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Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe Easton in Maryland. He never knew the exact time of his birth because slaves were not allowed to now such things bur from his estimation it could have been in 1818. His mother was a slave named Harriet Bailey. He heard through rumors that his father was a white man.
Douglass never got a chance to confirm those rumors with his mother because she died when he was seven years old. Unfortunately, he had been separated from her at a young age and was brought up and under the care of his grandmother Betsey Bailey. He lived through slavery and grew up to become a champion of civil rights in America. His character was core in enabling him to fight for the rights of slaves and abolition of slavery.
Bright and strong
Douglass was a bright even at an early age. He was able to discern the discrimination going on at an early because he could remember that young white children could tell their age but him and other slave children could not. He sensed the discrimination yet his quest for information about his identity was unwelcomed, “I was not allowed to make any inquires of my master concerning it” (Douglass 923). In addition, he was a strong child because he had to endure being away from his mother at an early age.
Douglass never remembers seeing her during the day and even when they saw each other at night, they did not talk much. The lack of affection from his mother made him to look at her like a stranger when she died. He says, “When I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” (Douglass 924). Thus from his early age he had to learn to depend on his own to survive through the hard years of slavery.
Douglass was a tenacious boy. He was determined to gain knowledge no matter what it took. This trait is demonstrated in Baltimore while under the care of Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Mrs. Auld began to teach him how to read, however the teaching was cut short by Mr. Auld who told him that teaching niggers to read would make them rebellious and they would not remain as slaves.
Douglass overheard this conversation and his eyes were opened about the way of ending slavery- knowledge. He was determined to know how to read at whatever cost because it was this knowledge that would give him freedom.
Mr. Auld’s opposition of Douglass opportunity to read became a great motivation for him to learn how to read because he was convinced that this would be the way out of slavery according to Mr. Auld’s words. He befriended young white boys so that they could teach him to read and he had an advantage because he had already learnt the ABCs from his master’s wife. He carried a book and bread to give to the boys who in turn would give him the knowledge he so desired to acquire (Douglass 939).
His inquisitive nature also helped him to become more determined to escape from slavery someday. In his conversations from the white boys, he had turned into his teachers he talked about being a slave for life. This situation made him very sad because he could not understand why he could not be free, as the white boys “Have not I as good right to be free as you have?”(Douglass 940). The thought of being a slave forever gave him the drive to gain more knowledge.
Moreover, Douglass was not only inquisitive, but also clever. He knew how to get what he wanted and in this case, he wanted to learn how to write. Therefore, he learnt how to write a four-letter word. Later he would challenge every boy who knew how to write to a contest and this way he learnt to write more words. He also coped what his master’s son Thomas had written in his books when he was left to watch the house (Douglass 942).
Patient and resilient
Patience and resilience helped Douglass to bear the suffering that came with slavery. He was sent to Mr. Covey who was called a nigger breaker. He was so cruel and his reputation spread everywhere across the plantations. Douglass endured so much suffering during his first six months working for Mr. Covey and received whippings almost every week (Douglass 950).
Although they had adequate food to eat, they did not have time to eat it because Mr. Covey always wanted them on their feet work regardless of the weather. The slaves had no choice but to obey the tough masters and Douglass bore the suffering because he had a feeling at the end he would come out of the situation. He would not remain in slavery all his life and even if it meant running away “Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught or get clear, I’ll try it” (Douglass 952).
His stubbornness helped Douglass take a stand against Mr. Covey. He was aware of his disadvantaged situation as a slave but instead he chose not to bow to the pressure and fight back. For example, he sought protection from his master after the beatings of Mr. Covey even though he did not get it. In another instance, his stubbornness shone through when he fought with Mr. Covey as he tried to rope him in the stable, “I resolved to fight; and, and suiting my action to the resolution, I seized Covey hard by the throat” (Douglass 955).
After this incident, Douglass was not beaten again. The incident rekindled his desire for freedom and he no longer felt helpless or fear before his masters” My long crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place… the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact” (Douglass 955).
Douglass had courage that helped him to break free from oppression. After he went to work for Mr. Freeland he took it upon himself to educate, his fellow slaves how to read. This was a courageous act because the slaves were not allowed to read to keep their minds ignorant. He was taking a risk at conducting classes with the slaves but he did it anyway because he wanted to help them.
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His efforts paid of because “several of those who came to Sabbath school learned how to read and that one at least is now free through my agency” (Douglass 960). Furthermore, he planned to escape from slavery despite of the risks” for my part I should prefer death to hopeless bondage” (Douglass 961).
Luckily, he managed to escape from the south on his second attempt and escaped from the life of bondage although it tore his heart to leave his friends. He loved them so much and after he went to New Bedford, he joined with other abolitionist such as Mr. Johnson in efforts to end slavery. The actions that Douglass took had a lasting impact in bringing freedom to the slaves. He gave fire to the abolitionist movement that championed for the rights of slaves and his name is forever engrained in the American history.
Douglass, Frederick. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. F. Ed. Lawall, Sarah. New York: Norton, 2002.