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... sting their name, age, height, skin color, and other distinguishing features. In order to escape, Frederick needed money to pay for traveling expenses. Frederick arranged with Hugh Auld to hire out his time, that is, Frederick would take care of his own room and board and pay his master a set amount each week, keeping any extra money for himself. This also gave him the opportunity to see what it was like living on his own. This arrangement had been working out quite well until Frederick returned home late one night and failed to pay Hugh Auld on time.
Auld was furious and revoked his hiring-out privilege. Frederick was so enraged over this that he refused to work for a week. He finally gave in to Auld's threats, but he also made a resolution that in three weeks, on September 3, 1838, he would be on a northbound train. Escaping was a difficult decision for Frederick.
He would be leaving his friends and his comfortable life in Baltimore forever. He did not know when and if he would see Anna Murray again. Furthermore, if he was caught during his escape, he was sure that he would be either killed or sold to slave traders. With money that he borrowed from Anna, Frederick bought a ticket to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He also had a friend's "sailor's protection, " a document that certified that the person named on it was a free seaman. Dressed in a sailor's red shirt and black cravat, Frederick boarded the train.
Frederick reached northern Maryland before the conductor made it to the "Negro car" to collect tickets and examine papers. Frederick became very tense when the conductor approached him to look at his papers because he did not fit the description on them. However, with only a quick glance, the conductor walked on, and the relieved Frederick sank back in his seat. Upon arriving in Wilmington, Delaware, Frederick then boarded a steamboat to Philadelphia. Even after stepping on Pennsylvania's free soil, he knew he was not yet safe from slave catchers.
He immediately asked directions to New York City, and that night he took another train north. On September 4, 1838, Frederick arrived in New York City. Frederick could not find the words to express his feelings of leaving behind his life in slavery. He later wrote, "A new world had opened upon me. "Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted, but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil. " Alone in New York, Frederick soon realized that although he was free, he was not free of cares.
Through word of mouth on the street, Frederick learned that southern slave catchers were roaming the city looking for fugitives in boarding houses that accepted blacks. He learned that no one, black or white, could be trusted. After finding out this news, Frederick wandered around the city for days, afraid to look for employment or a place to live. Finally, he told an honest-looking black sailor about his predicament.
The man took him to David Ruggles, an officer in the New York Vigilance Committee. Ruggles and his associates were the City's link in the Underground Railroad, a network of people who harbored runaway slaves and helped transport them to safe areas in the United States and Canada. Inevitably, Douglass became involved in the abolitionist movement, regularly attending lectures in New Bedford. The American Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was a member, had been formed in 1833. Like Garrison, most of the leaders in the society were white, and black abolitionists sometimes had a difficult time making their voices heard within the movement. Nonetheless, the black leaders kept up a constant battle to reduce racial prejudice in the North.
Douglass also became very involved with the local black community, and he served as a preacher at the black Zion Methodist Church. One of the many issues he became involved in was the battle against attempts by white southerners to force blacks to move to Africa. Some free blacks had moved to Liberia, a settlement area established for them in West Africa in 1822. Douglass, along with others in the abolitionist movement were opposed to African colonization schemes, believing that the United States was the true home of black Americans.
In March 1839, some of Douglass's anti colonization statements were published in the Liberator. In August 1841, at an abolitionist meeting in New Bedford, the 23 -year-old Douglass saw his hero, William Lloyd Garrison, for the first time. A few days later, Douglass spoke before the crowd attending the annual meeting of the Massachusetts branch of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison immediately recognized Douglass's potential as a speaker, and hired him to be an agent for the society. As a traveling lecturer accompanying other abolitionist agents on tours of the northern states, his job was to talk about his life and to sell subscriptions to the Liberator and another newspaper, the Anti-Slavery Standard.
For most of the next 10 years, Douglass was associated with the Garrisonian school of the antislavery movement. Garrison was a pacifist who believed that only through moral persuasion could slavery end; he attempted through his writings to educate slaveholders about the evils of the system they supported. He was opposed to slave uprisings and other violent resistance, but he was firm in his belief that slavery must be totally abolished. Douglass' life story refuted the proslavery accounts; even so, he declared, many slaves laboring in the Deep South would deem his years in bondage blissful. After a few months of speaking, Douglass began to add comments about the racial situation in the North.
