Frederick Douglass was an American abolitionist, author, lecturer, and statesman who escaped from slavery in 1838 and went on to become a leading figure in the abolitionist movement. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, is considered to be one of the most important works of American literature and a powerful and moving account of his life as a slave. Douglass’s work is an important reminder of the horrors of slavery and the importance of fighting for justice and equality. Read More 1st PUC English Summaries.
Frederick Douglass Summary
Frederick Douglass Summary in English
‘Frederick Douglass’ is an autobiographical piece about the life of an American slave. The piece brings to us the gory details of the ill-treatment meted out to the slaves by their white masters. The author begins with references to his birth in Tuckahoe. Ironically, he is not able to say when exactly he was born. He adds that this ambiguity about the age was the lot of all slaves as their masters hid this piece of information from them. The author, who is unhappy over his ignorance about his date of birth, states that he must be either twenty-seven or twenty-eight, going by what his master had said about his age ten years ago.
The speaker’s ignorance is not limited to his age alone. He doesn’t know who his father is though the common speculation is that his father is a white man. He knows that his mother was a black woman named Harriet Bailey from whom he was separated when he was an infant. He adds that it was the common custom in that part of Maryland that the children were thus separated from their mothers, hindering the natural bond between the mother and the child.
He had seen his mother only four or five times when she met him after walking twelve miles from Mr Stewart’s place where she worked as the field hand. She had to be back in the field before the sunrise if she had to escape the penalty of whipping from the slave master. This left the mother and child very little time and scope for communication. The sad outcome of this is that when he lost her when he was around seven, he didn’t feel the usual emotions of sorrow.
The sudden death of the mother put an end to whatever chance the author had of knowing who his father was. He cannot be sure at all whether his slave master was his father also, though there were rumours to that effect. But, the prospect of the slave masters being the fathers was not of any relief to the children because such children were under the constant scrutiny of the wives of such slave masters. Such slave masters went to the extent of selling these children to flesh traders to please their white wives. If they didn’t do this, they had to either whip their own black children or see their white sons whip their black brothers. Any sign of disapproval by the white man at the gory acts of the white sons made matters worse for both the slave masters and their black children.
The author shares with his readers his experiences with one of his two masters – Captain Anthony by name. If the master himself was cruel, his overseer-Mr. Plummer-was even crueller. The author places before the readers the bloody details of the master whipping an aunt of his with cowskin until he was too tired to continue whipping her. Mr Plummer, on his part, went around with not only the cowskin but also a heavy cudgel and cut and slashed women’s heads horribly.
Despite all these hardships, the author had the optimism of coming out of slavery and he thanks God for giving him this hope and cheerfulness as a youngster.
Frederick Douglass was a courageous and eloquent advocate for justice and equality. His life and work continue to inspire people all over the world.