Frederick Douglass: A Man of Determination
Frederick Douglass (Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey) was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland to a black slave woman by the name of Harriet Bailey. He was not certain of his father, but believes he may well have been the son of a white slave master. Being separated from his mother when he was a baby left him not knowing his birthday, year of birth or age, and this was a source of unhappiness for him. Given the history, it seems he was born in the early 1800’s. Like many living within his circle of slaves, he came in touch with his sisters and brother after being transferred from one plantation to another. Although they were his very own flesh and blood, they were complete strangers and they did very little conversing. Douglass’ childhood was spent living as a slave in fear, neglect, pain and torture, while moving from plantation to plantation, and this he could not grasp. While other white children his age enjoyed the finer things in life, he could not comprehend why he was treated different, why he was born into a world of cruelty, why he did not have adequate clothing, and why he was not allowed to read, write, or express himself.
Douglass was a courageous, brave man with dignity, integrity, a strong intellect, and a strong will to survive living in hell right here on earth. Everyday he grew more and more disgruntled, and his heart became sorrowful because slavery had stripped him of his manhood. He was broken in body, soul and spirit, and this life did not sit well with him. According to The Constitution of Rights “all men are created equal” (although ignored by many slave masters), Douglass sought a life intended for all mankind; he was determined not to die in slavery, thus he began to execute his escape.
Douglass’ first attempt to escape was unsuccessful. He was placed in jail and although the food was scarce, it was clean and far more comfortable than living on the plantation. His last attempt was successful when he escaped from Baltimore, Maryland to New York, and he felt as though he had escaped a den of hungry lions. A few days later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts and was joined by his new wife Anna Murray, a free woman. Douglass was amazed how black people did not live under sadistic rules of slave masters and how they lived free and successful, and he was excited because he was almost a free man!
Douglass began presenting lectures about anti-slavery nationally and internationally. He published his first book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” and sold more than 30,000 copies in the United States and Britain, and it was also translated in French, German and Dutch. Although life was looking up for him, he was still considered a runaway slave and could have been captured by any slaveholder at any given time. In order to become a free man, Douglass fled to Europe, went on a 20 month tour in England, Scotland and Ireland, and during that time anti-slavery groups raised enough money to purchase his freedom.
Douglass returned back to the States and moved to Rochester, New York where he founded the North Star, an anti-slavery newspaper, organized a protest against segregated schools, and made his home a stop for the “underground railway,” a network that helped slaves reach safety. Among his many accomplishments, he was appointed US Marshall for the District of Columbia and later served as US Minister of Haiti.
Douglass passed away of a heart attack on February 20, 1895. His eulogy was presented by Reverend Alexander Crummel, a well-known black activist who wrote: “What use are we to make of such a character as Frederick Douglass? Let his life be a lesson to all our children. Let his virtues be rehearsed to future generations. Let not one of us forget to hold him up as a pattern for young men in any station of life.”
Frederick Douglass was determined not die in slavery, and his determination paid off!