Cómo Frederick Douglass escapó de la esclavitud

Cómo Frederick Douglass escapó de la esclavitud

Frederick Douglass nunca había estado tan nervioso. Las mariposas en su estómago revoloteaban con cada rebote del carruaje sobre las calles adoquinadas de Baltimore mientras se acercaba a la estación de ferrocarril de Baltimore y Ohio. El esclavo, entonces conocido por su nombre de nacimiento de Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, se embarcaba en un peligroso viaje con Nueva York, y la libertad, sus destinos previstos.

Después de que el intento de Douglass de escapar de la esclavitud dos años antes fuera traicionado por un compañero esclavo, fue encarcelado, enviado a Baltimore por su amo y contratado para trabajar en los astilleros de la ciudad. Sin inmutarse, Douglass juró intentar escapar de nuevo el 3 de septiembre de 1838, aunque conocía el riesgo. "Me sentí seguro de que si fallaba en este intento, mi caso sería desesperado", escribió en su autobiografía. "Sellaría mi destino como esclavo para siempre".

Douglass se disfrazó de marinero negro libre, una artimaña digna de crédito dado el conocimiento náutico que adquirió trabajando en la zona ribereña. El esclavo también sabía que la deferencia mostrada a los marineros en una ciudad marinera como Baltimore podría funcionar en su beneficio. Se puso una camisa roja y un sombrero de marinero y se anudó holgadamente una corbata negra alrededor del cuello. En su bolsillo, el esclavo se metió un pase de protección de marinero, que podía presentar en lugar de los "documentos gratuitos" que los funcionarios del ferrocarril exigían que los pasajeros negros llevaran como prueba de que no estaban esclavizados. Douglass había pedido prestado el documento a un marinero afroamericano libre, pero se parecía poco a la descripción física detallada en la hoja de papel. Un examen minucioso por parte de un funcionario ferroviario o cualquier autoridad revelaría el subterfugio y pondría en peligro tanto a Douglass como a su amigo.

Para evitar los ojos escrutadores del agente de boletos dentro de la estación, Douglass esperó y saltó sobre el tren en movimiento en el último momento mientras comenzaba a volar hacia el norte. Pasaron muchos minutos antes de que el conductor finalmente entrara en el vagón de pasajeros separado que transportaba a los pasajeros afroamericanos del tren. Aunque Douglass permaneció tranquilo en el exterior, su corazón latía con fuerza mientras el conductor inspeccionaba cuidadosamente los papeles gratuitos de los pasajeros. "Todo mi futuro dependía de la decisión de este director", escribió.

Finalmente, el oficial del ferrocarril llegó al asiento de Douglass. "¿Supongo que tienes tus papeles gratis?" preguntó.

"No señor; Nunca llevo mis papeles gratis al mar conmigo ”, dijo el esclavo.

"Pero tienes algo que demostrar que eres un hombre libre, ¿no es así?" preguntó el conductor.

"Sí señor, tengo un papel con el águila americana en él, que me llevará alrededor del mundo", respondió Douglass. Douglass sacó el documento de su bolsillo. Los ojos del director se dirigieron al águila autoritaria estampada en la parte superior en lugar de a la descripción física errónea. Después de una rápida mirada, el conductor recogió el pasaje de Douglass y continuó hasta la parte trasera del vagón. "Si el director hubiera mirado de cerca el papel", escribió Douglass, "no podría haber dejado de descubrir que requería una persona de apariencia muy diferente a la mía".

Sin embargo, la ansiedad de Douglass no se desvaneció por completo junto con los pasos del director. Permaneció sujeto a arresto en cualquier momento mientras el tren pasaba por los estados esclavistas de Maryland y Delaware. Cuanto más rápido aceleraba el tren, más lento parecía arrastrarse hacia el esclavo que huía. “Los minutos eran horas y las horas eran días durante esta parte de mi vuelo”, escribió.

Además, la tapadera de Douglass estuvo a punto de explotar en múltiples ocasiones. El viaje requería que el esclavo fugitivo cruzara el río Susquehanna en ferry, y a bordo estaba un viejo conocido que comenzó a hacer preguntas inquisitivas sobre su viaje antes de que Douglass pudiera escapar. Luego, al abordar un tren en dirección norte a través del río, Douglass miró a través de la ventana de otro tren detenido en la vía y vio a un capitán de barco blanco para el que había trabajado recientemente.

La mirada del capitán nunca se fijó en el esclavo, pero sí se posaron sobre él los ojos de un herrero alemán que Douglass conocía. El herrero miró fijamente a Douglass pero nunca lo llamó a los funcionarios del ferrocarril. "Realmente creo que me conocía", escribió Douglass, "pero no tuvo ánimo para traicionarme".

A pesar de los obstáculos, Douglass llegó sano y salvo a Nueva York menos de 24 horas después de salir de Baltimore. Aunque en suelo libre, Douglass no era legalmente un hombre libre. Grupos de cazadores de esclavos deambulaban por las calles de Nueva York en busca de fugitivos. El activista contra la esclavitud David Ruggles protegió a Douglass hasta que su futura esposa, una ama de llaves negra llamada Anna Murray, llegó de Baltimore.

La tarde siguiente a sus nupcias, Douglass y su nueva esposa partieron hacia un refugio más seguro en New Bedford, Massachusetts. Allí, comenzó su vida como un cruzado abolicionista. Para ocultar mejor su identidad a los cazadores de esclavos, el esclavo fugitivo cambió su apellido de Bailey a Douglass. Sus partidarios finalmente recaudaron suficiente dinero para que Douglass comprara su libertad y se convirtiera en un hombre libre a los ojos de la ley.

Cuando Douglass publicó su autobiografía en 1845, divulgó pocos detalles sobre su fuga para proteger a quienes lo instigaban y mantener a las autoridades ignorantes del método que empleó para librarse de las ataduras de la esclavitud. No fue hasta 1881 que finalmente detalló su fuga.

Douglass siempre miró hacia atrás el 3 de septiembre de 1838, como el día en que “comenzó su vida libre”, y por el resto de su vida celebró la fecha en lugar de su cumpleaños desconocido.


Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass cuando era joven.

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey nació como esclavo en la costa este de Maryland en febrero de 1818. Tuvo una vida familiar difícil. Apenas conocía a su madre, que vivía en una plantación diferente y murió cuando él era un niño pequeño. Nunca descubrió la identidad de su padre. Cuando cumplió ocho años, su dueño de esclavos lo contrató para trabajar como sirviente corporal en Baltimore.

A temprana edad, Frederick se dio cuenta de que había una conexión entre la alfabetización y la libertad. No se le permitió asistir a la escuela, se enseñó a leer y escribir por sí mismo en las calles de Baltimore. A los doce compró un libro llamado El orador colombino. Fue una colección de discursos, debates y escritos revolucionarios sobre los derechos naturales.

Cuando Frederick tenía quince años, su dueño de esclavos lo envió de regreso a Eastern Shore para trabajar como peón de campo. Frederick se rebeló intensamente. Educó a otros esclavos, luchó físicamente contra un "rompe-esclavos" y planeó una fuga infructuosa.

Frustrado, su dueño de esclavos lo devolvió a Baltimore. Esta vez, Frederick conoció a una joven negra libre llamada Anna Murray, quien accedió a ayudarlo a escapar. El 3 de septiembre de 1838, se disfrazó de marinero y abordó un tren en dirección norte, usando dinero de Anna para pagar su boleto. En menos de 24 horas, Frederick llegó a la ciudad de Nueva York y se declaró libre. Había escapado con éxito de la esclavitud.

Después de escapar, Frederick Douglass vivió por primera vez en la casa de Nathan y Polly Johnson en New Bedford, Massachusetts. La casa es ahora un Monumento Histórico Nacional.

El movimiento abolicionista

Después de escapar de la esclavitud, Frederick se casó con Anna. Decidieron que la ciudad de Nueva York no era un lugar seguro para que Frederick permaneciera fugitivo, por lo que se establecieron en New Bedford, Massachusetts. Allí, adoptaron el apellido & quotDouglass & quot y formaron su familia, que eventualmente crecería hasta incluir cinco hijos: Rosetta, Lewis, Frederick, Charles y Annie.

