Frederick Douglass 1
How did the early years of Frederick Douglass’ life affect the beliefs of the man he would become? Frederick Douglass’ adulthood was one of triumph and prestige. Still, he by no means gained virtue without struggle and conflict. There was much opposition and hostility against him. To fully understand all his thoughts and beliefs first one must look at his childhood.
Frederick Augustus Bailey was born in February of 1818 to a black field hand named Harriet. He grew up on the banks of the Tuckahoe Creek deep within the woods of Maryland. Separated from his mother at an early age, he was raised by his grandparents Betsy and Isaac Bailey. Isaac and Betsy are not thought to be related. Isaac was a free man and a sawyer, while Betsy was an owned slave, but she kept her own rules. Her owner trusted her to watch over and raise the children of the slaves until they were old enough to begin their labor. She was allowed to keep her own cabin, and to farm food for the children and herself. It was not an easy job. While all of the mothers were busy working in the fields of their master, Aaron Anthony, she was busy watching over their infants. Betsy Bailey was quite a woman. She was a master fisher, and spent most of her days in the river or in the field farming. She was very intelligent and physically able bodied. Most historians credit Frederick’s intelligence to his extraordinary grandmother. Douglass later recalled not seeing his mother very often, just on the few times she would come to visit later in his life.
At the age of six, Frederick’s carefree days of running and playing in the fields and came to an abrupt end. He was taken away from his grandmother to begin the toil and sweat of the field workers. Here he joined his older brother and sisters, Perry, Sarah and Eliza in the fields of Edward Lloyd. The slave head in charge of Frederick was the cruel cook, Aunt Katy. Although perhaps he deserved some of her wrath, being a very mischievous child, she was undoubtedly a little out of line. She took up a need to abuse him, mentally and sometimes physically. This may have sprouted from a resentment against his mother. One of Katy’s favorite acts of punishment was starvation. On one occasion when Frederick’s mother had come to visit, she had committed a terrible deed bye interfering in Katy’s eyes. Later in life Douglass talked very fondly of his mother. He remembers her as "having a natural genius, though unprotected and uncultivated." Douglass was also very proud of her literacy. He never knew her in his older years, however, because she died when he was only seven or eight.
Katy also resented Lucretia Auld, a resident of the house who had taken a liking to him, who gave him food when she wouldn’t. These were to her just more reasons to be hard on Frederick. After being caught up around master Lloyd’s house, Wye House, he was forbidden not to venture near there ever again.