Frederick Douglass: His Slavery Years
Wayland Baptist University
San Antonio, TX
December 14, 2011
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States was a young nation divided by numerous philosophical and political differences. Arguably, slavery was the most divisive issue at the time. There were individuals who spoke out against slavery; perhaps the most eloquent anti-slavery voice belonged to Frederick Douglass. Douglass was an American abolitionist who altered American views concerning slavery through his writings and actions. He stood in stark contrast to pro slavery advocates’ claim that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to act as free citizens.
Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in February, 1818. The exact date of his birth is unknown. Douglass chose to celebrate February 14th as his birthday. In his autobiography, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass (2002) stated, “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen authentic record containing it”(SparkNotes Editors, 2002). Douglass’s birthplace was Holmes Hill Farm, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Frederick’s mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave who worked the cornfields around Holmes Hill. Little is known of Frederick’s father other than he was a white man. There was speculation that Douglass’s father was his master as slave owners often impregnated their female slaves.
Common among slaves was being forced to work long hours; Harriet was no exception. The long hours deprived Harriet from forging a motherly bond with her son. Douglass (2002) recalled the only time he spent with his mother was when she would walk 12 miles after dark to lie next to him at night (SparkNotes Editors, 2002). At a young age, Douglass was separated from his mother and placed in the care of his maternal grandmother, Betsey Bailey. Several years later, when told that his mother had died, Douglass barely reacted to the news.
Living with his grandmother shielded Douglass from the harsh realities of slavery. Betsey’s job was to simply look after the young children of the slaves. When Frederick was seven or eight years old, he would begin to the face the bleak life of a slave.
Douglass’s grandmother inexplicably took him on a long, faraway journey. The two approached a large, graceful home, called the Lloyd Plantation. Several children were playing in front of the home. According to Sandra Thomas, author of Frederick Douglass--Abolitionist/Editor, A Biography of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Betsey Bailey pointed to three of the children and introduced them as his siblings, Perry, Sara, and Eliza (Sandra Thomas, n.d). Frederick reluctantly joined his brother and sisters for a bonding session. After a while, Frederick realized his grandmother had left the plantation without him.
Life on the Lloyd Plantation was vastly different from what Frederick was accustomed to. The plantation encompassed 20 farms and grew tobacco, corn, and wheat. Douglass’s master was named Captain Aaron Anthony, who was also the plantation’s superintendent. Captain Anthony supervised all of the plantation’s overseers, and was responsible for three to four hundred slaves owned by the Lloyd family. All slaves were required report to Lloyd’s central plantation for their monthly allowances of pork or fish and cornmeal. All of Lloyd’s slaves referred to the central plantation as “The Great House Farm,” because it resembled a small village (SparkNotes, 2002). The slaves also received one set of linen clothing, which was expected to last for one year.
Frederick did not work in the field as a young boy because children were not strong enough. Instead, he was assigned to be the companion of Daniel Lloyd, the plantation owner’s grandson. Even though Daniel quickly became quite fond of Douglass, this friendship did not produce any favoritism towards Frederick. Like...
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