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Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written

by Himself
Title & Preface materials
What purposes of this book are emphasized in its title? The title emphasizes that this
book will reveal the truth about the life of a man who was a slave in America.
What function is served by the opening testimonials by W. H. Garrison and Wendell
Phillips? W.H. Garrisons function is to introduce Douglass as a man who can be
trusted. Wendell Phillips function is to let the audience understand that he, as an
abolitionist, respects and appreciates what Douglass has done through his book.
What does Garrison believe are the conclusions readers should draw from this book?
The conclusions Garrison believes should be drawn are that Douglass is a
truthful, honest, trustworthy man and slavery is evil and must be ended.
Why is Daniel O'Connell an appropriate person to cite for an opinion of the effects of
slavery? Daniel OConnell was a man who was fighting against slavery
internationally. He shares a story about a white man who was taken on the coast
of Africa and enslaved for 3 years and was turned into a brute. His opinion
matters because he was a well-known speaker against slavery all over the world.
What does Garrison believe are the most devastating effects of slavery? The most
devastating effects of slavery are those that dehumanize the person.
Is there evidence for this view from Douglass's Narrative? Yes; Douglass shares
stories about this throughout his narrative.
Why does Garrison cite two reports of cases of slave murder? He reports these cases
to prove that to slave owners, slaves are just property and not people.
According to him, can slaves testify at law against cruelties perpetuated on them? No.
Since they are considered property, beast of burden, and NOT men, they have no
What opinions about slavery does Phillips add in his introduction? He believes the
opinions white people hold about slavery come mostly from other white people
and not from the slaves themselves. He believes the slaves are people who need
to be listened to. He believed slavery killed a mans soul.
Why does he believe Douglass's publication placed him in jeopardy? Since Douglass
was not free when the book was published, he jeopardized his life because his
old master could still find him and bring him back into slavery.
Toward what audiences do these prefaces seem addressed? Both of these prefaces
are addressed to potential readers, mostly those against slavery or those who are
not 100% sure whether they are against slavery or not.
----------Chapter 1
Why do you think Douglass is so detailed in describing his home and its location? He
wanted to show the reader he had a connection to something from his past.

What kinds of knowledge about themselves does he believe are kept from slaves, and
why does he believe this is important? He believes slaves are not allowed to know
their birthdates or their parents in order to keep them ignorant and keep them
from making emotional connections and from developing a restless spirit.
What does Douglass regret in his memories of his parents? He regrets not having any
What qualities does he associate with memories of his mother? He thinks she must
have been sensitive and kind, she seemed a hard worker and to care about him
because she traveled 12 miles by foot one way after a hard day of labor to see
him, but he didnt know her well enough to know for sure. She was like a stranger
to him.
Why wasn't he able to live with her? They were separated before he turned a year
old. She lived on a neighboring farm 12 miles away.
What does he believe are some of the worse consequences of masters' siring of
children on their slaves? The cruelty of the masters white wives upon them is one
of the worse consequences. Another is that the father is also the master and must
still be forced to treat his son/daughter as his slave; this usually results in
this child being sold away from his/her own father.
What kinds of cruelty did Douglass witness as a boy? What may be the motivation of
the cruel beating of Aunt Hester? Douglass witnessed much cruelty including
whippings and beatings that were unnecessary. His Aunt Hester was brutally
whipped for meeting up with a neighboring male slave, Lloyds Ned. Master
Anthony wished her to be loyal to only him and when she was caught, she was
stripped naked from the waist up, tied to a beam in the house, and whipped
Chapter 2
What were the economic circumstances of Douglass's master, Colonel Lloyd? Colonel
Lloyd was well off. He had between 300-400 slaves, a main farm (The Great House
Farm) and several out farms.
What conditions does he describe on the plantations? The slaves were forced to work
all day, spend their evenings getting ready for the following days work, and
sleeping together in a big huddled heap only to be woken the next day at the
break of dawn by the overseers horn. Anyone late for this call was severely
punished with the whip.
How were the slaves housed and clothed? They were in small houses together with
no beds. The laborers received a certain clothing allowance to last them through
the whole year. The children received one shirt to last them through the whole
Under what conditions did they work? They were constantly exhausted. They worked
all day and night and rarely had time to eat or sleep.
What explanation does Douglass give for the singing of slaves? Douglass says slaves
sing when they are most unhappy. . Slaves sing most when they are most

unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is
relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.
What features does he ascribe to the songs he heard? These songs were wild, held
both the highest joy and deepest sadness, were impromptu and both pathetic
(awful, sad, torturous) and rapturous (wonderful, joyful, uplifting) at the same
What seems his attitude toward the desire of other slaves to travel to the Great House
Farm? Douglass attitude towards this desire is that it made them greedy,
deceptive, and competitive. I do not believe Douglass himself yearned to go to
the Great House Farm.
Chapter 3
How did Col. Lloyd treat his stable keepers? Violently. His horses were his pride and
joy and if anything appeared out of place or wrong with them in any way, he
would blame it on one of the 2 slaves who took care of them and whip them.
What incident does Douglass narrate to indicate why slaves often gave seemingly
contented replies when asked about their treatment? The incident he relates is this:
He was said to own a thousand slaves, and I think this estimate quite
within the truth. Colonel Lloyd owned so many that he did not know
them when he saw them; nor did all the slaves of the out-farms know
him. It is reported of him, that, while riding along the road one day,
he met a colored man, and addressed him in the usual manner of
speaking to colored people on the public highways of the south:
"Well, boy, whom do you belong to?" "To Colonel Lloyd," replied the
slave. "Well, does the colonel treat you well?" "No, sir," was the
ready reply. "What, does he work you too hard?" "Yes, sir." "Well,
don't he give you enough to eat?" "Yes, sir, he gives me enough,
such as it is."
Three weeks later this slave was sold to an owner in Georgia a hand more
unrelenting than death.
What does Douglass think of the practice he describes of slaves fighting to defend the
alleged virtues of their masters? Though Douglass agrees to giving contented
replies when asked about their masters due to the fact this will usually save a
slave from a worst fate than where he currently was, he did not agree with the
slaves fighting to defend the virtues of their masters.
To what psychological impulse does he attribute this? He felt the slaves that fought to
defend their masters virtues did so because of pride and the need for power.
He states that these slaves believed the greatness of their masters transferred to
Chapter 4
What violent events does this chapter record? Four murders of slaves were reported
in this chapter.

Why do you think nothing was done to prosecute the murder of slaves? Nothing was
done to prosecute the murder of a slave because a slave was considered
property and not a human being by the slave holders.
How would you describe Douglass's style? His style is true and honest. It is matterof-fact. Written in first person point of view as an autobiography, Douglass
shares his story of slavery as he witnessed it and brings the reader in to see the
facts of this irresponsible power.
How does he show emotion in recounting the horrible sights he has witnessed? He
doesnt show sadness as his emotion but rather anger (not rage, just direct,
matter-of-fact reporting of what he saw). He gives us the direct, gory details and
leaves it at that.
Chapter 5
What were the circumstances of Douglass's life in childhood? He was allowed some
leisure time, but mostly worked around the Great House Farm after he turned 6.
He was always hungry and cold and did not have a bed.
What was his relationship to his siblings? He did not have a relationship with his
siblings because their mother was taken away from them as a child and they were
not encouraged to bond with each other or make any connections as slaves.
What was his response to his removal to Baltimore? He looked forward to his move
to Baltimore knowing that it couldnt be any worse than Colonel Lloyds
plantation. He was excited and looked at this as the biggest prospect of his
What sentiment did he hold about his future? Going to live at Baltimore laid the
foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.
Chapter 6
What effect on the character of his new mistress Mrs. Auld does Douglass ascribe to
slavery? Slavery turns Mrs. Auld from an angel into a demon: But, alas! this kind
heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power
was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful
eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made
all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic
face gave place to that of a demon.
What information does Mr. Auld unintentionally provide him? Hugh Auld
unintentionally tells Frederick how a slave can be free: "If you give a [slave] an
inch, he will take an ell. A [slave] should know nothing but to obey his master--to
do as he is told to do. Learning would ~spoil~ the best [slave] in the world. Now,"
said he, "if you teach that [black boy] (speaking of myself) how to read, there
would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at
once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could
do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and

