Frederick Douglass’s autobiography is quite interesting. It touches many readers’ heart deeply to learn about slavery and I am not an exception. I learn a lot about slavery through Douglass’s story. To further understand the slave and slavery system, as a reader, I need to study his whole life since he was born as a slave and then escaped from slavery system to become a freeman. According the autobiography, I understand that slaves’ life were not belong to themselves. They were owned by other people called as the Old Masters.
Not only Douglass but also his entire family such as grandmother, his mother and all his siblings and cousins were slaves and belonged to the Old Master. When he was born, Douglass lived with his grandmother and was a happy kid. He enjoyed his life as a free child until he turned seven. When that time came, he had to leave his grandmother and started the life as a slave. Douglass belonged to the Old Master whose name was Captain Aaron Anthony. Because Douglass was so young when he moved out his grandmother and lived in the Capt. Anthony’s house, there was a woman called mistress that took care of him and other children.
His tragedy had started when he lived with his first mistress, Aunt Katy. He was treated poorly, often starved and beaten. In fact, most of slaves were usually not given enough food. Slaves had to wake up very early in the morning to go working in the farm and came back home late in the night except Sunday. They had to work hard in the field or the woods, and were usually beaten. Therefore, that kind of work required a lot of physical exhaustion, and they need to eat enough nutritious to be able to work hard in the field. Not only lacking of food but also clothes and blankets were limited upplied. Men and women were given two shirts, and a pair of trousers for summer and one more jacket for winter. Children were not given any of shoes, stocks, or jackets. At night, blankets were only given to men and women, but children had to hide inside the corner of chimneys to warm themselves. The standard of slavery’s living was very bad and not humanize in today standard. I could not image how tragically and devastatingly slavery life was until I read this novel. They were treated brutally. Honestly, I absolutely agree when slaves got up and fought for their rights.
Moreover, slaves were similar to goods, which were purchased by gold or silver. Their lives were at the same level with animals such as sheep or horses. Therefore, slaves were just like animals that could be purchased, or traded. Additionally, slaves were like estate and would be divided to the heritors when their Old Master died. They might face the separation with family forever. In short, the slavery system is inhuman and awful. When the slaves were working in the Master’s house, they required to sing. The songs were about how good the Old Master was.
However, as Douglass states that the songs he sung talked about the good thing of the Old Master which always made him chilled and depressed. Also, his slave master, Capt. Anthony, was disgraceful about the way he treated and punished his slaves who made him mad or did something that he didn’t like. An example about a young woman slave, Esther. She was ordered to stay away from Robert’s company. He would punish her if he had seen her near Robert’s company, and he did. He used his power to retaliate her. Her wrists were tied by wooden beam and her back and shoulder were bare to suffer the beaten.
Douglass’s master, Capt. Anthony, was a monster and a dreadful man. Moreover, this master’s temper was short-lived. Sometimes he treated Douglass very softly as a father and had joy with him. However, the master changed his temper and became heartlessness when he got in troubles with Mr. Lloyd’s. One of the most impressive things made Douglass learn about his Master’s shameful character was instead of protecting the young slave girl, who was abused by his overseer, Capt. Anthony was angry with that girl and said that she deserved to be punished more than that.
Not only Douglass but I feel angry with his disgusting action. However, the way the Master treated and punished his slaves was a part of the slavery system. Those evidences bring the reader to conclude that the master was very cruel and he had no compassion on their slaves. When Douglass moved to Baltimore to establish in the new home, Mr. Hugh’s house, he had chance to know about religion. He had not known any private notion about religion before he reached thirteen-years-old. The only thing he knew was he was a wretch. He was disappointed about his life as a slave.
However, there was a colored man, Charles Lawson, suggested him praying and leaving all his tragedy to God. He tried and he did. He removed his burden and be happy to live. Douglass decided to learn more about the content of the Bible. He collected Bible’s pieces of papers and got wisdom from them. He was becoming a faithfulness and believe in Christ. His religious faith led him to believe that he was born for specific duty. He was brought to this life to do somethings for God. Those words touched his heart and made him believe that he was useful and he should prepare for God given task.
He always prayed when he had free time and believed that his life was guided by a higher wisdom and God will take him out of slavery. Living in Mr. Hugh’s house gave Douglass chance to listen his mistress reading loud of the Bible. That encouraged him to learn how to read. He asked his mistress to teach him reading and upon her kindhearted, she taught him how to spell the alphabets. However, her husband was upset when he knew that. He banned her to teach Douglass anything more because he said that education could ruin the slavery system.
Knowledge could help slaves run away from slavery. Especially, when Douglass could read Bible, he was no longer fit to be a slave. Those words enlightened Douglass and gave him a way to end his slavery and take slavery to freedom. Although Mrs. Auld stopped teaching him and was upset whenever she saw Douglass reading, he still found the way to learn more. Reading became his drive and determination. Reading helped him penetrate the crudities of slaveholder and the way they oppressed their slaves by taking away their education. Therefore, his first dream was learn how to read and write.
Mrs. Auld gave him the inch, now he would take chances to get the ell. Douglass realized that education was the only way could help him free. In 1836, Douglass moved to live in the new home three miles from St. Michaels. From here, Douglass met the brothers Henry and Jones Harris who had the same goal with Douglass, which was escaping slavery. His dream was one day to become a free man. He made a plan to disclose the way to run away. Douglass and five more young men would use Mr. Hamilton’s canoe to escape. Time to run but unfortunately, Douglass and his friends re called in to see some men and were eventually tied down before he could run because their escape plan had been discovered. At the result, Douglass had been jailed for two years. Master Thomas was a person who took him out of the prison and promised that he would liberated Douglass when he reached twenty-five. Master Thomas warned Douglass that anywhere Douglass wanted to run away, he could catch him and urged Douglass that he should be obedient and not make any plans to escape in the future. However, those words were not enough to pull him out of his purpose that he would escape again.
On Monday of September, 1838, Douglass said good bye to the city and run away from the slavery. To leave Baltimore, Douglass needed to catch a train and this was one of the great danger to him if the train conductor recognized that Douglass not a free man. He would have been arrested and sent back to Baltimore. However, he was all right when he gave the conductor a paper with the America eagle to prove that he was a free man. Time being in the train as a fugitive was a longest time of his life. After leaving the train, Douglass took steamboat to come to Philadelphia and then took one more train to reach New York.
Being in New York was his chance to become a free man and end his life as a slave. Although being in New York bring Douglass a freedom, he couldn’t be neglected because the same colored men like him might betray him for a little money. He realized escaping from slavery that brought him to not only a new free man but also free of food and money. Luckily, Douglass met and lived safe with Mr. Ruggles. Then Mr. Ruggles helped him to arrive to New Bedford, where Douglass was told that slaves were free and safe because there were men who protected slaves from the slaveholders.
In New Bedford, Douglass could have a stable life, he could find a job. Getting the first wage as a free man, Douglass realized that no one could take away his money, that all money he earned belonged to him. Therefore, he worked hard and earned more money to live the life he wanted. Finally, Douglass got the paper for his liberator with the help from Mr. Garrison. Douglass enjoyed his freedom for three years.
In 1841, he was invited to present about his abolitionists at a grand anti-slavery established by Mr. Garrison and his friends. He was nervous and trembled when he announced his slavery story. Initially, Douglass didn’t want to join any movements to talk or remind his life as a slave because he was scared of being in the public, his Old Master might discover him and might his whereabouts. However, he was standing in the platform and expressing his feelings and talking about his slavery life. Out of his expectation, the audiences understood and sympathized with him. Douglass was successful to introduce to the world of abolitionist.