Roy Quick III
Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass
“The narrative of the life Fredrick Douglass” is a story about Fredrick’s life as an American slave which he wrote by himself (9). Fredrick’s place of birth was Tuckahoe located in the county of Talbot, Maryland (9). Fredrick did not know his age and neither one of his colleague slaves knew their age as it was the intention of the masters to have them ignorant (9). His mother was Harriet Bailey and the father was unknown to him (9-10). “My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage.” (10). Her mother left when at a tender age to work in a farm away from Maryland as this was the case for most women in the area (10). She later died out of the difficulty slavery conditions and the much farm labor activities she was tasked with (11).
Fredrick’s father was rumored to be his master since the slave masters were known for taking away the male servants’ wives for their own desires (11). Those who revolted their act were treated with more difficulty conditions or sold away to other farms away from their wives (11). As a slave, Fredrick had been in the hands of two laves and one of them was Anthony (11). He faced hard times with the rest of the slaves, threatened with whipping and risked being killed (11). According to Douglass, “I have known him to cut and slash the women’s heads so horribly” (12-13). Other slaves also underwent suffering such as Aunt Hester and Demby as they will be discussed in this essay. Some of the events during the slavery period are discussed; day a new design plantation, reading instruction, Lloyd plantation valuation, Gardener shipyard fight. It will also look into the condition of freedmen in New Bedford to depict the consequences of the harassment they suffered while with the masters.
Fredrick’s aunt, Hester, was one of the victims of his first master’s brutality and his particular action on the aunt made Douglass real disturbed and fearful (13). The former master would have aunt Hester tightened to a wood while heavy strokes of a whip fall out her till blood came out (13). Aunt Hester would cry out loud and this only landed her into more trouble with the master directing his whip on the already paining injuries to let her keep quiet (13). Aunt Hester disappeared one day contrary to the master’s warning against staying out in the evenings and in Ned Roberts’ company (13). Ned admired Aunt Hester rivaling the master who too was interested in her (14). In Douglass’ own words:
“She was a woman of noble form, and of graceful proportions, having very few equals, and fewer superiors, in personal appearance, among the colored or white women of our neighborhood.” (14)Before the master could beat her up, he could strip her naked and sexually harass her (14). Slaves were depressed of food as well as clothing. Both the male and female were given 8 pounds of pork or fish as well as a mass of corn meal expected to last for a period of one month (16). They were offered “two coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, like the shirts, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes” (16).
The clothes could hardly cost more than the value of seven dollars and the master looked forward to give another round of the clothing after a year (16). The clothing offer for children who worked in the farms was given to their mothers while those who didn’t, neither received any of the sets of clothing (16). They only received a pair of uncouth linen shirts or stayed naked till the next year when the will be able try their lucky or start working in the farms(16). In addition to the sufferings, they didn’t have any beds to sleep on and if one finished getting ready for the next day in time and had sleep, a blanket was considered a bed (16). All members of the family irrespective of their age and sex had to sleep beside each other on a cold floor (17). Even though they did not require the blankets and beds but rather the time to sleep (17). The night was the time to do their washing and cooking as they awaited the morning call to resume their farm work the following day (17)
The New Design plantation was one of the farms treasured by his master, “This was a great busniess place located near the home (15). In the New Design plntation the master stayed and his family settling all issues with other supervisors in addition to those at the home plantations (15). It was under the care and supervision of one Mr. Townsend (15-16). While at the plantation, if a slave was found guilty of an offense, he was sent to Baltimore and exchanged for money to Austin Woolfolk to pass a caution to the rest of the slaves (16). At Baltimore was characterized by heavy burden and hardships.
Demby, Colonel Lloyd’s slave, found himself in trouble after Mr. Gore, a supervisor, decided to whip him (26-27). Gore was the overseeer of the Great House farm having previously effectively supervised farms away from home hence Master Colonel’s trust on him over the home farm (25). He was brutal as well as obdurate and fully exercised his supervisory powers over the slaves without any fear (26). After a short whipping, Demby thrust himself to a creek, holding fast into him and swearing not to let the creek go (27). Mr. Gore sounded a caution of death if after three calls he was still confined to the creek and the three calls were was in vain (27). An extra and fourth call was enough to see Demby on the the ground dead froma one gun shot (27). He was questioned by Colonel Lloyd on the move to kill Demby confident about master Colonel’s trust on him. Gore explained to the boss, Colonel that he had made the move to kill Demby as a result of being unruly hence setting an example for the rest of the slaves (27). The explanation was reason enough to convince him as well as retain Gore as an overseer (27). Demby was long forgotten and the slavery on Master colonel’s farms went on with each new day.
Douglass found a new master, Auld. No sooner had he moved with them than Mrs. Auld began to train him alphabetical letters (35). When Fredrick mastered the letters, she helped him further pronounce four and three letter words and the learning progress was quite impressive to Mrs. Auld (35). It was illegal to train a slave on how to read (35). When Mr. Auld discovered the lessons Fredrick was receiving, he warned the wife against it pointing out that, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” (35-36). Douglass overheard the Master tell his wife that training a slave would disqualify the slave from slavery (36). This talk enlightened him with new hope and laid the basis for him for the freedom from slavery (36). Unknowingly, the master had provided instructions to Fredrick to learn to read so as to get the freedom (36). After the husband’s warning, Mrs. Auld stoppped offering the lessons as well as made sure no one else helped Douglass train (36). Fredrick had to find a teach as well as teach himself aftrer Mr. Auld’s enlightment (36-37).
Following the death of Anthony, Colonel Lloyd’s plantation was left behind to be divided between the son and daughter leading to the necessity for valuation (44-45). Fredrick then was called up to be valued with the other plantation (45). Altogether, irrespective of their age and sex Douglass’s colleague slaves were too called upon for valuation (45).
Fredrick arrived at Baltimore and was sold to Mr. William Gardener who was involved in building ship (85-86). He was to learn how to calk and the carpenters working at Gardener’s shipyard commanded him around (86). They severely and simultaneously call him out to help in the work and this became a source of a fight between four white novices and Fredrick Douglass (87). As a result he injured his left eye almost loosing it (87). The white carpenters were threatening that they could not work with their black counterparts who had been freed claiming that they could soon rule the nation over them (90-91).
New Bedford was characterized by free men of slavery. Fredrick Douglass was one of the freed people who found their way there (93). At New Bedford, the residents seemed to know the hardships that those from slavery had undergone and therefore treating the men in a warmly and friendly manner (96-97). This made the ex slaves feel comfortable. They got all the hospitality from the residents:
“They seemed at once to understand our circumstances, and gave us such assurance of their friendliness as put us fully at ease in their presence. It was good indeed to meet with such friends, at such a time. Upon reaching New Bedford, we were directed to the house of Mr. Nathan Johnson, by whom we were kindly received, and hospitably provided for” (100).Fredrick got employed on three days following his arrival at New Bedford as well as the other slaves could secure jobs without considering their color (102-103).
Slavery was dehumanizing and was characterized with difficulty times with sufferings (8). The writer Fredrick was a slave liberator (104). He did all he could to see the dehumanizing act came to an end. While at the Gardener’s shipyard he fought out with four white carpenters almost losinghis left eye. He experienced Demby being killed among other slaves, who were not only killed but painfully faced their death. The road to liberty was not an easy one but characterized with hurdles, how Fredrick managed to go against the no learning rule for slaves to able to read. The ablity to read as well as write later helped him fight slavery.