Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Chapter X (continued) Summary & Analysis | SparkNotes (2022)

Summary: Chapter X (Continued)

From Douglass's fight with Covey to the end of Chapter X

In coming to a fixed determination to run away, we did more than Patrick Henry, when he resolved upon liberty or death.

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The fight with Covey causes Douglass to regain his spirit and defiance, as well as his resolve to be free. He never receives a whipping from anyone during his remaining four years as a slave. Douglass’s year with Covey ends on Christmas Day, 1833. It is customary for slaves to enjoy a holiday from Christmas to New Year’s. Slaveholders typically encourage slaves to spend the holiday drinking, rather than resting or working industriously for themselves. Douglass explains that this strategy helps keep blacks enslaved. By giving slaves a brief span of time each year to release their rebellious spirit, slaveholders keep them manageable for the rest of the year. By encouraging them to spend the holiday riotously drunk, slaveholders ensure that freedom comes to seem unappealing.

On January 1, 1834, Douglass is sent to live with Mr. William Freeland. Mr. Freeland, though quick‑tempered, is more consistently fair than Covey. Douglass is grateful that Mr. Freeland is not a hypocritically religious man. Many men in the community profess to be religious, but merely use their religion as justification for their cruelty to their slaves.

Freeland works his slaves hard, but treats them fairly. Douglass meets and befriends other slaves on Freeland’s property, including the intelligent brothers Henry and John Harris. Sandy Jenkins also lives at Freeland’s at this time, and Douglass reminds readers about Sandy’s root and reports that Sandy’s superstition is common among the more ignorant slaves.

(Video) Frederick Douglass: Crash Course Black American History #17

Douglass soon succeeds in getting some of his fellow slaves interested in learning how to read. Word soon spreads, and Douglass surreptitiously begins to hold a Sabbath school in the cabin of a free black. This is a dangerous undertaking, as educating slaves is forbidden; the community violently shuts down a similar school run by a white man. Yet the slaves value their education so highly that they attend Douglass’s school despite the threat of punishment.

Douglass’s first year with Freeland passes smoothly. Douglass remembers Freeland as the best master he ever had. Douglass also attributes the comfort of the year to his solidarity with the other slaves. Douglass recalls that he loved them and that they operated together as a single community.

Though Douglass remains with Freeland for another year in 1835, by this time he desires his freedom more strongly than ever. Here Douglass puns on the comfort of living with “Freeland” as his master and his stronger desire to live on “free land.” Douglass, resolving to attempt an escape sometime during the year, sets about offering his fellow slaves the chance to join him. Douglass recalls how daunting the odds were for them. He describes their position as facing the bloody figure of slavery and glimpsing the doubtful, beckoning figure of freedom in the distance, with the intervening path full of hardship and death. Douglass points out that their decision was far more difficult than that of Patrick Henry, whose choice between death and an oppressed life—“Give me liberty or give me death”—was merely rhetorical. As slaves, Douglass and his companions had to choose doubtful liberty over nearly certain death.

The escape party consists of Douglass, Henry and John Harris, Henry Bailey, and Charles Roberts. Sandy Jenkins initially intends to accompany them, but eventually decides to remain. They plan to canoe up the Chesapeake Bay on the Saturday before Easter. Douglass writes travel passes, signed by their master, for each of them.

On the morning of their planned escape, Douglass works in thefields as usual. He soon feels overcome by a sense that theirplan has been betrayed. Douglass tells Sandy Jenkins of his fear, and Sandy feels the same way. During breakfast, William Hamilton and several other men arrive at the house. They seize and tie Douglass and the rest of the escape party. The men transport their prisoners to Thomas Auld’s house. On the way, Douglass and the others speak together, agreeing to destroy their written passes and admit nothing.

(Video) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - AudioBook

At Thomas Auld’s, Douglass and the others learn that someone has betrayed them. Douglass writes that they immediately knew who the betrayer was, but he does not reveal who they suspected. The men are placed in jail. Slave traders arrive to taunt them and size them up as though to sell them. At the end of the Easter holidays, all the slaves but Douglass are taken home. Douglass remains in jail because he is identified as the leader and instigator. He begins to despair. At first, Thomas Auld announces his intent to send Douglass to Alabama. Then Auld suddenly changes his mind and sends Douglass back to Baltimore with Hugh Auld.

