Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, who later became known as
Frederick Douglass, was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland, near Hillsboro.
He was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, when he was still an infant.
She died when Douglass was about seven. The identity of Douglass\u2019 father is
obscure. Douglass originally stated that his father was a white man, perhaps his
owner, Aaron Anthony, but he later said he knew nothing of his father\u2019s identity.
At the age of six, Douglass was separated from his grandmother and moved to
the Wye House plantation, where Anthony worked as overseer. When Anthony
died, Douglass was given to Lucretia Auld, wife of Thomas Auld. Mrs. Auld sent
Douglass to Baltimore to serve Thomas\u2019 brother, Hugh Auld. When Douglass
was about twelve, Hugh Auld\u2019s wife, Sophia, broke the law by teaching him some
letters of the alphabet. Douglass succeeded in learning to read form white
children in the neighborhood in which he lived, and by observing the writings of
the men with whom he worked. When Hugh Auld discovered this, he strongly
disapproved, saying that if a slave learned to read, he would become dissatisfied
with his condition and desire freedom. Douglass later referred to this as the first
anti-abolitionist speech he had ever heard. In 1833, Thomas Auld took Douglass
back from his brother after a dispute, in a way of punishing his brother.
Dissatisfied with him, Thomas Auld then sent Douglass to work for Edward
Covey, a poor farmer who had a reputation as a \u201cslave-breaker\u201d where Douglass
was whipped regularly. Sixteen-year-old Douglass was indeed nearly broken
psychologically by his ordeal under Covey. Douglass successfully escaped
slavery on September 3, 1838, boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland,
dressed in a sailor\u2019s uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free
black sailor. His escape to freedom eventually led him to New York, the entire
journey taking less than 24 hours. Douglass \u201cofficially\u201d won his freedom when
British sympathizers paid the slaveholder who legally still owned him.
Douglass would credit The Columbian orator, which he discovered when
he was around twelve years old, with clarifying and defining his views of freedom
and human rights. When he was hired out to a Mr. Freeman, Douglass taught
slaves how to read the New Testament at a Sabbath school on the plantation.
Douglass joined various organizations in New Bedford, Massachusetts, including
a black church, and regularly attended abolitionist meetings. He subscribed to
William Lloyd Garrison\u2019s weekly journal. The Liberator, and in 1841, he heard
Garrison speak at a maaetting of the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass was
unexpectedly asked to speak at one of these mettings, where he told his tory and
was encouraged to become an anti-slavery lecturer. Garrison was likewise
impressed with Douglass, and wrote of him in The Liberator. Several days later,
Douglass deleivered his first speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society\u2019s
annual convention in Nantucket. Twenty-three years old at the time, Dougass
later said that his legs were shaking. He conquered his nervousness and gave
an eloquent speech about his rough life as a slave. In 1843, Douglass
participated in the American Anti-Slavery Society\u2019s Hundred Conventions project,
a six month tour of meeting halls throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United
States. He participated in the Seneca Falls Convention, the birthplace of the
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