Frederick Douglas Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland, near Hillsborough. He doesn’t know for sure of his age, he has seen no proof and his master will not inform him. Most masters prefer for their slaves to stay ignorant.
He believes that he was around twenty-seven and twenty-eight when he began writing his narrative – he overheard his master say he was about seventeen years of age during 1835. His mother, Harriet Bailey, was separated from him when he was an infant and she died when he was seven years old. Frederick’s father was a white man who could have been his master but he never found out. Education was of utmost importance in his life. He received his first lesson while living with Mr. and Mrs.
Auld. Sophia Auld, Frederick’s mistress, was very humane to him and spent time teaching him the A, B, C’s. After he mastered this, she assisted him in spelling three and four letter words. At this point in his lesson Mr. Auld encountered what his wife was doing for Frederick and forbid her to continue. He believed that if you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell and continuing with learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.
The masters felt that an ignorant slave formed a choice slave and any beneficial learning would damage the slave and therefore be futile to his master. His next step on the road to success was during his seven years living with Master Hugh’s family. Frederick would make friends with as many white boys as he possibly could on the street. His new friends would be transformed into teachers. When he could, Frederick carried bread on him as a means of trade to the famished kids for knowledge. He would also carry a book anytime he had an errand to run.
The errand would be completed quickly, allowing extra study time. When Frederick was working in Durgin and Bailey’s ship-yard he would notice timber marked with various letters. He soon discovered how the letters matched the type of wood and the names of these letters. Any boy he met that could write he would challenge them to a writing contest. Frederick would use the letters he recently learned and told the child to challenge that.