In Baltimore, Hugh Auld apprentices Douglass to a shipbuilder named William Gardner. Douglass is to learn the trade of ship caulking. Because Gardner’s shipyard is struggling to meet a deadline, however, Douglass becomes a helping hand for seventy-five different carpenters and learns no new skill. The carpenters constantly summon and yell at Douglass, who cannot help them all at once. Tensions at the shipyard increase when the white carpenters suddenly strike to protest the free black carpenters who Gardner has hired. Gardner agrees to fire the free black carpenters. As an apprentice who is not free, Douglass continues working at Gardner’s, but he endures severe physical intimidation from the white apprentices.

One day, four white apprentices attack Douglass at the shipyard and nearly destroy his left eye. He starts to fight back but decides against it, as lynch law dictates that any black man who hits a white man may be killed. Instead, Douglass complains to Hugh Auld, who becomes surprisingly indignant on Douglass’s behalf. Auld takes Douglass with him to see a lawyer, but the lawyer informs them that no warrant may be issued without the testimony of a white man.

Douglass spends time at home recovering, and later he becomes an apprentice at Hugh Auld’s own shipyard. Douglass quickly learns caulking under Walter Price and soon earns the highest possible wage. Each week, Douglass turns over all his wages to Hugh Auld. Douglass compares Auld to a pirate who has a “right” to Douglass’s wages only because he has the power to compel Douglass to hand them over.

Analysis

The second half of Chapter X continues to shift between personal accounts and public arguments against slavery. Douglass moves from the personal account of the rest of the year under Covey to a general analysis of the “holiday” that slave owners give their slaves between Christmas and New Year’s. Generally, the public, or persuasive—sections of the Narrative generally either disprove pro-slavery arguments, present antislavery arguments, or disabuse readers of misinformation or misinterpretation about the practices of slave owners. Douglass’s analysis of the holiday time falls in this last category. To the uninformed observer, it would appear a positive thing that slave owners grant a holiday to their slaves. Douglass explains, however, that this seeming benevolence is part of the larger power structure of slavery. Slaveholders use holiday time to make their slaves disaffected with “freedom” and to keep them from revolting.

(Video) The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Read more about the narrative structure of this book.

The figure of William Freeland stands in direct contrast to the rest of the slave owners in Douglass’s Narrative. Douglass’s previous masters have all shared one or both of two traits: hypocritical piety or inconsistent brutality. Douglass presents Freeland as a good slave owner because he lacks both of these vices. Freeland has no pretensions about religion and is consistent and fair in his treatment of his slaves. However, though Freeland is a good model for a slave owner, Douglass remains clear that slaveholding in any form is still unjust. He points to his dissatisfaction with Freeland in a pun on Freeland’s name. Instead of equating “Freeland” with “free land,” Douglass uses the pun to point out that belonging to “Freeland” is not as good a guarantee as living on “free land.”

Read more about slaveholding as a perversion of Christianity.

Douglass’s experience under Freeland is also positive because he develops a social network of fellow slaves that during this time. Except for his friendship with the local boys in Baltimore, Douglass has been a figure of isolation and alienation in the Narrative. As an isolated figure, he appropriately resembles the protagonist of a traditional coming‑of‑age story. These autobiographical stories tend to privilege a model of heroic individualism over social interaction and support. In Chapter X, however, Douglass reveals the close friendships he develops at Freeland’s and shows that he relies on friends’ support. This model of social support competes with the model of heroic individualism through the end of Douglass’s Narrative. For example, Douglass’s first escape attempt involves several people and fails, whereas he presents his successful escape as the act of an individual.

Read more details about Douglass’s life.

(Video) Chapter 4 - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

In their prefaces to Douglass’s Narrative, Garrison and Phillips place Douglass in the context of the American Revolutionaries’ battle for rights and freedom. Douglass himself uses this context in Chapter X when he specifies that escaping slaves act more bravely than Patrick Henry did. Douglass alludes to Henry’s famous declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death.” While Henry faces a choice between political independence and oppression, escaping slaves must choose between two unattractive options—the familiar ills of slavery and the unknown dangers of escape. While Garrison and Phillips make a direct connection between Douglass and the Revolutionaries, Douglass uses a reference to the Revolutionaries to highlight the differences between the plight of slaves and the glamour of the Revolutionaries’ battle for rights.

