What was life like for Frederick Douglass as a young American slave boy in Maryland?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the opening chapter of Douglass' narrative, there is much to reflect the horrific nature of America's original sin of slavery.  Notice the lack of definition in the life of a slave.  Douglass does not know his age because slaves were not permitted to keep birth certificates and were treated as less than human, as the offspring of a slave was a commodity just like their parents.  This uncertainty is continued when Douglass is not entirely certain the identity of his father, to be presumed to be the master of the plantation.  This would reflect another horrific aspect of slavery in the frequent rape and violation of female slaves that was never prosecuted nor discouraged.  Additionally, Douglass knows little of his mother because they were separated by birth, reflecting the cruelty of dividing families of slaves.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To add on the the post above, Douglass comments on his days on the plantation as being somewhat idle.  He, along with the other slave children, live with his grandmother, and they spend their days doing small chores.  Douglass is too small to work in the fields, so he must run errands in the meantime.  This all changes when he is sent to live with Master Hugh in Baltimore.  While there, he occupies his time during the day getting literacy lessons (until it is deemed that he should not be taught to read and write), running errands around town, and making "friends" with the poor white boys down the street.  In Baltimore, Douglass's life as a slave began to show some opportunity, unlike his idle days on the plantation.

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