Después de encontrar empleo como trabajador, Douglass comenzó a asistir a reuniones abolicionistas y a hablar sobre sus experiencias en la esclavitud. Pronto se ganó la reputación de orador, consiguiendo un trabajo como agente de la Sociedad Anti-Esclavitud de Massachusetts. El trabajo lo llevó a realizar giras de conferencias por el norte y el medio oeste.

La fama de Douglass como orador aumentó a medida que viajaba. Sin embargo, algunas de sus audiencias sospechaban que no era realmente un esclavo fugitivo. En 1845, publicó su primera autobiografía, Narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass, para aclarar esas dudas. La narración dio un registro claro de los nombres y lugares de su esclavitud.

Para evitar ser capturado y esclavizado de nuevo, Douglass viajó al extranjero. Durante casi dos años, pronunció discursos y vendió copias de su narrativa en Inglaterra, Irlanda y Escocia. Cuando los abolicionistas se ofrecieron a comprar su libertad, Douglass aceptó y regresó a Estados Unidos legalmente libre. Trasladó a Anna y sus hijos a Rochester, Nueva York.

En Rochester, Douglass llevó su trabajo en nuevas direcciones. Abrazó el movimiento por los derechos de las mujeres, ayudó a la gente en el ferrocarril subterráneo y apoyó a los partidos políticos contra la esclavitud. Una vez aliado de William Lloyd Garrison y sus seguidores, Douglass comenzó a trabajar más de cerca con Gerrit Smith y John Brown. Compró una imprenta y dirigió su propio periódico, La estrella del norte . En 1855, publicó su segunda autobiografía, Mi esclavitud y mi libertad, que amplió su primera autobiografía y desafió la segregación racial en el norte.

Frederick Douglass de pie frente a su casa en Capitol Hill, ca. 1870. Más tarde compró y se mudó a la finca suburbana en Anacostia que llamó Cedar Hill.

Guerra civil y reconstrucción

Frederick Douglass como estadista.

Cómo Frederick Douglass escapó de la esclavitud - HISTORIA

Con su cabello largo y una barba de sal y pimienta que le dan una cualidad majestuosa a un rostro que refleja una vida de lucha, Frederick Douglass parece un abolicionista, autor y defensor de los derechos humanos. En otra vida, podría haber sido profesor universitario. En cambio, nació como esclavo, en una granja de Maryland, hijo de un hombre blanco desconocido. Douglass trabajó en los campos hasta su octavo cumpleaños, cuando fue enviado a calafatear barcos. Su nuevo dueño, Hugh Auld, violó una ley estatal al educar a Douglass, lo que solo intensificó el deseo de escapar. En una oscura noche de septiembre, aprovechó su oportunidad.

En este día, 3 de septiembre de 1838, Frederick Douglass escapó dramáticamente de la esclavitud, viajando hacia el norte en tren y barco desde Baltimore, a través de Delaware, hasta Filadelfia. Desde allí, Douglass tomó un tren a Nueva York, donde llegó a la mañana siguiente.

Douglass, un hombre libre en el norte, finalmente se instaló en Bedford, Massachusetts, y comenzó a trabajar en los muelles. A fines de la década de 1840, Douglass estaba lo suficientemente seguro como para revelar su condición de ex fugitivo, mostrando su habilidad para leer y escribir como una refutación a aquellos que creían que los esclavos eran incapaces de tal inteligencia. Douglass documentó elocuentemente su huida del cautiverio y su nueva vida en su autobiografía seminal. La narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass, un esclavo estadounidense.


Por qué Frederick Douglass me importa

Frederick Douglass fue mi primera introducción intelectual a la filosofía estadounidense. Muchos estadounidenses tienen la percepción de que los esclavistas, los confederados y los terroristas del KKK estaban compuestos por hombres malvados anormales. Sin embargo, las mismas personas que apoyaron los sistemas de esclavitud, Jim Crow y el racismo fueron generales célebres, eruditos legales y empresarios prominentes. Douglass se vio obligado a participar en sus retorcidos argumentos que pervirtieron las ideas de libertad, igualdad y la búsqueda de la felicidad.

Los argumentos, aunque algunos abiertamente racistas, también intentaron perseguir defensas inocentes de la esclavitud, la segregación y el racismo sistémico. Que su intención no era discriminatoria y que los efectos de la discriminación eran coincidencias inocentes. Quizás el mejor ejemplo de esto es la respuesta de Frederick Douglass a A.C.C. La crítica de Thompson a la autobiografía de Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

Thompson afirmó que los esclavistas de Douglass eran hombres "honorables", que "los esclavos viven mejor y les va mejor en muchos aspectos que los negros libres", y que las leyes de Maryland en 1845 no exigían un doble estándar basado en el color de la piel. Aquí estaba un hombre en 1845 que afirmaba que los abolicionistas estaban insultando la buena reputación de los hombres "caritativos". Que las incidencias de esclavos viviendo "mejor" refutaban cualquier acusación de racismo y maldad proveniente del esclavista. ¡Y que el sistema de justicia penal no podía ser sistemáticamente racista en 1845! Thompson, afirmando que se "oponía positivamente a la esclavitud", incluso tuvo la arrogancia de sermonear a Douglass sobre la mejor manera de abolir la esclavitud.

Frederick Douglass responde a Thompson en un asunto mucho mejor de lo que puedo resumir. Demostrar que los hombres "buenos" son realmente capaces de infligir tal mal. Que el doble rasero del sistema legal de los Estados Unidos es un "hecho notorio". Eso, por supuesto, la esclavitud es un sistema maligno. Y, con el tiempo, Douglass lograría su objetivo de abolir la esclavitud.

Douglass era un hombre que conocía la tiranía, que conocía la opresión, que conocía la autocracia y me proporcionó las herramientas para enfrentar esos males. Un hombre nacido hace más de dos siglos me habló desde el pasado transportando sus ideas y palabras a través de un túnel en el tiempo que rasgó la tela del espacio y la naturaleza para educarme sobre los derechos universales naturales de todos los seres humanos. Derechos naturales a la libertad tan verdaderos y dominantes como la fuerza de la gravedad.


Narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass, Viajes europeos, y La estrella del norte

En 1845 Douglass publicó su primera autobiografía, Narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass, un esclavo estadounidense, escrita por él mismo. Antes de su publicación, el público de las conferencias de Douglass había cuestionado su autenticidad como ex esclavo debido a su elocuencia, su negativa a usar el "lenguaje de plantación" y su falta de voluntad para proporcionar detalles sobre sus orígenes. los Narrativa resolvió estas disputas nombrando personas y lugares en la vida de Douglass. El libro también desafió el empleo convencional de escritores fantasmas para narrativas de esclavos al reconocer audazmente que Douglass lo escribió él mismo. Douglass publicaría dos autobiografías adicionales: Mi esclavitud y mi libertad (1855) y Vida y época de Frederick Douglass (1881). los Narrativa rápidamente se hizo popular, especialmente en Europa, pero el éxito del libro contribuyó a la determinación de Hugh Auld de devolver a Douglass a las condiciones de esclavitud.

La amenaza de captura, así como el excelente desempeño del libro en Europa, llevaron a Douglass a viajar al extranjero desde agosto de 1845 hasta 1847, y dio conferencias por todo el Reino Unido. Sus seguidores ingleses, liderados por Ellen y Anna Richardson, compraron Douglass a Hugh Auld, dándole su libertad. En la primavera de 1847, Douglass regresó a los Estados Unidos como un hombre libre con los fondos para comenzar su propio periódico.

Douglass se mudó a Rochester, Nueva York, para publicar su periódico, La estrella del norte, a pesar de las objeciones de Garrison y otros. Basar el periódico en Rochester aseguró que La estrella del norte no compitió con la distribución de El libertador y el Norma nacional contra la esclavitud en Nueva Inglaterra. La estrella del norteEl primer número apareció el 3 de diciembre de 1847. En 1851 el periódico se fusionó con el Papel Liberty Party formar Documento de Frederick Douglass, que duró hasta 1860. Douglass publicaría dos periódicos adicionales durante su vida, Mensual de Douglass (1859-1863) y Nueva Era Nacional (1870–74).

