Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Birthday Frederick Douglass!

....From his biography: Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (or Baily), later known as Frederick Douglass, was born in February 1818* near Easton, Maryland. He was the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave. Captain Aaron Anthony claimed ownership of Douglass. (It is believed that Captain Aaron Anthony was not related to Susan B. Anthony.)

Douglass spent his early childhood in a cabin with his grandmother Betsey. His mother was hired out and he only saw her on rare visits. In 1824, Douglass was separated from his grandmother and taken to live on the large plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd, where Captain Aaron Anthony worked. In 1826, he was sent to Baltimore, Maryland to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld, in-laws of Lucretia Anthony Auld, Captain Anthony’s daughter.

Douglass lived in Baltimore from 1826 until 1833, where his first job as a child was to look after the Aulds’ son, Tommy. While he was in Baltimore, Douglass learned to read and write. He was taught by Sophia Auld until her husband forbade it. After that, Douglass taught himself in secret.

Once he had learned to read, Douglass read newspapers and learned about the debate over slavery. He also attended the free African-American churches in Baltimore. At the age of 12 or 13, Douglass bought his own copy of The Columbian Orator, a popular nineteenth-century book on rhetoric. He studied the book, went through the exercises, and taught himself public speaking.

In 1833, Douglass was taken from Baltimore and brought to St. Michael’s, Maryland by his master, Thomas Auld (son-in-law to Captain Anthony, who was now deceased). While there, Douglass organized secret schools for slaves and refused to submit to whipping. One of the schools was broken up by a mob, and he was hired out to farmers known as "slave breakers," who sought to control his rebellious activities. Yet he continued to defy his slave status. In 1836, he planned to escape but was caught, imprisoned, and eventually sent back to Thomas Auld.
After his failed escape attempt and imprisonment, Douglass was sent back by Auld to Baltimore. There, he was hired out to a local shipyard to learn the trade of a caulker. He joined an improvement society of free black caulkers and attempted, unsuccessfully, to buy his own freedom. In 1837, he met Anna Murray, a free African-American woman.

In September 1838, Douglass escaped from slavery. He first went to New York City. There, he sent for Murray to join him, and they were married. The Douglasses were to have five children in the next eleven years: Rosetta (b. 1839), Lewis Henry (b. 1840), Frederick Jr. (b. 1842), Charles Remond (b. 1844) and Annie (b. 1849).

...more on Douglass: Wikipedia



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