What were the most important events that occurred  in Fredderick Douglass's life in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass was born a slave, and his father was likely his master.  This incident might have been significant, because it led to the first important event: his mother was sent away. 

Frederick Douglass barely knew his mother, but she did care about him.  She was sent to another plantation, but she would sneak into his hut at night to see him.

For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. (ch 1 enotes etext p. 4)

Douglass never had a real family connection.  She died when he was about seven, but he got to see her only a few times in his life.  He uses this example as one of the prime cruelties of slavery, that children are arbitrarily separated from their parents.

Another significant event is when Douglass saw his aunt get whipped.  This experience scarred him for life.  He got a good look at the life he was in for, and saw the cruelty of slavery first-hand.  He never forgot it.

It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. (ch 1, p. 5)

Another important even in Douglass’s life was that he was sent to the town.  This is mostly significant because he saw that slaves were treated better there, because there were fewer of them and everyone was watching.  This event was also significant because it led to his desire to learn to read.

I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. (ch 7, p. 18)

Against all odds, Douglass managed to bribe white children to teach him to read and taught himself to write.  This was an important step in his education, but the inevitable result was that he became more depressed, because he was more aware of how terrible his life was.

The final most important event in Douglass’s life marked the end of his slavery.

I felt assured that, if I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one—it would seal my fate as a slave forever. I could not hope to get off with any thing less than the severest punishment, and being placed beyond the means of escape. (ch 11, p. 43)

Douglass talks about how he missed his friends, because he knew he would never see them again.  He also does not want to talk about how he escaped, because he would put in dangers others who helped him. 

Though Douglass was no longer a slave, he worked tirelessly to convince others of the cruelty of slavery, and his book still affects us today

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are several of the most important events in Douglass's life, as related in his autobiography:

  • He is born on a plantation in 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He only sees his mother a few times.
  • When he is a child, he is sent to Mr. Auld's house in Baltimore, where his slave mistress, Sophia Auld, begins to teach him how to read before her husband stops her. He bribes local children to continue to learn to read.
  • Douglass is sent back to the plantation when his master, Colonel Lloyd, dies.
  • He briefly returns to Baltimore but then is sent to work for Master Thomas. 
  • Thomas sends Douglass to work for a cruel slave master named Covey to break Douglass's will.
  • After receiving a magic root from his friend, Douglass decides to fight back against Covey and vows that no one will ever beat him again. 
  • Working under a new master, Douglass starts a slave school that the slave owners discontinue. 
  • He attempts to escape with a number of slaves, but their attempt is discovered and foiled. 
  • Douglass is sent to Baltimore again with Mr. Auld, and he works as a ship caulker along whites, who treat him cruelly.
  • In 1838, he escapes via the Underground Railroad to New York but hides the details in his narrative to make the way safe for other escaped slaves. He marries in the North and moves to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he hears abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison speak.
  • Douglass publishes his narrative in 1845. 

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