El traslado a Rochester rodeó a Douglass de abolicionistas políticos como Gerrit Smith. Durante sus primeros años en Rochester, Douglass se mantuvo fiel a la filosofía de Garrison, que promovió la persuasión moral, declaró que la Constitución de los Estados Unidos era un documento inválido y desalentó la participación en la política estadounidense porque era un sistema corrompido por la esclavitud. En 1851, sin embargo, Douglass anunció su separación de Garrison cuando declaró que la Constitución era un documento legal válido que podía utilizarse en nombre de la emancipación. En consecuencia, Douglass se involucró más en la política estadounidense y la interpretación constitucional.


Frederick Douglass sobre su escape de la esclavitud

Nota del editor: este extracto es el último capítulo de la autobiografía de Frederick Douglass Narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass: un esclavo estadounidense, en el que describe los eventos que llevaron a su escape de la esclavitud y su peligroso y finalmente exitoso intento. La autobiografía completa está disponible de forma gratuita en la edición del libro electrónico aquí.

Ahora llego a esa parte de mi vida durante la cual planeé y finalmente logré escapar de la esclavitud. Pero antes de narrar alguna de las peculiares circunstancias, considero oportuno dar a conocer mi intención de no exponer todos los hechos relacionados con la transacción. Mis razones para seguir este curso pueden entenderse a partir de lo siguiente: Primero, si yo diera una declaración minuciosa de todos los hechos, no solo es posible, sino muy probable, que otros se verían involucrados en las dificultades más embarazosas. En segundo lugar, tal declaración indudablemente induciría a los propietarios de esclavos a una mayor vigilancia de la que ha existido hasta ahora entre ellos, lo que, por supuesto, sería el medio de proteger una puerta por la que algún querido hermano siervo pudiera escapar de sus irritantes cadenas. Lamento profundamente la necesidad que me impulsa a suprimir cualquier cosa de importancia relacionada con mi experiencia en la esclavitud. Ciertamente me proporcionaría un gran placer, además de aumentar materialmente el interés de mi narración, si tuviera la libertad de satisfacer una curiosidad, que sé que existe en la mente de muchos, mediante una declaración precisa de todos los hechos relacionados con mi escape más afortunado. Pero debo privarme de este placer y de la curiosidad de la gratificación que proporcionaría tal declaración. Me permitiría sufrir bajo las mayores imputaciones que los hombres malvados pudieran sugerir, en lugar de exculparme, y con ello correr el riesgo de cerrar la más mínima avenida por la cual un hermano esclavo podría librarse de las cadenas y grilletes de la esclavitud.

Nunca he aprobado la manera tan pública en que algunos de nuestros amigos occidentales han llevado a cabo lo que ellos llaman la ferrocarril subterráneo, pero que, creo, por sus declaraciones abiertas, ha hecho más enfáticamente la ferrocarril de superficie. Honro a esos buenos hombres y mujeres por su noble audacia, y los aplaudo por someterse voluntariamente a una persecución sangrienta, al reconocer abiertamente su participación en la fuga de los esclavos. Sin embargo, puedo ver muy poco bien como resultado de tal conducta, ya sea para ellos mismos o para los esclavos que escapan, mientras que, por otro lado, veo y me siento seguro de que esas declaraciones abiertas son un mal positivo para los esclavos que quedan, que están buscando escapar. No hacen nada para iluminar al esclavo, mientras que hacen mucho para iluminar al amo. Lo estimulan a una mayor vigilancia y aumentan su poder para capturar a su esclavo. Debemos algo a los esclavos al sur de la línea, así como a los que están al norte, y al ayudar a estos últimos en su camino hacia la libertad, debemos tener cuidado de no hacer nada que pueda impedir que los primeros escapen de la esclavitud. Mantendría al esclavista despiadado profundamente ignorante de los medios de fuga adoptados por el esclavo. Lo dejaría para que se imaginara a sí mismo rodeado de miríadas de torturadores invisibles, siempre dispuestos a arrebatarle de sus manos infernales a su presa temblorosa. Dejemos que se mueva a tientas en la oscuridad, que la oscuridad acorde con su crimen se cierne sobre él y que sienta que a cada paso que da, en busca del siervo volador, corre el terrible riesgo de que le destrocen los sesos. a cabo por una agencia invisible. No prestemos ayuda al tirano, no sostengamos la luz con la que puede trazar las huellas de nuestro hermano volador. Pero basta de esto. Pasaré ahora a exponer esos hechos, relacionados con mi fuga, de los que soy el único responsable y de los que nadie puede sufrir más que yo.

A principios del año 1838, me sentí bastante inquieto. No veía ninguna razón por la que debería, al final de cada semana, verter la recompensa de mi trabajo en el bolso de mi amo. Cuando le llevaba mi salario semanal, él, después de contar el dinero, me miraba a la cara con una fiereza de ladrón y me preguntaba: "¿Esto es todo?" Estaba satisfecho con nada menos que el último centavo. Sin embargo, cuando le ganaba seis dólares, a veces me daba seis centavos para animarme. Tuvo el efecto contrario. Lo consideré como una especie de admisión de mi derecho a la totalidad. El hecho de que me diera una parte de mi salario era una prueba, en mi opinión, de que me creía con derecho a la totalidad de ellos. Siempre me sentí peor por haber recibido cualquier cosa porque temía que el darme unos centavos aliviaría su conciencia y lo haría sentirse como una especie de ladrón bastante honorable. Mi descontento creció sobre mí. Siempre estuve en busca de medios de escape y, al no encontrar un medio directo, decidí tratar de contratar mi tiempo, con miras a conseguir dinero con el que escapar. En la primavera de 1838, cuando el Maestro Thomas vino a Baltimore para comprar sus artículos de primavera, tuve una oportunidad y le solicité que me permitiera contratar mi tiempo. Sin dudarlo, rechazó mi solicitud y me dijo que se trataba de otra estratagema por la que escapar. Me dijo que no podía ir a ninguna parte, pero que él podía atraparme y que, en caso de que yo huyera, no debería escatimar esfuerzos en sus esfuerzos por atraparme. Me exhortó a contentarme ya ser obediente. Me dijo que, si quería ser feliz, no debía trazar planes para el futuro. Dijo que si me portaba bien, él me cuidaría. De hecho, me aconsejó que dejara de pensar en el futuro y me enseñó a depender únicamente de él para la felicidad. Parecía ver plenamente la urgente necesidad de dejar a un lado mi naturaleza intelectual, a fin de contentarme en la esclavitud. Pero a pesar de él, e incluso a pesar de mí mismo, seguí pensando y pensando en la injusticia de mi esclavitud y los medios de escapar.