How was Baltimore life different from that on the plantation? A city slave is almost a
freeman, compared with a slave on the plantation. He is much better fed and
clothed, and enjoys privileges altogether unknown to the slave on the plantation.
Chapter 7
How does Mrs. Auld try to inhibit Douglass from learning to read and write? She rushes
at him in fierce furiousness and questions his personal doings relentlessly.
How does he succeed in attaining his aim? The plan which I adopted, and the one
by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white
boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into
What books does he read, and how do these influence his beliefs about slavery? The
Columbian Orator was a book of speeches and dialogue and essays that helped
Douglass to develop his rhetoric skills as well as his beliefs about slavery. For
the first time he saw how a slave may be able to argue his way to freedom.
How does he come to learn about the abolitionist movement? He hears the word then
learns what it really is by reading about it in the newspaper.
What first suggests to his mind the possibility of escape? The 2 Irishmen he helps on
the docks one day. They ask him if he is a slave for life and when he replies
yes they offer him the advice of running away to the North.
Chapter 8
What happens to Douglass after the death of Captain Anthony? He returns to the farm
to undergo the valuation and division process. Since Master Anthony died
unexpectedly, he left no will. All his property, animals and slaves alike, were
gathered together and examined to have their value determined. The property,
including the slaves, were then divided among Master Anthonys two surviving
children: Master Andrew and Mistress Lucretia.
What treatment of his brother does he witness? Master Anthony grabs the younger
boy by the throat, throws him on the ground and stamps on him with his boot. He
does this in front of Frederick and then looks at Frederick and tells him he
planned to do the same to him.
After his return to Baltimore and the death of Master Andrew Auld, what is done to
Douglass's grandmother? She is cast out into a shack in the woods to die alone.
Whom does Douglass regret to leave when Master Thomas orders him sent from
Master Hugh's residence? The white boys who have been his teachers and friends.
What kind of information does he seek before he leaves Baltimore, and for what
purpose? On my passage, I paid particular attention to the direction which the
steamboats took to go to Philadelphia. My determination to run away was again
Chapter 9

Under what conditions did Douglass live when with Thomas Auld and his wife at St.
Michael's? He was underfed, whipped and treated with meanness.
What behavior toward a lame woman slave does Douglass record? Henny was
whipped because she was lame. She had been badly burned as a child and had
lost the full use of her hands. Master Thomas Auld beat her to feel powerful and
like a god in his own mind. None of his slaves really respected him or called him
master. This was one thing he did that made him feel like he had power.
In Douglass's view, what was the disappointing effect of Mr. Auld's conversion? He
becomes meaner and uses the Bible to support his meanness towards his slaves.
What was the fate of Mr. Wilson's Sabbath school for slaves? After only meeting 3
times, several of the white men of the church came upon us with sticks and
other missiles, drove us off, and forbade us to meet again. Thus ended our little
Sabbath school in the pious town of St. Michael's.
What motivated Mr. Auld to send Frederick to Mr. Covey's farm? Thomas Auld sent
Frederick to Mr. Coveys farm to break him to cause him to lose his free spirit
and personal will and instead be an obedient slave.
Chapter 10
How did Mr. Covey treat Douglass and his peers? Covey was a mean, deceptive
master who had high expectations and punished his slaves whenever he saw fit
including when he caught them doing something when he snuck up on them.
What enabled Douglass to survive the incidents of the oxen and the beatings?
Douglasss perseverance and hope.
What psychological effect did Covey's brutality have on Douglass? Mr. Covey
succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural
elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed,
the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery
closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!
What thoughts or hopes encouraged him in his despair? (46) Thoughts of freedom,
hope and faith:
I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's Sabbath, stood all
alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay, and traced, with
saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails
moving off to the mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected
me powerfully. My thoughts would compel utterance; and there, with
no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul's complaint,
in my rude way, with an apostrophe to the moving multitude of
ships:-- "You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast
in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle
gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swiftwinged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of
iron! O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks,
and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbid
waters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I

could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! The
glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the
hottest hell of unending slavery. O God, save me! God, deliver me!
Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I
will not stand it. Get caught, or get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die
with ague as the fever. I have only one life to lose. I had as well be
killed running as die standing. Only think of it; one hundred miles
straight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! God helping me, I will. It
cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water. This
very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. The steamboats steered in a
northeast course from North Point. I will do the same; and when I get
to the head of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight
through Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be
required to have a pass; I can travel without being disturbed. Let but
the first opportunity offer, and, come what will, I am off. Meanwhile, I
will try to bear up under the yoke. I am not the only slave in the
world. Why should I fret? I can bear as much as any of them.
Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys are bound to some one. It may
be that my misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I
get free. There is a better day coming."
What assistance in his plight did Douglass seek? He decides to go to Master Thomas
Auld: At this moment I resolved, for the first time, to go to my master, enter a
complaint, and ask his protection.
What responses did he receive? Master Thomas Auld told him that Mr. Covey would
never kill him and that he had to return and be an obedient slave.
Why do you think Mr. Auld refused to help him? Douglass is being let out to Covey
meant payment was being exchanged. Mr. Auld was not going to break that
contract and lose the money.
Why do you think Douglass included the incident of Sandy's offer of the root? It
marked a turning point in his life with Covey.
What seems to have been Douglass's attitude toward this form of African folk practice?
He didnt truly believe in these superstitions.
How did Douglass regain his self-confidence? By getting in a brutal fight with Covey
and winning.
How does he analyze the fact that Mr. Covey failed to prosecute him for resistance? He
thought Coveys reputation kept him from prosecuting him for resistance. If he
would have turned Frederick in, his reputation for breaking slaves would have
been tainted.
What lesson does he seem to have gained from this experience? He learns that he
never has to be whipped again. He has the strength to fight back, and he does
from this point forward.
How does Douglass interpret the motives and psychological effects of the owner's
encouragement of excess among the slaves during holidays? From what I know of

