Although most people today believe slavery in America was confined to the south, Douglass witnessed many slaves being beaten during his early childhood in Maryland. He was often required to endure cold and hunger due to neglectful conditions in his northern home. When he was eight years old, he was sent to work for a ship’s carpenter in Baltimore. While there, he learned to read and write until his mistress was informed this was against the law. His experience in the city made him aware that not everyone bought into the idea of slavery. When Douglass was 15, his owner died and he was sent back to the farms. There, he was cruelly beaten by the slave-breaker Edward Covey until the day Douglass beat up Covey and tried to escape. He was caught and returned to slavery, but sent back to Baltimore. In Baltimore, Douglass borrowed the identification papers of a free sailor friend and successfully escaped on September 3, 1838. He began writing about his experience in 1845.
Douglass’s narrative reveals the degree to which black people were made into beasts. Although his mother died when he was seven, he admits the news had almost no effect on him. This was because he had been separated from her since infancy. “Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of [my mother’s] death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” (Ch. 1). At this point, he’d also watched his aunt brutally whipped and he was working in the fields. Early separation from family destroyed any natural human feelings of attachment and removed any possible support. Cruel treatment kept him always in fear. Neglectful living conditions made him grateful for the smallest crust of bread. His description of the life of the slave reveals the need for and active encouragement of bestial