Aproximadamente dos meses después de esto, solicité al Maestro Hugh el privilegio de contratar mi tiempo. No conocía el hecho de que yo había solicitado al Maestro Thomas y me habían negado. Él también, al principio, parecía dispuesto a negarse, pero, después de reflexionar un poco, me concedió el privilegio y propuso los siguientes términos: se me permitiría todo mi tiempo, hacer todos los contratos con aquellos para quienes trabajaba y encontrar mi propio empleo y, a cambio de esta libertad, tenía que pagarle tres dólares al final de cada semana para encontrarme en herramientas de calking, y en tabla y ropa. Mi pensión costaba dos dólares y medio a la semana. Esto, con el desgaste de la ropa y las herramientas de calderería, hizo que mis gastos habituales fueran de unos seis dólares por semana. Esta cantidad me vi obligado a recuperar o renunciar al privilegio de contratar mi tiempo. Llueva o truene, trabaje o no trabaje, al final de cada semana el dinero debe estar disponible, o debo renunciar a mi privilegio. Este arreglo, se percibirá, fue decididamente a favor de mi amo. Lo liberó de toda necesidad de cuidarme. Su dinero estaba seguro. Recibió todos los beneficios de la esclavitud sin sus males mientras yo soportaba todos los males de un esclavo y sufría todo el cuidado y la ansiedad de un hombre libre. Me pareció un trato difícil. Pero, por difícil que fuera, pensé que era mejor que el antiguo modo de llevarse bien. Era un paso hacia la libertad que se me permitiera asumir las responsabilidades de un hombre libre, y estaba decidido a aferrarme a ello. Me dediqué al trabajo de hacer dinero. Estaba listo para trabajar tanto de noche como de día, y con la perseverancia y la laboriosidad más incansables, ganaba lo suficiente para cubrir mis gastos y acumular un poco de dinero cada semana. Continué así desde mayo hasta agosto. El Maestro Hugh luego se negó a permitirme contratar mi tiempo por más tiempo. El motivo de su negativa fue que un sábado por la noche no le pagué el tiempo de mi semana. Este fracaso se debió a que asistí a una reunión campestre a unas diez millas de Baltimore. Durante la semana, me había comprometido con varios amigos jóvenes para partir desde Baltimore hasta el campamento el sábado por la noche temprano y, al ser detenido por mi empleador, no pude ir a casa del maestro Hugh sin decepcionar a la empresa. Sabía que el Maestro Hugh no tenía ninguna necesidad especial del dinero esa noche. Por lo tanto, decidí ir al campamento y, a mi regreso, pagarle los tres dólares. Me quedé en la reunión de campo un día más de lo que pretendía cuando me fui. Pero tan pronto como regresé, le pedí que le pagara lo que consideraba que le correspondía. Lo encontré muy enojado, apenas pudo contener su ira. Dijo que tenía una gran mente para darme una paliza severa. Quería saber cómo me atrevía a salir de la ciudad sin pedirle permiso. Le dije que había contratado mi tiempo y, aunque le pagué el precio que me pidió, no sabía que tenía que preguntarle cuándo y dónde debía ir. Esta respuesta le preocupó y, tras reflexionar unos instantes, se volvió hacia mí y me dijo que no debería contratar más mi tiempo porque lo siguiente que debería saber es que estaría huyendo. Con la misma súplica, me dijo que trajera mis herramientas y ropa a casa de inmediato. Lo hice pero en lugar de buscar trabajo, como solía hacer antes de contratar mi tiempo, pasé toda la semana sin la realización de un solo golpe de trabajo. Hice esto en represalia. El sábado por la noche, como de costumbre, me pidió el salario de mi semana. Le dije que no tenía salario, que no había trabajado esa semana. Aquí estábamos a punto de llegar a los golpes. Él deliraba y juró su determinación de apoderarse de mí. No me permití una sola palabra, pero estaba resuelto, si él ponía el peso de su mano sobre mí, sería golpe por golpe. No me golpeó, pero me dijo que me encontraría en un empleo constante en el futuro. Reflexioné sobre el asunto durante el día siguiente, domingo, y finalmente resolví el tercer día de septiembre, como el día en que haría un segundo intento por asegurar mi libertad. Ahora tenía tres semanas durante las cuales prepararme para mi viaje. El lunes por la mañana temprano, antes de que el maestro Hugh tuviera tiempo de comprometerse conmigo, salí y contraté al señor Butler, en su astillero cerca del puente levadizo, en lo que se llama la Manzana de la Ciudad, haciendo así innecesario que me buscara empleo. Al final de la semana, le traje entre ocho y nueve dólares. Parecía muy complacido y me preguntó por qué no había hecho lo mismo la semana anterior. Poco sabía cuáles eran mis planes. Mi objetivo al trabajar de manera constante era eliminar cualquier sospecha que pudiera albergar sobre mi intención de huir y en esto lo logré admirablemente. Supongo que pensó que nunca estaba más satisfecho con mi condición que en el mismo momento en que estaba planeando mi fuga. Pasó la segunda semana, y de nuevo le llevé mi salario completo y estaba tan complacido que me dio veinticinco centavos (una suma bastante grande para que un dueño de esclavos la diera a un esclavo) y me pidió que hiciera un buen negocio. uso de ella. Le dije que lo haría.

Las cosas transcurrieron sin mucha suavidad, pero dentro había problemas. Me es imposible describir mis sentimientos a medida que se acercaba el momento de mi comienzo contemplado. Tenía varios amigos afectuosos en Baltimore, amigos a los que amaba casi como amaba a mi vida, y la idea de estar separada de ellos para siempre era dolorosa más allá de toda expresión. En mi opinión, miles escaparían de la esclavitud, que ahora quedan, de no ser por los fuertes lazos de afecto que los unen a sus amigos. La idea de dejar a mis amigos fue decididamente la idea más dolorosa con la que tuve que lidiar. El amor por ellos fue mi punto sensible y sacudió mi decisión más que todo lo demás. Además del dolor de la separación, el temor y la aprensión de un fracaso excedieron lo que había experimentado en mi primer intento. La espantosa derrota que sufrí volvió a atormentarme. Me sentí seguro de que, si fallaba en este intento, mi caso sería desesperado, sellaría mi destino como esclavo para siempre. No podía esperar librarme con nada menos que el castigo más severo y ser colocado más allá de los medios de escape. No se requería una imaginación muy vívida para representar las escenas más espantosas por las que tendría que pasar, en caso de que fallara. La miseria de la esclavitud y la bendición de la libertad estaban perpetuamente ante mí. Para mí era vida o muerte. Pero me mantuve firme y, según mi resolución, el tercer día de septiembre de 1838 dejé mis cadenas y logré llegar a Nueva York sin la menor interrupción de ningún tipo. Cómo lo hice, qué medios adopté, qué dirección tomé y por qué medio de transporte, debo dejarlo sin explicar, por las razones antes mencionadas.

Con frecuencia me han preguntado cómo me sentí cuando me encontré en un Estado libre. Nunca he podido responder a la pregunta con satisfacción para mí. Fue un momento de la mayor emoción que jamás haya experimentado. Supongo que me sentí como uno puede imaginarse a un marinero desarmado cuando es rescatado por un barco de guerra amistoso de la persecución de un pirata. Al escribir a un querido amigo, inmediatamente después de mi llegada a Nueva York, le dije que me sentía como alguien que había escapado de una guarida de leones hambrientos. Este estado de ánimo, sin embargo, remitió muy pronto y de nuevo me embargó un sentimiento de gran inseguridad y soledad. Todavía estaba expuesto a ser devuelto y sometido a todas las torturas de la esclavitud. Esto en sí mismo fue suficiente para apagar el ardor de mi entusiasmo. Pero la soledad me venció. Allí estaba yo en medio de miles, y sin embargo un perfecto extraño sin hogar y sin amigos, en medio de miles de mis propios hermanos, hijos de un Padre común, y sin embargo no me atrevía a revelar a ninguno de ellos mi tristeza. condición. Tenía miedo de hablar con nadie por miedo a hablar con el equivocado, y así caer en manos de secuestradores amantes del dinero, cuyo oficio era acechar al fugitivo jadeante, como yacen las feroces bestias del bosque. a la espera de su presa. El lema que adopté cuando comencé de la esclavitud fue este: "¡No confíes en nadie!" Vi en todo hombre blanco un enemigo, y en casi todo hombre de color motivo de desconfianza. Fue una situación sumamente dolorosa y, para comprenderla, es necesario experimentarla o imaginarse a sí mismo en circunstancias similares. Que sea un esclavo fugitivo en una tierra extraña, una tierra entregada para ser coto de caza de esclavistas, cuyos habitantes son secuestradores legalizados, donde está en todo momento sometido a la terrible responsabilidad de ser apresado por sus semejantes, como el ¡Horrible cocodrilo se apodera de su presa! - digo, que se ponga en mi situación - sin casa ni amigos - sin dinero ni crédito - queriendo refugio y nadie para dárselo - queriendo pan y sin dinero para comprarlo, - y al mismo tiempo que sienta que lo persiguen despiadados cazadores de hombres, y en total oscuridad en cuanto a qué hacer, adónde ir o dónde quedarse, perfectamente indefenso tanto en lo que respecta a los medios de defensa como a los medios de escape,—in the midst of plenty, yet suffering the terrible gnawings of hunger,—in the midst of houses, yet having no home,—among fellow-men, yet feeling as if in the midst of wild beasts, whose greediness to swallow up the trembling and half-famished fugitive is only equalled by that with which the monsters of the deep swallow up the helpless fish upon which they subsist,—I say, let him be placed in this most trying situation,—the situation in which I was placed,—then, and not till then, will he fully appreciate the hardships of, and know how to sympathize with, the toil-worn and whip-scarred fugitive slave.

