anti-slavery movement

Frederick Douglass was one of the most influential men of the anti-slavery movement. He stood up for what he believed in, fought hard to get where he got and never let someone tell him he could not do something. He sought to embody three keys for success in life: believe in yourself, take advantage of every opportunity, use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society . Frederick Douglass made a change in this country that will always be remembered. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1817, in Tuckahoe, Maryland.

I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing. He was born on Holmes Hill Farm, near the town of Easton, Maryland. Harriet Baily was Frederick’s mother. She worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes Hill. As a boy, he knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony was his father. Frederick’s mother was required to work long hours in the fields, so he lived 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 little known of her, so little that when I received the tidings of her death with much emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger. He did not think he was a slave during the years with his grandmother. When Frederick was six he was put to work on the Lloyd Plantation. This was the last time that he saw his grandmother and realized that he was now a slave. He learned that the master, Aaron Anthony, would beat his slaves if they did not obey his order.

Fortunately for Frederic he was Daniel Lloyd’s friend, the youngest son of the plantation’s owner. Frederick also was a friend of Lucretia Auld, the master’s daughter. 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 company in Baltimore. When Frederick got to the Auld home his only duties were to do everyday jobs and take care of the Auld’s son, Tommy. Frederick liked the work and love the child. Sophia Auld was the master’s wife, she often read the bible to her son and Frederick.

She started to teach Frederick to read and write but soon after the master learned what she is doing he prohibit that and explained to her that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Those words sank deep into my heart. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. 4 Frederick only learned the alphabet and some words. So he learned the rest by himself. Soon Frederick bought a local paper and learned about abolitionist. This changed his views on many things.

But soon he was sent back to work on a plantation, this time to Thomas Auld’s new farm near the town of Saint Michaels. Frederick was sad to leave Baltimore because he had recently become a teacher to a group of other young blacks. Frederick was put to work as a field hand and was extremely unhappy. Frederick then organized a Sunday religious service for the slaves. But soon they were stopped. In January 1834, Frederick was send to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had gained a reputation around town for being an expert to slave breaker.

Frederic was send there as a punishment for setting up the religious meeting. Covey hid in bushes and spied on the slaves when they worked. If he caught someone resting he would beat him with thick branches. After being on the farm for one week, Frederick was beaten for letting an oxen team run wild. This whipping was the first of a number just like it, and for similar offence. 5 He was continually whipped until he began to feel that he was “broken”. So 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 he did not care about having a kind master because of the hell he went through and all he wanted was freedom. Soon Frederick planed an escape but a white man found out that and Frederick was in jail for about a week. By surprise Thomas Auld came and released him. Then Frederick was sent back to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Frederick was now 18 years old, 6 feet tall and very strong from his work in the fields. So Hugh Auld decided that Frederick should work as a caulker in his boat factory. He began to work at the shipyard where Hugh Auld worked.

Within a year, he was an experienced caulker and he was being paid the highest wages possible for a tradesman at his level, but whatever he earned, he gave to his master. Frederick also joined a learning group of blacks and met Anna Murray. He enjoyed her company and was with her when he wasn’t working. Around that time Thomas Auld had promised him that if he worked hard he would be freed when he turned 25. Unfortunately Frederick didn’t believe the master and he thought that he should escape. On September 3, 1838, he left on a northbound train. Escaping was a difficult decision for Frederick.

He would be leaving his friends and life in Baltimore forever. He didn’t know when and if he would see his fiance Anna Murray again. But freedom to Frederick was very important. With money that he borrowed from Anna, Frederick bought a ticket to Philadelphia. My free life began on the third of September, 1838. On the morning of the fourth of that month, after an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the big city of New York, a FREE MAN– one more added to the mighty throng which, like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway.

Though dazzled with the wonders which met me on every hand, my thoughts could not be much withdrawn from my strange situation. For the moment, the dreams of my youth and the hopes of my manhood were completely fulfilled. The bonds that had held me to “old master” were broken. No man now had a right to call me his slave or assert mastery over me. I was in the rough and tumble of an outdoor world, to take my chance with the rest of its busy number. I have often been asked how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer.

A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath and the “quick round of blood,” I lived more in that one day than in a year of my slave life. 6 When he left he had a sailor’s protection, a document that certified that the person named on it was a free seaman, but the document was fake and happily he did not get caught with that document. He made it to Philadelphia but he was still worried about the slave catchers so he left for New York City. Not knowing what to do Frederick told an honest-looking black sailor about his situation.