the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most
effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of
insurrection. Insurrection means an uprising against authority/ rebellion.
Do you think his analysis may be correct? Yes, I do agree.
What improvements does Douglass find in his labors for Mr. Freeland? He says, My
treatment, while in his employment, was heavenly, compared with what I
experienced at the hands of Mr. Edward Covey. Freeland was a 100%
improvement over Covey.
What were the results of Douglass's efforts to teach his fellow slaves? Douglass
teaches a Sabbath school at a free colored mans house and has nearly 40 pupils
at one time.
How did he and his friends resolve to emancipate themselves, and how is their effort
failed? They planned to leave right before Easter. Frederick wrote them each a
pass stating they had permission to visit family in Baltimore and made it appear
as if they were from Master Hamilton. They were found out by a leak. I believe it
might have been Sandy who opened his mouth since he backed out of the plan.
However, it could have simply been that Mrs. Freeland found out by overhearing
Henry and John Harris, their two personal slaves, discussing it. Douglass never
really tells us how the white men find out. However, it is known that he was the
instigator and he is separated from his friends.
Why do you think Mr. Auld sent the imprisoned Douglass back to Baltimore, rather than
punishing him more severely? I think he didnt want to deal with Douglass on his
own and may have been afraid he would kill Douglass himself. Thomas knew the
city had changed Frederick and he would not be manageable as a plantation
In Baltimore, how was Douglass treated in Mr. Gardner's shipyard, and how did he
resist? He was treated poorly, abused, and beaten nearly to death.
Why was his master unable to obtain legal redress on his behalf? No white man would
stand up as a witness for him and Douglass could not press charges himself as a
black man.
What trade did he learn, and how did this alter his status? Frederick Douglass learned
the trade of ship calking. This was the act of sealing the cracks in a ship. He did
his job so well, he was able to hire himself out and make top wages of $1.50 per
hour. Eventually, Master Hugh allows him to make all his contracts and work his
own hours. This gives him the responsibilities of a free man and a true taste of
freedom. However, he also has to pay Master Hugh during this timeso the
reminder of being a slave is always present in his life.
Chapter 11
What reasons does Douglass give for not describing more of his manner of escape? He
is worried about giving too much information that would inhibit other slaves from
escaping he did not want to run the hazard of closing the slightest avenue by
which a brother slave might clear himself of the chains and fetters of slavery.

What immediate considerations prompted Douglass to act? When Master Hugh takes
away his privilege to work for himself and keep some of the money he earned for
himself, he realizes it is time to go. How did he plan to leave without arousing
suspicion? He continued to work hard and obey Master Hugh with respect while
making his plans.
What aspects of his escape does he especially remember? Those events leading up
to his escape he seems to remember most.
What part does his intended wife play in these recollections? She joins him in New
York and they are married. He does not recall any details of her helping him
(though we know from other works of his that she did.)
How does he choose his new name? At first he takes the name Johnson because it
is easy. However, when he moves to New Bedford, there are too many Johnsons
there! He is being assisted by a man named Mr. Johnson (a white man), who had
just finished reading The Lady of the Lake a poem by Sir Walter Scott. The last
name of the main character is Douglas he is a rebel and is pardoned at the end
of the poem. Mr. Johnson suggests this as Fredericks new last name.
Why may he have found it fitting? This was fitting as the character from the poem
escaped execution and was a rebel (a similar story to Fredericks).
What aspects of New Bedford life surprised him? He was surprised that the folk there
got along so well and had so much wealth without having slaves.
What difficulties followed him in the exercise of his work? There were, however, still
prejudices. The white calkers did not want to work or compete with the black
calkers. Because of this, Frederick did not work regularly as a calker but took
whatever odd jobs he could find.
What publication especially inspired Douglass? The Liberator William Garrisons
anti-slavery publication.
How did he commence his career as an orator and writer? while attending an antislavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I felt strongly
moved to speak, and was at the same time much urged to do so by Mr. William C.
Coffin, a gentleman who had heard me speak in the colored people's meeting at
New Bedford. It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly. The truth was, I
felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down. I
spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I
desired with considerable ease. From that time until now, I have been engaged in
pleading the cause of my brethren
What is the effect of the book's closure? Fred ends his narrative with these words, I
have been engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren--with what success, and
with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my labors to decide. -- He
allows the decision of his success and devotion to speaking out against slavery
up to the readers. Its like a challenge to us readers asking us whether he has
done a good jobI believe he has.