Thank Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggles, whose vigilance, kindness, and perseverance, I shall never forget. I am glad of an opportunity to express, as far as words can, the love and gratitude I bear him. Mr. Ruggles is now afflicted with blindness, and is himself in need of the same kind offices which he was once so forward in the performance of toward others. I had been in New York but a few days, when Mr. Ruggles sought me out, and very kindly took me to his boarding-house at the corner of Church and Lespenard Streets. Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable Darg case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his enemies.

Very soon after I went to Mr. Ruggles, he wished to know of me where I wanted to go as he deemed it unsafe for me to remain in New York. I told him I was a calker, and should like to go where I could get work. I thought of going to Canada but he decided against it, and in favor of my going to New Bedford, thinking I should be able to get work there at my trade. At this time, Anna,[1] my intended wife, came on for I wrote to her immediately after my arrival at New York, (notwithstanding my homeless, houseless, and helpless condition,) informing her of my successful flight, and wishing her to come on forthwith. In a few days after her arrival, Mr. Ruggles called in the Rev. J. W. C. Pennington, who, in the presence of Mr. Ruggles, Mrs. Michaels, and two or three others, performed the marriage ceremony, and gave us a certificate, of which the following is an exact copy:—

“This may certify, that I joined together in holy matrimony Frederick Johnson[2] and Anna Murray, as man and wife, in the presence of Mr. David Ruggles and Mrs. Michaels.

“James W. C. Pennington.

Nueva York, Sept. 15, 1838.”

Upon receiving this certificate, and a five-dollar bill from Mr. Ruggles, I shouldered one part of our baggage, and Anna took up the other, and we set out forthwith to take passage on board of the steamboat John W. Richmond for Newport, on our way to New Bedford. Mr. Ruggles gave me a letter to a Mr. Shaw in Newport, and told me, in case my money did not serve me to New Bedford, to stop in Newport and obtain further assistance but upon our arrival at Newport, we were so anxious to get to a place of safety, that, notwithstanding we lacked the necessary money to pay our fare, we decided to take seats in the stage, and promise to pay when we got to New Bedford. We were encouraged to do this by two excellent gentlemen, residents of New Bedford, whose names I afterward ascertained to be Joseph Ricketson and William C. Taber. They seemed at once to understand our circumstances, and gave us such assurance of their friendliness as put us fully at ease in their presence. It was good indeed to meet with such friends, at such a time. Upon reaching New Bedford, we were directed to the house of Mr. Nathan Johnson, by whom we were kindly received, and hospitably provided for. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson took a deep and lively interest in our welfare. They proved themselves quite worthy of the name of abolitionists. When the stage-driver found us unable to pay our fare, he held on upon our baggage as security for the debt. I had but to mention the fact to Mr. Johnson, and he forthwith advanced the money.

We now began to feel a degree of safety, and to prepare ourselves for the duties and responsibilities of a life of freedom. On the morning after our arrival at New Bedford, while at the breakfast-table, the question arose as to what name I should be called by. The name given me by my mother was, “Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.” I, however, had dispensed with the two middle names long before I left Maryland, so that I was generally known by the name of “Frederick Bailey.” I started from Baltimore bearing the name of “Stanley.” When I got to New York, I again changed my name to “Frederick Johnson,” and thought that would be the last change. But when I got to New Bedford, I found it necessary again to change my name. The reason of this necessity was, that there were so many Johnsons in New Bedford, it was already quite difficult to distinguish between them. I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the name of “Frederick.” I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the “Lady of the Lake,” and at once suggested that my name be “Douglass.” From that time until now I have been called “Frederick Douglass” and as I am more widely known by that name than by either of the others, I shall continue to use it as my own.

I was quite disappointed at the general appearance of things in New Bedford. The impression which I had received respecting the character and condition of the people of the north, I found to be singularly erroneous. I had very strangely supposed, while in slavery, that few of the comforts, and scarcely any of the luxuries, of life were enjoyed at the north, compared with what were enjoyed by the slaveholders of the south. I probably came to this conclusion from the fact that northern people owned no slaves. I supposed that they were about upon a level with the non-slaveholding population of the south. I knew ellos were exceedingly poor, and I had been accustomed to regard their poverty as the necessary consequence of their being non-slaveholders. I had somehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be no wealth, and very little refinement. And upon coming to the north, I expected to meet with a rough, hard-handed, and uncultivated population, living in the most Spartan-like simplicity, knowing nothing of the ease, luxury, pomp, and grandeur of southern slaveholders. Such being my conjectures, any one acquainted with the appearance of New Bedford may very readily infer how palpably I must have seen my mistake.

In the afternoon of the day when I reached New Bedford, I visited the wharves, to take a view of the shipping. Here I found myself surrounded with the strongest proofs of wealth. Lying at the wharves, and riding in the stream, I saw many ships of the finest model, in the best order, and of the largest size. Upon the right and left, I was walled in by granite warehouses of the widest dimensions, stowed to their utmost capacity with the necessaries and comforts of life. Added to this, almost every body seemed to be at work, but noiselessly so, compared with what I had been accustomed to in Baltimore. There were no loud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading ships. I heard no deep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer. I saw no whipping of men but all seemed to go smoothly on. Every man appeared to understand his work, and went at it with a sober, yet cheerful earnestness, which betokened the deep interest which he felt in what he was doing, as well as a sense of his own dignity as a man. To me this looked exceedingly strange. From the wharves I strolled around and over the town, gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches, beautiful dwellings, and finely-cultivated gardens evincing an amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had never seen in any part of slaveholding Maryland.

Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful. I saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates no half-naked children and barefooted women, such as I had been accustomed to see in Hillsborough, Easton, St. Michael’s, and Baltimore. The people looked more able, stronger, healthier, and happier, than those of Maryland. I was for once made glad by a view of extreme wealth, without being saddened by seeing extreme poverty. But the most astonishing as well as the most interesting thing to me was the condition of the colored people, a great many of whom, like myself, had escaped thither as a refuge from the hunters of men. I found many, who had not been seven years out of their chains, living in finer houses, and evidently enjoying more of the comforts of life, than the average of slaveholders in Maryland. I will venture to assert that my friend Mr. Nathan Johnson (of whom I can say with a grateful heart, “I was hungry, and he gave me meat I was thirsty, and he gave me drink I was a stranger, and he took me in”) lived in a neater house dined at a better table took, paid for, and read, more newspapers better understood the moral, religious, and political character of the nation,—than nine tenths of the slaveholders in Talbot county, Maryland. Yet Mr. Johnson was a working man. His hands were hardened by toil, and not his alone, but those also of Mrs. Johnson. I found the colored people much more spirited than I had supposed they would be. I found among them a determination to protect each other from the blood-thirsty kidnapper, at all hazards. Soon after my arrival, I was told of a circumstance which illustrated their spirit. A colored man and a fugitive slave were on unfriendly terms. The former was heard to threaten the latter with informing his master of his whereabouts. Straightway a meeting was called among the colored people, under the stereotyped notice, “Business of importance!” The betrayer was invited to attend. The people came at the appointed hour, and organized the meeting by appointing a very religious old gentleman as president, who, I believe, made a prayer, after which he addressed the meeting as follows: “Friends, we have got him here, and I would recommend that you young men just take him outside the door, and kill him!” With this, a number of them bolted at him but they were intercepted by some more timid than themselves, and the betrayer escaped their vengeance, and has not been seen in New Bedford since. I believe there have been no more such threats, and should there be hereafter, I doubt not that death would be the consequence.

