In February 1818, Frederick Douglass, America’s most famous civil rights leader was born into one of the country’s most appalling institutions, slavery. He visualized a diverse nation without discrimination and hate. Frederick became one of the most well-known writers, lecturers and abolitionists. Above all, Frederick Douglass was dedicated to obtaining freedom and justice for all Americans, especially African Americans.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland. His mother was Harriet Bailey, a black slave woman and his father was Harriet’s master Aaron Anthony. Frederick was taken from Harriet and was raised his grandmother. When Frederick was seven, he was sent to work in the Main House of his father’s plantation. Since Frederick was too young to work in the fields, he was given the job of driving cows to and from the pasture, keeping chickens out of the garden, yard chores and errands.
When his father died in 1826, ownership of Frederick and the other slaves went to Anthony’s son-in-law Thomas Auld. Thomas sent Frederick to work for his brother Hugh Auld and his wife Sophia, in Baltimore, Maryland. They wanted a companion for their toddler son. Frederick spent his days entertaining and taking care of Thomas. Sophia taught Frederick his ABC’s until her husband discovered what she was doing and ended the lessons. Frederick decided nothing would keep him from learning to read and write. He carried a Webster’s spelling book with him and asked poor white neighbor children to teach him words in exchange for bread.
In 1832, Frederick went back Thomas Auld’s plantation and the realities of slavery. He was always hungry and had to endure the cruel treatment of the “negro-breaker and slave-driver”, Edward Covey. Covey would whip Frederick frequently and severely. In Chapter 10 of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglas stated, “Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” When Frederick was sixteen he had experienced enough of Covey’s brutality. One day when Covey began to punish Frederick, the tables turned and the boy fought back. He severely beat the “negro-breaker”. After his defeat, Covey never whipped him again. It was a turning point for Frederick. It was the first time he had seen a white man back down.
Frederick had made up his mind to escape. He and six other slaves came up with a plan for their getaway. The plan failed when one of the slaves informed on the rest. Frederick was put in jail and then released with the help of his new owner. He was sent back to Baltimore where he learned to be a ship caulker. His next escape attempt was on September 3, 1838. This time dressed as a sailor and carrying...