It was only when he got to be about six or seven that he was brought onto the plantation to work.
Even though it was rumored that Douglass had a white father, perhaps even his master, he was treated as a slave since the moment of his birth. He was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, before he was a year old. This custom, as Douglass explains, was derived from the notion that “to hinder the development of the child’s affection towards its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child” (Douglass 17). He felt no loss when he was told his Mother had died. The only family he was close to was his Grandmother, until he was brought to the plantation. It was here, during the moment of their separation, that Douglass discovered he was a ‘slave’, and what it meant to be a slave.
Similarly, Harriett Jacobs did not know she was a slave until roughly the age of six, upon her Mother’s death. “I was so fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise” (Jacobs 7). Jacobs’ knowledge of the cruel treatment of slaves came when she was twelve years old, after her kind mistress passed away and Jacobs was handed over to her mistress’ sister and family.
Unlike Douglass, Jacobs’ family was kept together during her childhood. She lived in a cabin with her parents and younger brother, Willie. Her Father was a carpenter, and he was able to earn these allowances by working as such and turning part of his earnings over to his mistress (Jacobs 7).
Where Jacobs had been treated as family, Douglass was made certain that he was nothing more than a slave. Children on Captain Anthony’s plantation would eat out of a trough, like pigs. There were no beds or blankets provided to the slaves, and “children from seven to ten years old, of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen at all seasons of the year” (Douglass 22). Where Jacobs was proud