The man took him to David Ruggles, an officer in the New York Vigilance Committee and also associates of the city’s link in the underground railroad. I was relieved by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggless, whose vigilance, kindness, and perseverance, I shall ever forget. 7 Ruggle trusted Frederick and had him stay in his home. Then Frederick sent for Anna Murray. The couple were married on September 15, 1838. Ruggles told Frederick that in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he would be safe from slave catchers and he could find work as a caulker.

So Frederick and Anna moved, they stayed in the home of a wealthy black family of Nathan Johnson. But to live his new life, Frederick would have to change his name so the slave catchers would not catch him. So by the suggestion of Johnson, Frederick Baily became Frederick Douglass. In June 1839 Anna gave birth to their first child Rosetta, the next year they had a son Lewis. Douglass became involved in the abolitionist movement next. Someone approached Douglass and asked him if he wanted a subscription to the Liberator, an abolitionist paper written by William Lloyd Garrison.

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. Douglass also became very involved with the local black community, and he served as a preacher at the black Zion Methodist Church. 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, Douglass saw William Lloyd Garrison, for the first time. A few days later Douglass spoke before a crowd attending the annual meeting of the Massachusetts branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison saw Douglass’s and thought he could be a speaker, so he hired him as agent for the society. His job was to talk about his life and to sell subscriptions to the Liberator and the Anti-Slavery Standard. “The paper became my meat and drink,” Douglass said. For the next ten years Douglass was associated with Garrison and the antislavery movement.

For three months in 1851, Douglass traveled with other abolitionists to lectures through Massachusetts. As a speaker, he has few equals. Introduced as “a piece of property” or “a graduate from that peculiar institution, with his diploma written on his back,” he started gather all his recollections of his years in slavery. Therefore, many of his friends in New Bedford thought that public those recollections were dangerous for him. Douglass did very well and had success on the lecture circuit because of his early speeches dealt with his own experiences.

He told stories about the cruel beatings given by slave owners to women, children, and elderly people. The stories that Douglass told were just what the people wanted to hear. After Douglass’s first trial period as a lecturer was over he was asked to continue with his work, and he agreed. During 1842, he traveled throughout Massachusetts and New York with William Lloyd Garrison and other speakers. With his reputation at stake, Douglass decided to publish the story of his life. During the winter of 1844-45, he wrote down all the facts, even the actual names of the people who enslaved him.

When he finished he showed his writing to abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips. Phillips told him that he should throw it away before he was found out and sent back to Maryland. Douglass didn’t care and wanted his story printed. He did not care if Thomas Auld and every southern slave catcher learned who he was. He also wanted the rest of world would to hear his story too. In May of 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.

Immediately it became a bestseller and triumph of dignity, courage, and self-reliance over the evils of the brutal, degrading slave system. Federal laws gave Thomas Auld the right to seize his property, the fugitive slave Frederick Baily. So Douglass decided to go to England. 8 In the summer of 1845 he decided to go to England. There he would be free from slave catchers. He had the opportunity to speak to English audiences and try to gain support for the American antislavery movement. Douglass traveled throughout the British Isles for 2 years. He was also amazed that he encountered so little racial prejudice among the British.

In the summer of 1846, Douglass was joined by William Lloyd Garrison, and they traveled around England as a powerful team of antislavery lecturers. 8 The World Temperance Convention that was held in London in August 1846 was were Douglass gave his most controversial speech. However, recapture remained a frightening possibility for Douglass, if he returned to the United States. 8 Two English friends raised the money and the required amount, $710. 96, was send to Hugh Auld , finally on December 5, 1846, Frederick Douglass was a free man and had no worries to be captured.

After another year of lecturing Douglass decided to move to Rochester, New York and start a newspaper. The North Star was a four page weekly paper, there motto was, “Right is of no sex – Truth is of no color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren”. 8 Some local people were unhappy that their town was the site of a black newspaper especially one edited by an ex-slave. 8 The New York Herald also urged the people of the town to dump Douglass’s printing press into Lake Ontario. But gradually the people of Rochester came to like and feel pride in the North Star.

Everything was fine but money, and again a friend from England helped Douglass. Julia Griffits has raised the money to help develop the paper and keep the paper alive. 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 a great speaker and writer. He also believed that women’s rights were important and he communicated with and stay friends with Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. During the mid-1850s, John Brown was the leader of one of the Free Soil bands fighting the proslavery forces in Kansas.