Read more about the reference to Patrick Henry and what it means.

For Douglass, the difference between the Revolutionaries and slaves is widened by the fact that slaves do not benefit from the citizen’s rights for which the Revolutionaries fought. When four of Gardner’s white apprentices attack Douglass, Douglass enjoys neither the right to defend himself nor the right see his attackers punished for their crime. Douglass ironically portrays his master Hugh Auld as naïvely surprised and indignant upon hearing the lawyer say that a slave has no right to stand witness against a white. The irony with which Douglass writes of American “human rights” in theory and in practice also seems present in the Narrative’s subtitle, An American Slave. The Narrative goes on to show that the words “American” and “slave” are contradictory: the rights afforded by the designation “American” are nonexistent for slaves.

In Chapter X we see Douglass working for wages for the first time. Previously, his labor translated into invisible profit for his masters, but when he begins apprenticing at shipyards, he begins to receive the monetary value of his labor. Douglass must turn over these wages to Hugh Auld each week, however. The physical presence of the money Douglass earns with his labor reinforces his sense of the injustice of slavery. Hugh Auld comes to resemble a thief who steals what is not his, rather than an owner of property by which he profits.

Read more about the motif of slaves as property.

(Video) Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Chapter VI

FAQs

What is Chapter 10 of Frederick Douglass about? ›

In Chapter X we see Douglass working for wages for the first time. Previously, his labor translated into invisible profit for his masters, but when he begins apprenticing at shipyards, he begins to receive the monetary value of his labor. Douglass must turn over these wages to Hugh Auld each week, however.

What happens when Douglass tries to drive the ox cart in Chapter 10? ›

One day, Douglass is driving a cart and he loses control of the oxen. The cart overturns, breaking a wheel and injuring the animals. At first, Covey doesn't seem to get that angry – it's almost as if he's not surprised.

What is Frederick Douglass Narrative summary? ›

Douglass's Narrative is like a highway map, showing us the road from slavery to freedom. At the beginning of the book, Douglass is a slave in both body and mind. When the book ends, he gets both his legal freedom and frees his mind.

How can Douglass and Anna marry? ›

How was it possible for Frederick and Anna to marry? Why is there marriage such an important event? She was a free slave and had a reverend. Why doesn't Frederick stay in New York?

What did slaves drink? ›

in which slaves obtained alcohol outside of the special occasions on which their masters allowed them to drink it. Some female house slaves were assigned to brew cider, beer, and/or brandy on their plantations.

Who was Douglass's first wife? ›

Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass' first wife, helped the abolitionist leader escape slavery and supported his anti-slavery work for years, according to historian Leigh Fought, author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass.

How many times did Douglas try to run away? ›

Douglass try to escape from slavery 2 times before he succeeded. He got help on his last time to try to escape with lady named Anna Marie, who was a free black woman in Baltimore who he had fallen in love with. On September 3, 1838, Douglass boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Why was Douglass forced to return to the plantation after the death of his master? ›

Fredrick was forced to return to the plantation after the death of his master because he had to be included in the valuation of master's property so it could be divided equally between son Andrew and daughter Lucreatia because no will left.

Why is Covey called the snake? ›

The slaves call Covey “the snake,” in part because he sneaks through the grass, but also because this nickname is a reference to Satan's appearance in the form of a snake in the biblical book of Genesis. Douglass also presents Covey as a false Christian.

Why is the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass important? ›

The first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, catapulted him to fame and invigorated the abolitionist movement. Of Douglass's many speeches, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” was perhaps one of the most well-known.

How does Douglass end his Narrative? ›

Douglass ends his story by saying that as an ex-slave, he initially felt uneasy speaking to a white crowd, but he overcame feelings of inferiority and became an ardent orator and advocate of abolition.

How does Frederick Douglass define freedom in his Narrative? ›

Open Document. Frederick Douglass View of Freedom Freedom by definition is, “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action” (Freedom). As a young slave, Frederick Douglass did not see freedom this way; In fact, he did not see freedom as anything at all.

Did Douglass marry a white woman? ›

After Anna died, Frederick married Helen Pitts, a white woman, who was a distant cousin of President John Quincy Adams. The marriage caused quite a stir, as it would at the time, being that she was white and he was Black.