I found employment, the third day after my arrival, in stowing a sloop with a load of oil. It was new, dirty, and hard work for me but I went at it with a glad heart and a willing hand. I was now my own master. It was a happy moment, the rapture of which can be understood only by those who have been slaves. It was the first work, the reward of which was to be entirely my own. There was no Master Hugh standing ready, the moment I earned the money, to rob me of it. I worked that day with a pleasure I had never before experienced. I was at work for myself and newly-married wife. It was to me the starting-point of a new existence. When I got through with that job, I went in pursuit of a job of calking but such was the strength of prejudice against color, among the white calkers, that they refused to work with me, and of course I could get no employment.[3] Finding my trade of no immediate benefit, I threw off my calking habiliments, and prepared myself to do any kind of work I could get to do. Mr. Johnson kindly let me have his wood-horse and saw, and I very soon found myself a plenty of work. There was no work too hard—none too dirty. I was ready to saw wood, shovel coal, carry the hod, sweep the chimney, or roll oil casks,—all of which I did for nearly three years in New Bedford, before I became known to the anti-slavery world.

In about four months after I went to New Bedford, there came a young man to me, and inquired if I did not wish to take the “Liberator.” I told him I did but, just having made my escape from slavery, I remarked that I was unable to pay for it then. I, however, finally became a subscriber to it. The paper came, and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and my drink. My soul was set all on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds—its scathing denunciations of slaveholders—its faithful exposures of slavery—and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institution—sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!

I had not long been a reader of the “Liberator,” before I got a pretty correct idea of the principles, measures and spirit of the anti-slavery reform. I took right hold of the cause. I could do but little but what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting. I seldom had much to say at the meetings, because what I wanted to say was said so much better by others. But, while attending an anti-slavery 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—with what success, and with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my labors to decide.

[2] I had changed my name from Frederick Bailey to that of Johnson.

[3] I am told that colored persons can now get employment at calking in New Bedford—a result of anti-slavery effort.


On This Day in History: Frederick Douglas Began His Escape from Slavery

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Washington Bailey on a Maryland plantation in 1818. From there, he moved locations but never escaped the status as a slave. At the age of seven, his master sent him off the plantation to work in Baltimore in the household of Hugh Auld, where he learned to read. At the age of 15, he was “loaned” to a plantation belonging to Thomas Auld, his master’s brother. Because of Douglass’s ability to read, Thomas Auld considered him “dangerous,” and after many infractions, he eventually was sent back to Baltimore because Auld had unfurled his plan for escape.

Now older, Douglass worked for Hugh Auld as a caulker (inserting materials in between shipboards to make the boat waterproof) in a Baltimore shipyard. The shipyard was an unusual place as Douglass worked alongside white workers and freed black men, although himself still a slave. Although Douglass states he was allowed relatively more freedom working in the shipyards and his “condition was, comparatively a free and easy one,” the psychological toll of slavery continued to oppress him. He writes, “The practice, from week to week, of openly robbing me of all my earnings, kept the nature and character of slavery constantly before me.”

Douglass knew he needed money if he was going to escape, so he asked Hugh Auld if he could take on extra work with other employers to save money, as long as he continued paying Auld a large portion of his earnings. While this practice was not unheard of, due to Douglass’ status as an “untrustworthy” slave resulting from his history of running away, his request was denied. He appealed again two months later, and Hugh Auld agreed to it because it would mean he would no longer need to “provide” for Douglass. As a slave who worked for additional employers, Douglass would have to pay for his food, board, clothing, and working materials while additionally handing over a significant portion of his earnings directly to his master.

Through constant work, Douglass managed to save up a little money over the course of three months. However, upon leaving Baltimore without his master’s permission, he lost this small freedom. Hugh Auld’s promise of retaliation to make Douglass’s life more difficult than ever made Douglass decide to leave as soon as possible. He believed this would be his final chance, because if unsuccessful in this second attempt, he knew he would be sent to the Deep South, where a new master would watch him closely making the long, perilous escape journey to the North impossible.

In 1838, Maryland required freed black people have “free papers” that documented their free status. The papers were extensive, describing in detail the person’s physical characteristics, and it was common that a slave would escape to the North by borrowing a freed person’s papers. This was dangerous because if someone caught the slave both him and the freed person would lose their freedom, but empathy and generosity compelled the freed. Unfortunately, Douglass didn’t fit any of the descriptions of his friends with free papers. However, this didn’t stop him from borrowing papers. While Douglass was much lighter skinned than the description of his friend, he borrowed his “sailor’s protection” papers, which although not free papers were sometimes accepted as much.

On September 3, 1838, at 20 years old, Douglass donned the traditional sailor’s outfit of a red shirt, tarpaulin hat, and a black scarf tied around his neck. Unable to risk buying a ticket at the office where he would be under scrutiny, Douglass hopped on a moving train bound for Havre de Grace, Maryland, and found a seat among other freed people of color.

Sailors were more respected than others in the port city of Baltimore, and Douglass was sure he could play the part. From his time working on shipyards, Douglass “could talk sailor like an ‘old salt.’” As the conductor made his way through the train checking papers, Douglass knew his “whole future depended upon the decision of this conductor.” When Douglass did not quickly show his papers, the conductor asked,

‘I suppose you have your free papers?’ To which I answered:

‘No, sir I never carry my free papers to sea with me.’

‘But you have something to show that you are a freeman, haven’t you?’

‘Yes sir,’ I answered: ‘I have a paper with the American eagle on it, and that will carry me around the world.’

The conductor glanced at the paper and continued. This was the first of many hurdles Douglass would cross on his path to freedom. Many people worked as slave catchers along popular escape routes, and Douglass made several transfers between ships and trains as he tried to reach New York. At one point in the journey, Douglass encountered a blacksmith who had worked with him at the shipyards. Although he was sure the man recognized him, the man did nothing. When he finally reached Philadelphia, he boarded the final train to New York, where he arrived the next morning. In 24 hours, Douglass had won his freedom.

When asked about the moment he landed in New York, Douglass wrote 1 , “I felt as one might supposed to feel, on escaping from a den of hungry lions. But, in a moment like that, sensations are too intense and too rapid for words. Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be described, but joy and gladness, like the rainbow of promise, defy alike the pen and pencil.”

After his arrival, he wrote for his future wife, a freed black woman named Anna Murray, to meet him in New York. They had become engaged while in Baltimore. After their hasty marriage in 1838, they traveled to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they hoped Douglass could find work as a caulker.

After arriving in New Bedford, he joined the Northern abolitionist movement. He began to speak at abolitionist meetings about his experiences as a slave, which in turn blossomed into speaking all over the North, and in 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. However, with this new found fame, there was concern of him being captured and re-enslaved, so Douglass traveled overseas.

Frontispiece and title page of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.Boston: Published at the Anti-Slavery Office, 1845.

For nearly two years, he gave speeches and sold copies of his autobiography in England, Ireland, and Scotland. When a group of abolitionists offered to purchase his freedom, Douglass accepted. Once back in the United States as a truly free man, he continued to share his story and educated presidents, government officials, and the public alike about the evil of slavery and the need for emancipation.

Douglass’ legacy as a pioneering abolitionist continues to inspire, and it started with his courage to jump on a train 180 years ago today.


Frederick Douglass Escapes Slavery, Becomes Leading Abolitionist

Frederick Douglass background, provided by History.com: “Frederick Douglass (1818-95) was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator. Born a slave, Douglass escaped at age 20 and went on to become a world-renowned anti-slavery activist. His three autobiographies are considered important works of the slave narrative tradition as well as classics of American autobiography. Douglass’ work as a reformer ranged from his abolitionist activities in the early 1840s to his attacks on Jim Crow and lynching in the 1890s. For 16 years he edited an influential black newspaper and achieved international fame as an inspiring and persuasive speaker and writer. In thousands of speeches and editorials, he levied a powerful indictment against slavery and racism, provided an indomitable voice of hope for his people, embraced antislavery politics and preached his own brand of American ideals.”

In the 1840s, Douglass’ activities brought him to Central New York.

