Frederick Douglass was born in slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
near Easton in Talbot County, Maryland. Duglass was never sure of the exact year of his
birth, but he knew that it was 1817 or 1818. His father was white (probably his master)
and his mother was a slave. As was the cruel custom in that part of Maryland, he was
separated from his slave mother when he was an infant and cared for by an older slave
woman on the country plantation. His mother could visit him only occasionally, by
risking a beating to sneak away at night and walk twelve miles each way to see him. As a
young boy he was sent to Baltimore, to be a house servant, where he learned to read and
write, with the assistance of his master's wife. As a young man in Maryland, Douglass
was recognized as a very bright person by both blacks and whites.
He began developing
his speaking abbilities early on at a secret debating club called the East Baltimore Mental
Improvement Society. In 1838, he forged some papers, disguised himself as a sailor
and--with the help of friends--escaped to from slavery to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he changed his name to Frederick Douglass. In New Bedford he discovered the newspaper of the leading white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator. Douglass and Garrison quickly became friends and would work together for social reform and the abolition of slavery. In 1841 he addressed a convention of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Nantucket and so greatly impressed the group that they immediately employed him as an agent. He was such an impressive orator that numerous persons doubted if he had ever been a slave, so he wrote NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Douglass' great speaking...