Who did Frederick Douglass marry? ›

Frederick Douglass

Did Frederick have 2 wives? ›

Frederick Douglass

How often did slaves eat? ›

Slaves usually received a monthly allowance of corn meal and salt-herrings. Frederick Douglass received one bushel of corn meal a month plus eight pounds of pork or fish. Some plantation owners gave their slaves a small piece of land, a truck-patch, where they could grow vegetables.

What kind of meat did slaves eat? ›

Faunal remains in excavations have confirmed that livestock such as pigs and cows were the principal components of slaves' meat diets. Other sites show remnants of wild species such as opossum, raccoon, snapping turtle, deer, squirrel, duck, and rabbit.

How long did slaves usually live? ›

As a result of this high infant and childhood death rate, the average life expectancy of a slave at birth was just 21 or 22 years, compared to 40 to 43 years for antebellum whites. Compared to whites, relatively few slaves lived into old age.

Did Frederick Douglass love his wife? ›

"Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color," she said. Douglass laughingly commented, "This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father."

How many times did Frederick Douglass get married? ›

Frederick Douglass
Resting placeMount Hope Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Anna Murray ​ ​ ( m. 1838; died 1882)​ Helen Pitts ​ ( m. 1884)​
Parent(s)Harriet Bailey Aaron Anthony (allegedly)
15 more rows

How did Frederick Douglass treat his wife? ›

In the words of Oxford University Press: Douglass, for his part, recognized the role that Anna played in his life. During his first visit to England he maintained a cordial distance from his enthusiastic female admirers, and he defended his wife when anyone suggested that she was not a fit mate for him.

How did Douglass finally escape slavery? ›

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery on September 3, 1838, aided by a disguise and job skills he had learned while forced to work in Baltimore's shipyards. Douglass posed as a sailor when he grabbed a train in Baltimore that was headed to Philadelphia.

How often is Frederick whipped? ›

Douglass has been whipped before, but this whipping is only the beginning. Over the next six months, he is whipped at least once a week, so regularly that he doesn't have time to heal from his previous beating before he gets beaten again.

How did Frederick Douglass fail to escape? ›

But Douglass' first escape attempt failed because he was betrayed by a fellow slave; the slave system discourages solidarity among slaves. Unlike Southern whites who close ranks to protect their privilege, slaves are discouraged from establishing ties with each other.

What relationship did his new master have to his old master? ›

What relationship did his new master have to his old master? His new master was his old master's brother.

Why did Mr Covey stop whipping Frederick? ›

I think that he stops because if he whips Douglass, Covey proves that he has not broken Douglass. Also, Covey is afraid that Douglass will hurt him again.

What happens to Douglass after the death of Captain Anthony? ›

In a digression, Douglass tells us that about five years after he had been living in Baltimore, his old master, Captain Anthony, died, and Douglass was sent back to the plantation for a valuation so that all of the captain's property could be appraised and divided up among his relatives.

How was Douglass betrayed? ›

After Douglass' attempt to escape slavery two years prior was betrayed by a fellow slave, he had been jailed, sent to Baltimore by his master and hired out to work in the city's shipyards. Undeterred, Douglass vowed to try to escape again on September 3, 1838, although he knew the risk.

Why did Douglass beat MR Covey? ›

What was Covey's first reason for beating Douglass? Covey beat Frederick because he let an Oxen free. How did Master Thomas respond when Douglass asked for protection from Covey? The Master Thomas denied Frederick and said that Mr.

Who is Lucretia Auld? ›

Lucretia Auld

Captain Anthony's daughter and Thomas Auld's wife. After Captain Anthony's death, Lucretia inherits half his property, including Douglass. Lucretia is as cruel an owner as her husband.

What were three major themes of Douglass's Narrative? ›

Themes
  • Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery. Douglass's Narrative shows how white slaveholders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. ...
  • Knowledge as the Path to Freedom. ...
  • Slavery's Damaging Effect on Slaveholders. ...
  • Slaveholding as a Perversion of Christianity.

What is the tone of Frederick Douglass speech? ›

tone Douglass's tone is generally straightforward and engaged, as befits a philosophical treatise or a political position paper. He also occasionally uses an ironic tone, or the tone of someone emotionally overcome.