In 1843, Frederick Douglass made his first visit to Syracuse as a young man in his 20’s to lecture against slavery. Local abolitionists were considered a troublesome faction at the time and were unable to secure a meeting hall for Douglass’ talk. He chose to speak in the southeast corner of Fayette Park, across Townsend Street from the Hamilton White House, and drew an audience of 500.

This Frederick Douglass plate daguerreotype in OHA’s collection is said to be one of the oldest of Douglass.

Douglass returned to Syracuse many times as an abolitionist speaker, making presentations at various venues and parks. Some of his most famous speeches in Syracuse occurred on the anniversary of the Jerry Rescue on October 1. Each year after the rescue in 1851, Syracuse abolitionists held a rally that drew thousands, as a way to remind federal authorities and opponents of their oppositions to slavery. Douglass came from Rochester every time to speak, once using the manacles that held Jerry as a symbol of the effort to end slavery. Douglass later wrote that the Jerry Rescue was one of the most important events in America’s efforts to fight slavery.

Douglass visited Syracuse again in March of 1863 to help recruit local men to serve in the 54 th Massachusetts, the first U. S. regiment of African-Americans recruited in the North – a unit made possible by the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

With so many visits here, and Rev. Jermain Loguen being a good friend, it is not surprising that after the Civil War. Douglass’s son Lewis would marry Loguen’s daughter, Helen, right here in Syracuse at Loguen’s house in1868.

Here are some of Douglass’ appearances in Syracuse:

In one of his first appearances in Syracuse, in 1843 at Fayette Park, he began speaking under a small tree with five women and men listening. By the end of the afternoon, he had 500 people gathered around.

On Tuesday evening, August 20, 1850, Frederick Douglass lectured on the subject of Slavery at City Hall. He was on his way to the great Convention of Fugitive Slaves and their abettors held at Cazenovia the following evening.

On February 8, 1856, Frederick Douglass delivered his speech on “The Unity of the Human Race” at City Hall. The entrance fee of a shilling went towards the expenses of the Underground Railroad.

On Thursday evening, Nov 14, 1861, Douglass gave a speech entitled “The Rebellion – It’s Cause and Remedy” in front of 800 people in the Wieting Hall. He urged the immediate emancipation of the slaves, and their use as soldiers, as the quickest, most economical and humane way of terminating the Civil War. He delivered his speech with complete silence from his audience. In the many cities and towns of the north that he had delivered this speech to, he was never interrupted or disturbed. Given the storm of controversy leading up to his visit, the Mayor of Syracuse provided 100 policemen to attend the lecture, along with the Second Onondaga Regiment, whose 45 representatives were armed with muskets.

On Friday evening, Nov 15, 1861, he spoke on the subject of “Life Pictures.” It was a lecture of a literary character, and had no reference to political affairs.

Frederick Douglass Syracuse March 11, 1863 to recruit for the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, was quoted as saying “The arm of the slaves is the best defense against the arm of the slave holder.” The Massachusetts 54th Regiment was told in the 1989 movie “Glory.”

On March 27, 1863, the Syracuse Journal reported: “The war meeting at Zion’s Church last evening was largely attended. Frederick Douglass made an effective address and six recruits responded. There have been 23 colored recruits raised in this city and they will be sent forward next week.”

On May 3, 1864, Frederick Douglass lectured at Shakespeare Hall.

On Tuesday evening, Dec 15, 1868 Frederick Douglass lectured at Wieting Hall on “William the Silent.”

On Tuesday evening, October 26, 1869 he lectured before the Zion’s Church Aid Society, at Shakespeare Hall.

On Saturday evening, Dec 21, 1872 Frederick Douglass delivered his new lecture at the Wieting Opera House.

On the Tuesday evening June 15, 1874 he delivered his third lecture in the Independent Church course. His subject was “John Brown,” the hero and martyr.

On Oct 31, 1879, the Syracuse Journal reported on the speech delivered by Frederick Douglass in Utica: “The Hon. Frederick Douglass said he had appeared before the American people during the last forty years, as a slave, a fugitive slave, a man, a man among men, and at last through the courage of the Republican party, he was able to appear as an American citizen under the flag at last.”

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History: Frederick Douglass escapes slavery

August 30, 1800: The attempt by Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved blacksmith, to lead a slave rebellion in Richmond, Virginia, was suppressed. In 2007, then-Gov. Tim Kane gave Prosser and his followers informal pardons.

August 30, 1861: Invoking martial law, General John C. Frémont declared free those enslaved by disloyal owners in Missouri. President Lincoln asked that he modify his order so as not to exceed congressional laws respecting emancipation.

August 30, 1983: Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first African American in space, four years after beginning his astronaut training. Before retiring, he returned to space several more times.

August 31, 1936: School teacher Marva Collins was born in Monroeville, Alabama. In 1961, she opened the Westside Preparatory School in inner-city Chicago, welcoming students that others labeled “unteachable.” Many of her students went on to graduate from Ivy League schools. In 1981, CBS aired a made-for-TV movie about her life.

September 1, 1926: Arizona opened a separate high school for African-American students, separating black and white students.

September 1, 1953: In Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company, Keys became the first African American to challenge “separate but equal” in bus segregation before the Interstate Commerce Commission. The initial reviewing commissioner declined to hear her case, but Keys prevailed in front of the full commission.

September 1, 1977: Actress-singer Ethel Waters, known for jazz, big band and pop music, died. She began her career singing the blues as a part of the Harlem Renaissance. Her best-known song is the spiritual, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” She became the second African American nominated for an Academy Award, honored for her role in the 1949 film, Pinky. Recordings of three of her songs were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

September 2, 1912: Civil rights lawyer R. Jess Brown was born in Coffeeville, Kansas, and moved to Mississippi after World War II. He helped represent James Meredith in his successful bid in 1962 to enter the previously all-white University of Mississippi. Three years earlier, Brown represented Mack Charles Parker, who was arrested for raping a white woman and was lynched before he could ever stand trial. In the 1960s, he was one of four African-African lawyers in the state. Brown died in 1990.

September 2, 1957: Edward Judge Aaron was abducted and mutilated by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama. Aaron was walking home when six hooded Klansmen abducted him, castrated him and poured turpentine into his open wound. The Klansmen taunted Aaron, telling him they would do the same thing to anyone black who sought integration. Joe Prichett, one of the Klansmen involved, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

September 2, 1963: Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace prevented the integration of Tuskegee High School by encircling the building with state troopers. The troopers turned away all students and teachers, declaring the school was being shut down in order to “preserve the peace and maintain domestic tranquility.” The mayor and many citizens were upset by Wallace’s heavy-handed act.

September 2, 1965: What was supposed to be the first day of the integrated high school in Grenada, Mississippi, got postponed for 10 days, rather than admit African-American students.

September 3, 1838: Frederick Douglass posed as a free black seaman to escape from slavery. He boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Md., and from there took a ferry, a train and a steamboat before reaching New York in less than 24 hours. He went on to be a widely respected speaker, author and abolitionist.

September 3, 1868: The Georgia House of Representatives voted to remove black members of that body on the grounds that the state Constitution did not recognize the right of black citizens to hold public office. Of the 29 black representatives, four mixed race members were allowed to hold their seat, while the remaining 25 were removed. Ten days later, the Georgia Senate removed its three black members. Black legislators appealed to President Ulysses Grant to intervene to get them readmitted, which took a year.

September 4, 1923: George Washington Carver received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP for distinguished research in agricultural chemistry. Carver was born into slavery in Missouri in 1864. When slavery was abolished, his master, Moses Carver, raised him as his own son. While Carver is best known for his immense success as a researcher and educator, he also promoted racial harmony. From 1923 to 1933, Carver traveled to white Southern colleges for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation.

September 4, 1952: Eleven black students attended the first day of school at Claymont High School, Delaware, becoming the first African-American students in the 17 segregated states to integrate a previously all-white public school.

September 4, 1957: Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent the court-ordered integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower eventually sent in federal troops to ensure the law was enforced.

September 5, 1864: Louisiana’s new state Constitution, which abolished slavery, was ratified by pro-Union voters.


