Excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, 1845
A novel focused on the life of a slave.
1. I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from
2. Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my
3. age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far the
4. larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of
5. theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep
6. their slaves thus ignorant. I do not remember to have ever met a slave
7. who could tell of his birthday. They seldom come nearer to it than
8. planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time, spring-time, or fall-time. A want
9. of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me
10. even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages. I could
11. not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed
12. to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such
13. inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence
14. of a restless spirit. The nearest estimate I can give makes me now between
15. twenty-seven and twenty-eight years of age. I come to this, from hearing
16. my master say, some time during 1835, I was about seventeen years old.
17. My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and
18. Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker
19. complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.
20. My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard
21. speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master
22. was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the
23. means of knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated
24. when I was but an infant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common
25. custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from
26. their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached
27. its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a
28. considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old
29. woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not
30. know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child's affection toward
31. its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for
32. the child. This is the inevitable result.
33. I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times
34. in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night.
35. She was hired by a Mr. Stewart, who lived about twelve miles from my
36. home. She made her journeys to see me in the night, travelling the whole
37. distance on foot, after the performance of her day's work. She was a field
38. hand, and a whipping is the penalty of not being in the field at sunrise,
39. unless a slave has special permission from his or her master to the
40. contrary—a permission which they seldom get, and one that gives to
41. him that gives it the proud name of being a kind master. I do not recollect
42. of ever seeing my mother by the light of day. She was with me in the
43. night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before
44. I waked she was gone. Very little communication ever took place between
45. us. Death soon ended what little we could have while she lived, and with
46. it her hardships and suffering. She died when I was about seven years
47. old, on one of my master's farms, near Lee's Mill. I was not allowed
48. to be present during her illness, at her death, or burial. She was gone
49. long before I knew any thing about it. Never having enjoyed, to any
50. considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful
51. care, I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions
52. I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger.
53. Called thus suddenly away, she left me without the slightest intimation
54. of who my father was. The whisper that my master was my father, may
55. or may not be true; and, true or false, it is of but little consequence to my
56. purpose whilst the fact remains, in all its glaring odiousness, that
57. slaveholders have ordained, and by law established, that the children of
58. slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers; and
59. this is done too obviously to administer to their own lusts, and make a
60. gratification of their wicked desires profitable as well as pleasurable;
61. for by this cunning arrangement, the slaveholder, in cases not a
62. few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father.
According to the passage, who was rumored to be the narrator's father?