What obstacles did Frederick Douglass overcome? ›

When he turned 16 years old he attempted to escape slavery, sadly the attempt failed, after another 4 years he successfully escaped slavery pretending to be a sailor. Another obstacle that Douglass had to faced was the people that were against him.

What did Frederick Douglass do at the end of his life? ›

Douglass remained an active speaker, writer and activist until his death in 1895. He died after suffering a heart attack on his way home from a meeting of the National Council of Women, a women's rights group still in its infancy at the time, in Washington, D.C.

Why does Douglass change his name? ›

Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey and changes his name to avoid recapture into slavery.

What chapter did Douglass escape? ›

Summary: Chapter XI. Douglass explains that the final chapter of his Narrative portrays the part of his life during which he escaped from slavery.

How does Douglass describe the North as compared to the South? ›

How does Douglass describe the North as compared to the South? The North seemed clean and beautiful compared to the dilapidated South.

Why did the slaves call Mr Covey the snake? ›

The slaves call Covey “the snake,” in part because he sneaks through the grass, but also because this nickname is a reference to Satan's appearance in the form of a snake in the biblical book of Genesis. Douglass also presents Covey as a false Christian.

How often is Frederick whipped? ›

Douglass has been whipped before, but this whipping is only the beginning. Over the next six months, he is whipped at least once a week, so regularly that he doesn't have time to heal from his previous beating before he gets beaten again.

When did Douglass finally escape? ›

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery on September 3, 1838, aided by a disguise and job skills he had learned while forced to work in Baltimore's shipyards. Douglass posed as a sailor when he grabbed a train in Baltimore that was headed to Philadelphia.

How many times did Frederick Douglass try to escape? ›

Douglass try to escape from slavery 2 times before he succeeded. He got help on his last time to try to escape with lady named Anna Marie, who was a free black woman in Baltimore who he had fallen in love with. On September 3, 1838, Douglass boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland.

How does Douglass end his narrative? ›

Douglass ends his story by saying that as an ex-slave, he initially felt uneasy speaking to a white crowd, but he overcame feelings of inferiority and became an ardent orator and advocate of abolition.

Who was Mr severe? ›

Mr. Severe A cruel and profane overseer; his early death was considered an act of divine providence by the slaves. Mr. Gore Another exceptionally cruel overseer; he had no qualms about executing a slave who disobeyed him.

How long did slaves get to sleep? ›

Sixteen to eighteen hours of work was the norm on most West Indian plantations, and during the season of sugarcane harvest, most slaves only got four hours of sleep.

Why did Douglass change his name? ›

Frederick Douglass chose his name from a poem.

After he successfully escaped slavery in 1838, he and his wife adopted the name Douglass from a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, “The Lady of the Lake,” at the suggestion of a friend.

How was Douglass betrayed? ›

After Douglass' attempt to escape slavery two years prior was betrayed by a fellow slave, he had been jailed, sent to Baltimore by his master and hired out to work in the city's shipyards. Undeterred, Douglass vowed to try to escape again on September 3, 1838, although he knew the risk.

Why did Douglass beat MR Covey? ›

What was Covey's first reason for beating Douglass? Covey beat Frederick because he let an Oxen free. How did Master Thomas respond when Douglass asked for protection from Covey? The Master Thomas denied Frederick and said that Mr.

Why did Mr Covey stop whipping Frederick? ›

I think that he stops because if he whips Douglass, Covey proves that he has not broken Douglass. Also, Covey is afraid that Douglass will hurt him again.

What did Sandy give Douglas? ›

Before Douglass fights Covey, Sandy gives him a root and tells him it has magical powers: if Douglass carries the root with him, it will protect him from being whipped.

Why do the masters want their slaves to drink whiskey during the holidays? ›

The masters want their slaves to drink whiskey on the holidays because it made them seem responsible that they could save up their whiskey all year until Christmas.

How does Master Hugh react to his beating? ›

How does Hugh Auld react to Frederick's attack at the shipyard? He was infuriated and tried to seek justice for him. What activities do slaveowners encourage slaves to partake in on the weekends?

Videos

1. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845 autobiography)
(Rambling Raconteur)
2. Frederick Douglass Brief APMC analysis
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3. Chapter 7
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4. Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass Summary and Analysis
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5. Narrative of the Life and Death of Frederick Douglas-chapter 11
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6. Chapter 10, 11, 12 Lecture
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