Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Triangle Histories: The Civil War -- Frederick Douglass

by Helaine Baker

Although I always think of slavery as an institution of the Deep South, it originated in 1619 in Maryland and Virginia, states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, which was for many years the primary slave-trading port in this country. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, two of the most famous blacks to escape slavery and become powerful voices for its abolition, both endured horrific conditions as slaves in the state of Maryland. Unlike Tubman, Douglass learned to read and write, and was also a skilled craftsman. He used forged papers to escape, taking a train to Pennsylvania. Once there, he made his was to New Bedford where he was able to earn a living caulking ships. His eloquence was such that many people refused to believe he had been born a slave.

This book provides a compelling and informative look at the life of a great man.

Ziad says:

Frederick Douglass was born as a slave, but he wasn't born with the name Douglass.

His master sent him to a married couple in Baltimore. The wife did not know to treat slaves and began teaching him to read and write, which was illegal at the time. Her husband found out about that. He told her the law and how they should be treated. After that lessons stopped. Frederick saved bits food and traded them to other people in return for teaching him to read.

After a few years, he could copy any script, printed or cursive. He became rebellious. His master sent him to work for someone who was really bad to slaves. For a while working for that person drained away his energy, but then he was returned to the son of the woman who had taught him to read. The son kept on promising that he would free Douglass when Douglass was twenty-five, but Douglass didn't trust him. He escaped on a train and changed his name to Douglass so that he wouldn't be recognized and brought back to his master. He began giving anti-slavery lectures in New York. He also went to Europe and gave more lectures. He came back to America and wrote an autobiography of his life as a slave. Some friends bought him his freedom.

Around this time, John Brown attempted to capture the Federal Armory at Harper's Ferry in Virginia, and use the guns to start a slave rebellion, but was captured and hanged. The Civil War started shortly afterwards.

Frederick Douglass lived to be eighty years old. In his lifetime he worked to end slavery, and toward equal right for black people, including the right to vote. People still remember the eloquent voice he used to fight for freedom and equality for blacks.

Maya says:

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. He lived on a plantation in Maryland in a slave cabin which was hardly fit for humans to live in. After years of hard work he was sent to live with a slave master named Thomas. He was not sad to leave the farm where he had lived before. He had no happy memories from there.

Thomas was nice to Frederick. His wife hadn't been born into a slaveholding family, so she didn't know how people would usually treat a slave. She began teaching Frederick reading and writing. Once her husband discovered what she was doing and told her that slaves weren't supposed to read and write. Frederick gave bread to people on the streets and they would teach him to read.

Later, Frederick escaped to Pennsylvania by train. He wasn't that happy in Pennsylvania because he didn't know who he could trust. He didn't know whether people would try to capture him. He ended up going to New Bedford. He was safer there because it was farther North. He gave speeches about his life as a slave and he made people laugh and cry.

During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass urged Lincoln to end slavery and allow blacks into the army so they could fight for their own freedom, too.

After the Civil War, he kept on giving speeches. He worked so black people could vote.

When he died, black women took their children to take a last look at the person who had worked so hard for them have their civil rights.

I really admire Frederick Douglass, and I think he did as much to end slavery as President Lincoln did.


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