Abolitionist Frederick Douglass was the most distinguished and influential black leaders of the nineteenth century. Douglass focused his writings on the harshness and brutality of slavery. He describes in many of his books accounts of his own experiences as a slave. A reader is able to perceive a clear image of slavery through Douglass' words. His writings explain the effects of slavery and the struggle to overthrow it, as well as the condition of free blacks both before and after the Emancipation, the politics of the Civil War, and the failed promise of Reconstruction the followed.
As a child, Douglass was taught how to read by Sophia Auid. She was drawn to the questioning mind of Douglass. Her husband however, put a stop to this stating the teaching of Douglass to read would, 'Spoil the best nigger in the world... forever unfitting him for the duties of a slave.'
As a slave child some experiences were hard to describe. Douglass witnessed, as a child, what he called a 'horrible exhibition.' He lived with his Aunt in one of the master's corridors. The master was an inhumane slave holder. He would sometimes take great pleasure in whipping a slave. Douglass was often times awakened by the screams of his Aunt. She would be tied and whipped on her back. The master would whip her till he was literally covered in blood. 'No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose.' The louder she screamed, the harder the master seemed to whip her. Douglass witnessed this first as a child. As he grew older, many more of these incidents would occur. 'It struck me with awful force. It was the blood stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery,