Frederick Douglass and the Reform Movements

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November 5, 2012
1st Blue
Paul Tam
Frederick Douglass and the Abolitionist Movement and Women’s Rights

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in 1818 near Easton, Maryland to Harriet Bailey (a slave) and an unidentified white man (rumored to be Harriet’s master, Aaron Anthony). He spent the majority of his childhood under the care of his grandparents, and rarely saw his mother until she died in 1826, when he was seven years old. During his life in Easton, he experienced the brutality of slavery firsthand, witnessing beatings, whippings, and hunger. Following his mother’s death, Frederick Bailey was sent to Baltimore, where he lived with Hugh and Sophia Auld. In Baltimore, he learned of the existence of an abolitionist movement, providing a foundation for his later work. He learned the alphabet from Sophia Auld, and traded food for reading and writing lessons from the neighborhood boys. He bought The Colombian Orator (a schoolbook), with which he perfected his writing and speaking skills, which was crucial in his success in his later career. After seven years with the Auld’s in Baltimore, he was sent to a farm as a field hand, where he worked under the Edward Covey. After being brutally beaten, whipped, and starved by Covey, Bailey confronted and challenged the ‘slave breaker,’ restoring Bailey’s sense of self-worth. On New Year’s Day, 1836, he resolved to escape the farm and be free man; however, his plan is discovered, resulting in his imprisonment. Following his release, he was sent to the Baltimore shipyard, where he joined the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, which was a debating club for free African-American men. While in Baltimore, Bailey meets his future wife, a free African-American housekeeper named Anna Murray.

He fled the shipyards on September 3, 1838, and travels North to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he and his newlywed wife settle. While in New Bedford and under a new name, Douglass began reading The Liberator, a...
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