How Frederick Douglass Escaped Slavery - HISTORY

F rederick Douglass lived a remarkable life. Born in 1818 on Maryland's Eastern Shore, his mother was a slave, his father an unknown white man. Eventually he was sent to Baltimore where he worked as a ship's caulker in the thriving seaport. He made his dash to freedom from there in 1838. His ability to eloquently articulate the plight of the slave through his various publications and public speeches brought him international renown. Towards the end of his life, Douglass served his country as Consul General to Haiti and Charge d'Affaires for Santo Domingo. He died in 1895.

Frederick Douglass
Douglass began his life in bondage working the fields on Maryland's Eastern Shore. At age 18, he was sent to Baltimore where he learned to caulk ships. He worked in the local shipyards earning a wage that was not given to him but to his master. His first step to freedom was to borrow the identity papers of a freed slave:

"It was the custom in the State of Maryland to require the free colored people to have what were called free papers. These instruments they were required to renew very often, and by charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from time to time were collected by the State. In these papers the name, age, color, height, and form of the freeman were described, together with any scars or other marks upon his person which could assist in his identification. This device in some measure defeated itself-since more than one man could be found to answer the same general description. Hence many slaves could escape by personating the owner of one set of papers and this was often done as follows: A slave, nearly or sufficiently answering the description set forth in the papers, would borrow or hire them them till by means of them he could escape to a free State, and then, by mail or otherwise, would return them to the owner. The operation was a hazardous one for the lender as well as for the borrower. A failure on the part of the fugitive to send back the papers would imperil his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugitive and his friend."

Hopping A Northbound Train

Armed with these papers, and disguised as a sailor, Douglass nervously clamors aboard a train heading North on a Monday morning:

In order to avoid this fatal scrutiny on the part of railroad officials, I arranged with Isaac Rolls, a Baltimore hackman, to bring my baggage to the Philadelphia train just on the moment of starting, and jumped upon the car myself when the train was in motion. Had I gone into the station and offered to purchase a ticket, I should have been instantly and carefully examined, and undoubtedly arrested. In choosing this plan I considered the jostle of the train, and the natural haste of the conductor, in a train crowded with passengers and relied upon my skill and address in playing the sailor, as described in my protection to do the rest. One element in my favor was the kind feeling which prevailed in Baltimore and other sea-ports at the time, toward 'those who go down to the sea in ships.' 'Free trade and sailors' rights' just then expressed the sentiment of the country. In my clothes I was rigged out in sailor style. I had on a red shirt and a tarpaulin hat, and a black cravat tied in sailor fashion carelessly and loosely about my neck. My knowledge of ships and sailor's talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to stem, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk sailor like an 'old salt.'

'I suppose you have your free papers?' To which I answered:

'No, sir I never carry my free papers to sea with me.'

'But you have something to show that you are a freeman, haven't you?'

'Yes sir,' I answered: 'I have a paper with the American eagle on it, and that will carry me around the world.'

Slave Pen, Alexandria, VA
Slaves were held here before auction.
With this I drew from my deep sailor's pocket my seaman's protection, as before described. The merest glance at the paper satisfied him, and he took my fare and went on about his business. This moment of time was one of the most anxious I ever experienced. Had the conductor looked closely at the paper, he could not have failed to discover that it called for a very different looking person from myself, and in that case it would have been his duty to arrest me on the instant and send me back to Baltimore from the first station. When he left me with the assurance that I was all right, though much relieved, I realized that I was still in great danger: I was still in Maryland, and subject to arrest at any moment. I saw on the train several persons who would have known me in any other clothes, and I feared they might recognize me, even in my sailor 'rig,' and report me to the conductor, who would then subject me to a closer examination, which I knew well would be fatal to me.

Though I was not a murderer fleeing from justice, I felt perhaps quite as miserable as such a criminal. The train was moving at a very high rate of speed for that epoch of railroad travel, but to my anxious mind it was moving far too slowly. Minutes were hours, and hours were days during this part of my flight. After Maryland, I was to pass through Delaware - another slave State, where slave-catchers generally awaited their prey, for it was not in the interior of the State, but on its borders, that these human hounds were most vigilant and active. The borderlines between slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones for the fugitives. The heart of no fox or deer, with hungry hounds on his trail in full chase, could have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did mine from the time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia."

New York City and Temporary Refuge

"My free life began on the third of September, 1838. On the morning of the fourth of that month, after an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I found myself in the big city of New York, a a free man - one more added to the mighty throng which, like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway.

But my gladness was short-lived, for I was not yet out of the reach and power of the slave-holders."

Final Safety - New Bedford Massachusetts

Fleeing New York City, Douglass makes his way north to the sea town of New Bedford where he experiences the exhilaration of freedom:

References:
Douglass, Frederick, My Escape From Slavery, Century Magazine (1881) Douglass, Frederick, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855).


Frederick Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on approximately February 14, 1818. He did not know the exact date, but according to the Library of Congress, he celebrated his birthday on February 14 in memory of his mother, who had brought him a heart-shaped cake on the night that he last saw her.

He was determined to make a better life for himself.

As the Oxford African American Studies Center tells the story:

Despite his situation, Frederick managed to learn to read and write, sometimes by bribing white boys into teaching him in exchange for bits of bread. At the age of about twelve, he acquired a copy of the Columbian Orator, a book of famous speeches that formed the basis for his later skills as an outstanding public lecturer. After he gained basic literacy, Frederick began to reach out to others, assisting his fellow slaves to read and operating a forbidden Sunday school. As he gained more knowledge of the world at large, he could no longer passively submit to a life of slavery. In September 1838, he borrowed the identification papers of a free black sailor and boarded a train for the North.”

Portrait of Frederick Douglass, Frontispiece. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Written by Himself.

He later explained that he posed as a free sailor wearing a red shirt, a tarpaulin hat, and a black scarf tied loosely around his neck. He boarded a train bound for Philadelphia. When the conductor came around and examined his papers he recalled in a later autobiography, Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time, 1881, online here:

My knowledge of ships and sailor’s talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk sailor like an ‘old salt.’”

Upon reaching New York City, he was given assistance by free black abolitionist and activist David Ruggles.

Soon after, Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman whom he had met in Baltimore. He settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his experience as a ship caulker enabled him to find work on the docks. The Library of Congress explains that in New Bedford, Frederick asked a friend to help him choose a new name, since he might be sought under the old name as a runaway:

I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the name of ‘Frederick.’ I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the Lady of the Lake, and at once suggested that my name be “Douglass.”

He began to travel throughout the United States and Britain lecturing on civil rights and social justice topics.

Douglass circa 1847–52, around his early 30s

After returning to the U.S. in 1847, Douglass started publishing an abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, from the basement of the Memorial AME Zion Church in Rochester, New York. The North Star’s motto was “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” The AME Church and North Star vigorously opposed the mostly white American Colonization Society and its proposal to send blacks back to Africa.

In 1848, Douglass wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, online here, in part to refute charges that it was impossible that someone of his accomplishments could have been a slave.

Douglass continued to travel throughout the United States and Britain lecturing on civil rights and social justice topics, including women’s suffrage. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Douglass was twice invited to the White House to see President Abraham Lincoln, and then acted as a recruiter for African American troops.

After Lincoln’s assassination, a bronze statue was commissioned featuring President Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand and holding his left hand over the head of a liberated slave kneeling at his feet. It was dedicated in 1876 on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. Frederick Douglass delivered the keynote address to President Ulysses S. Grant and more than 25,000 people in attendance. After Douglass spoke, he received a standing ovation, as well as a gift from Mary Todd Lincoln of Lincoln’s favorite walking stick.

Frederick Douglass in later life

Following the war, Douglass resumed speaking, writing, advising presidents, and encouraging civil rights movements. Douglass died of a heart attack at Cedar Hill on February 20, 1895, having just returned from a rally for women’s suffrage. Fue enterrado en Rochester, Nueva York, donde aún vivían muchos miembros de su familia.

Las tres autobiografías de Douglass todavía se leen y respetan: Narrativa de la vida de Frederick Douglass (1845) Mi esclavitud y mi libertad (1855) y Vida y época de Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892). Sus famosos discursos lo convierten en uno de los hombres más cotizados del siglo XIX.