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Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Washington Douglass was born Frederick Bailey in February, 1817, in Tuckahoe, Maryland. He was born into slavery. His masters in 1824-1835 were Aaron Anthony, Hugh Auld, Thomas Auld, Edward Covey, and William Freeland. When he was 18, in January, 1836, he made his first attempt to escape. He failed and was imprisoned. In January 1837, he escaped for a second time. Looking for somewhere to sleep, he went to an inn. There he met Anna Murray, (who was a black slave as well.) On September 15, 1838, Anna Murray and Frederick Baily were married. After escaping, Frederick changed his name to Frederick Douglass so that it would be harder for slave catchers to trace him. He changed his name to Douglass because Nathan Johnson, a friend of Frederick's, was reading a book called "Lady of the Lake" and Nathan suggested that Frederick Baily should change his name to a character in the book, Frederick Douglass. During his life Douglass made many different accomplishments. The following is a list of Frederick Douglass' accomplishments: 1) In December, 1847, he started printing "The North Star" newspaper, 2) In December, 1848, he helped and supported woman's rights, 3) In December, 1850, he became involved in the Underground Railroad, 4) In May, 1874, he became the president of the Freedman's Savings and Trust, 5) In May, 1877, he became a U.S. Marshal. In August, 1882, Anna Murray Douglass died, and in January, 1884, Frederick married Helen Pitts, of Rochester. On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1817, in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Because his slave mother, Harriet Bailey, used to call him her "little valentine," he adopted February 14th as his birthday, not knowing the exact date of his birth. He knew very little about his mother since she was employed as a field hand on a plantation some twelve miles away, and she died when he was eight or nine years old. Douglass knew even less about his father, but it was rumored that he was the son of his White slave master, Aaron Anthony. Young Frederick was grossly mistreated. To keep from starving, on many occasions, he competed with his master's dogs for table scraps and bones. In 1825, he was sent to serve as a houseboy in the home of Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. Mrs. Auld grew fond of him and sought to teach him to read and write. By the time her irate husband discovered the deed and put a stop to it, Douglass had acquired enough of the rudiments to carry on by himself.

Determined to crush the spirit of young Frederick, Thomas Auld hired him out to Edward Covey, a slave breaker who worked and whipped him mercilessly. He endured the mistreatment until one day he could stand it no longer and fought back. Soon thereafter, Fred was again sent to Baltimore, where he met Anna Murray. His love for and encouragement from Anna, a free Black woman, heightened his quest to be a free man. On September 3, 1838, Douglas, dressed in a sailor's uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free Black seaman, managed to reach New York City. There he met David Ruggles, an Abolitionist, who sheltered Douglass and assisted him with his wedding plans. Frederick changed his surname from Bailey to Douglass, married Anna Murray, and the couple moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Frederick's mother, Harriet Baily, worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes Hill. He knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony, had sired him. Because Harriet Baily was required to work long hours in the fields, Frederick had been sent to live with his grandmother, Betsey Baily. Betsy Baily lived in a cabin a short distance from Holmes Hill Farm. Her job was to look after Harriet's children until they were old enough to work. Frederick's mother visited him when she could, but he had only a hazy memory of her. He spent his childhood playing in the woods near his grandmother's cabin. He did not think of himself as a slave during these years. Only gradually did Frederick learn about a person his grandmother would refer to as Old Master and when she spoke of Old Master it was with certain fear.

At age 6, Frederick's grandmother had told him that they were taking a long journey. They set out westward, with Frederick clinging to his grandmother's skirt with fear and uncertainty they had approached a large elegant home, the Lloyd Plantation, where several children were playing on the grounds. Betsy Baily had pointed out 3 children who were his brother Perry, and his sisters Sara and Eliza. His grandmother had told him to join his siblings and he did so reluctantly. After a while one of the children yelled out to Frederick that his grandmother was gone. Frederick fell to the ground and wept, he was about to learn the harsh realities of the slave system.

The slave children of Aaron Anthony's were fed cornmeal mush that was placed in a trough, to which they were called. Frederick later wrote "like so many pigs." The children made homemade spoons from oyster shells to eat with and competed with each other for every last bite of food. The only clothing that they were provided with was one linen shirt which hung to their knees. The children were provided no beds or warm blankets. On cold winter nights they would huddle together in the kitchen of the Anthony house to keep each other warm.

One night Frederick was awakened by a woman's screams. He peered through a crack in the wall of the kitchen only to see Aaron Anthony lashing the bare back of a woman, who was his aunt, Hester Baily. Frederick was terrified, but forced himself to watch the entire ordeal. This would not be the first whipping he would see; occasionally he himself would be the victim. He would learn that Aaron Anthony would brutally beat his slaves if they did not obey orders quickly enough.

Frederick's mother was rarely able to visit her children due to the distance between Holmes Hill Farm and the Lloyd plantation. Frederick last saw his mother when he was seven years old. He remembered his mother giving a severe scolding to the household cook who disliked Frederick and gave him very little food. A few months after this visit, Harriet Baily died, but Frederick did not learn of this until much later.

Because Frederick had a natural charm that many people found engaging, he was chosen to be the companion of Daniel Lloyd, the youngest son of the plantation's owner. Frederick's chief friend and protector was Lucretia Auld, Aaron Anthony's daughter, who was recently married to a ship's captain named Thomas Auld. One day in 1826 Lucretia told Frederick that he was being sent to live with her brother-in-law, Hugh Auld, who managed a ship building firm in Baltimore, Maryland. She told him

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