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The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

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The Narrative described Frederick Douglass’s experience under slavery from his early childhood until his escape to the North. Through his experiences and from the power he gained from educating himself, Douglass progresses from an unenlightened victim of the brutalities of slavery to an empowered and determined man. With his experiences and education, he gains the resources and strength to escape to the North and wage a political fight against the institution of slavery. He accomplished this task by his main belief that slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to be able to pursue and gain freedom.

Like many other slaves of his time, Douglass was unsure of his exact date of birth. He estimated his birth to be around 1817 or 1818. He describes how he was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, soon after he was born and his father was most likely their white master, Captain Anthony. Douglas depicts how he grew up in a large central plantation known as the “Great House Farm” and how life was brutal for slaves, similar to many other Southern plantations of his time. He writes about how slaves were overworked and exhausted all the time, received little food, few articles of clothing, and no bed. He explains the injustice of the plantation and how those who broke the rules and even those who didn’t were severely beaten or whipped; and sometimes even shot by the plantation overseers, the cruelest of which were Mr. Sever and Mr. Austin Gore.

Douglass’s path takes him to Baltimore, where he lived a relatively freer life and even learns how to read from his owner’s wife Sophia Auld. This education was a turning point in his life, however Sophia was forced to stop teaching him due to her husband’s orders, saying that “education makes slaves unmanageable.” As he learns to read and write, Douglass became more aware of the evils of slavery and starts educating himself more about abolitionist movements.

Douglass’s experience with Edward Covey, known for “breaking slaves” is grueling. Covey manages, in the first six months, to work and whip all the spirit out of Douglass. He became less spirited and was no longer interested in reading or freedom, capable only of resting from his injuries and exhausting work. However, Douglass gains enough strength to fight back against Covey and stands his ground, after which Covey never touched Douglass again.

When Douglass is next rented to William Freeland, he resumes his own education and makes

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