He reminded the people in his audiences that even in Massachusetts a black man could not always find work in his chosen profession. He described how he had been thrown out of railroad cars that were exclusively for white passengers. Even here, he said, churches segregated their congregations and offered blacks a second place in heaven. After Douglass's first trial period as a lecturer was over, he was asked to continue with his work and he eagerly agreed. During 1842, he traveled throughout Massachusetts and New York with William Lloyd Garrison and other prominent speakers. He also visited Rhode Island, helping to defeat a measure that would have given voting rights to poor whites while denying them to blacks.
Douglass sailed to England on the British steamship Cambria. He was forced to stay in the steerage (second class) area of the ship, but he made many friends on board and was even asked to give a lecture on slavery by the captain. Some men were so angry at his speech that they threatened to throw him overboard. The captain had to step in and threaten to put the men in irons if they caused any more trouble. The rest of the voyage was peaceful. For nearly two years, Douglass traveled throughout the British Isles.
Everywhere he went prominent people welcomed him to their homes. Everywhere he spoke, enthusiastic crowds came to hear the fugitive slave denounce the system which he had grown up in. He was quite happy in his new surroundings. Douglass appreciated the gesture of his English friends, although as an abolitionist he did not recognize Hugh Auld's right to own him. In the spring of 1847, Douglass sailed from England aboard the Cambria.
He had left the United States as a respected author and lecturer and was returning with a huge international reputation. Thousands of people heard his lectures and he aroused much goodwill for the abolitionist cause in the British Isles. His tour had been an unparalleled success. Douglass was met by friends and family upon returning home. However, some abolitionists criticized him for letting his freedom be bought because he was thereby acknowledging Hugh Auld's right to own him. Douglass's rebuttal was that his freedom was the gift of friends and that he recognized Hugh Auld as his kidnapper, not his master.
Now that the ransom had been paid, he could fight the battle against slavery with a free mind. During his travels in England, Douglass had demonstrated some independence from the Garrison abolitionist faction, addressing a meeting sponsored by a rival antislavery group. Upon his return to America, he decided to found and edit a new abolitionist newspaper with the help of funds raised by his English friends. Garrison was opposed to this because he needed Douglass as a lecturer and thought there were already enough abolitionist papers at the time. Douglass dropped the idea for a while. In August 1847, he joined Garrison on a lecture tour throughout the North, Garrison became seriously ill and Douglass was forced to continue the tour without him.
After finishing the tour in the fall of 1847, he again began drawing up plans for a new abolitionist paper. The goal of his paper would be to proclaim the abolitionist cause and fight for black equality. Rather than publish his paper in New England, where the Liberator was based, Douglass decided to move farther west, to Rochester, New York. Nearing the age of 60, Douglass was ready to give up his life on the road. In his undemanding job as A U. S.
marshal overseeing the criminal justice system in the nation's capital, he was aided by a large staff of employees. Following his appointment, he purchased a new home in the Washington area. The 15 acre estate that he christened Cedar Hill included a 20 room house, which held a huge library and whose walls were decorated with the portraits of Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, and other people who had influenced him. His children were frequent visitors to Cedar Hill, and he greatly enjoyed playing the role of family patriarch.
In 1877, Douglass traveled to St. Michaels, Maryland, to visit old friends and to see the farms and plantations where he had worked as a slave. While there, he took the opportunity to visit his old master, Thomas Auld. Aged and feeble, Auld greeted his former slave as Marshal Douglass, and the two men spoke for a long time. Auld both justified and apologized for his actions as a slaveholder.
Overall, the former master and slave were able to part on good terms. After the 1880 election of the Republican candidate James Garfield as president, Douglass was appointed to the post of recorder of deeds for Washington, DC. He liked his new job, which entailed managing the department that made records of property sales in the capital. During his five years in this position, he had ample time for his writing projects and speaking engagements. In 1881, he published the third of his autobiographical volumes, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
In August 1882, Anna Douglass died after a long illness. Douglass observed a traditional year of grieving, but he was hardly ready to settle into the life of a widower. He had never shrunk from controversy, and his next act upset both black and white societies. In early 1884, Douglass announced that he was marrying Helen Pitts, a white woman who was nearly 20 years younger than he was. Douglass enjoyed 9 years of marriage to Helen Pitts. On February 20, 1895, Douglass was struck by a massive heart attack and died at the age of 77.
As news of Douglass's death spread throughout the country, crowds gathered at the Washington church where he lay in state to pay their respects. Black public schools closed for the day, and parents took their children for a last look at the famed leader. His wife and children accompanied his body back to Rochester, where he was laid to rest. No one has struggled more resolutely for the rights of his people than Frederick Douglass. Born at a time when strong voices were desperately needed to cry out for freedom, he established himself as a powerful speaker for all men and women.
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