He wrote for Douglass to join him but Douglass refused, but soon after John Brown raided Harpers Fairy, officials found the writings to Douglass and implemented him in the raids. After notified of the implementations Douglass decided to flee to Canada knowing that he stood little chance of a fair trial if he were captured and sent to Virginia. While in Canada, Douglass wrote letters in his own defense, justifying both his flight and his refusal to help Brown. Still fear of being arrested kept Douglass away. 9 In November 1859, Douglass sailed to England again. He began a trip he had planned long before the incident at Harpers Ferry.

But because of his family mater he stopped his tour and returned to home. Douglass decided to support Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Lincoln won and then South rebelled. The North was fighting to preserve the Union and the South was fighting for the right to have slaves. For Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists, the war was a battle to end slavery. 9 Douglass continued to fight using his speeches and newspaper editorials, they continued to say, “the aim of the war must be to abolish slavery and that blacks must be allowed to join in the battle for their freedom. ” 9

On the night of December 31, 1862, the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This was the wish that Douglass always wanted and he excited to see his fellow brother freed. Lincoln’s act freed millions of blacks, who fled from their masters and took “freedom’s road” to areas controlled by Union forces. Even though the blacks were now freed they wanted to fight for the Union Army. Douglass was there to help recruit black men and to even fight to legislation. Even though the blacks did receive a reduced pay it was just the fact that Congress passed the legislation to let them serve. 10

Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a meeting in August 1864 to discuss the up coming elections and how to end the war. The president was doubting that the war could be won and all the slaves would remain. So Lincoln asked Douglass to draw up plans for leading slaves out of the South in the event that a Union victory seemed impossible. Douglass had a image that that the president was a friend of blacks. The evacuation plan that Douglass sent to Lincoln never had to be used. Lincoln was then assassinated shortly there after and Douglass mourned the loss of a friend and a great man to the black community. 10

With the Thirteenth Amendment passed in December 1865, slavery was officially abolished. Frederick Douglass was 47 years old, he still was active. He become an advocate for the blacks. He also kept the American Anti-Slavery Society alive after the civil war because he believed that the blacks should be allowed to vote. During 1865 Douglass traveled throughout the North he spoke out for black suffrage and then warned the country that the former slaveholders were regaining control of the South. 10 In February 1866, Douglass talked with another President, President Andrew Johnson, and three other black leaders.

They talked to Johnson about the need for changes in the southern state governments. Douglass also was a delegate for New York at a meeting in 1866 dedicated to the resolution of black suffrage. Even though the Republicans could not look at him as an equal Frederick Douglass still spoke out and made himself know on this view. Because of Douglass speeches and hard work black suffrage was know an amendment to the Constitution, the Fourteenth. That meant that voting was guarantied by the Constitution and could not be dined. 11 As 1867 came Douglass asked Douglass to take charge of the Freedman’s Bureau. He dined his offer.

Douglass did not want to be associated with President after he dined blacks so many programs. During the 1868 presidential election Douglass campaigned for the Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant. In a famous speech, “The Work Before Us,” Douglass went after the Democratic party for ignoring black citizens. He also warned about the rise in the South of white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Douglass was afraid that the tactics of the Klan would frighten blacks into giving up the civil rights they had gained in the South. 11 The Republicans won the 1868 election with the support of the black vote.

Later that year after the Fifteenth Amendment was passed the last meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society was held. Douglass spoke very highly of the many people who helped the blacks win their fighting. He was modest about his own achievements though but no one had fought harder for black rights than Douglass. 11 In 1870 Frederick Douglass was asked to serve as editor of a newspaper based in Washington, DC. The goal was to recognize the progress of blacks throughout the country. 12 It failed in 1874, 4 years after starting. Douglass campaigned hard for the reelection of President Grant.

He stuck with the President even though there was major corruption. 13The President won re-election and Douglass returned to giving speeches and touring the country. In 1874 Douglass also was appointed president of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. This bank was started to help blacks in financial trouble. The bank had loaned out an extremely large amount of money at a very low interest rate. This caused the bank to be losing money, Douglass applied for Federal help but that was dined and so he tried to bail the bank out with his own money. This was a large mistake because he lost all of his money when the bank folded.

Eventually he made the money back by lecturing. 13 In 1875 Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill, which gave blacks the right to equal treatment in theaters, inns, and other public places. This pleased Douglass because of all the time he spent working for this. He also received his first political post. In 1877 after Republican president, Rugherford B. Hayes, was signed in Douglass was given the ceremonial position of marshal for Washington, DC. He enjoyed this post that had a large staff responsible for the overseeing the criminal justice system in Washington D. C.

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