Harriet Bailey, a black slave was his mother while his father was said to be a white man. Fredrick had hardly known a childhood because he was separated from his mother when he ran away from Maryland which was his home. In those days it was customary for the child to be separated from its mother even before it was 12 months of age. According to the author Douglass, this separation resulted in the loss of love and ‘natural affection of the mother for the child.’(Fredrick Douglas, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave, written by himself, ed. David W. Blight (Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin, 2003), Chap. 1, Pg.1)
Douglass narrates how inhumanely the slaves were treated. They were exploited by their white masters who were so cruel that they were almost inhuman. They made them work from morn till night with hardly any food or water and whipped them badly till their innocent blood ran from their bodies. Douglas argues that if God had cursed Ham then ‘American slavery is right.’ (Douglas, Narrative, Chap.1)
Douglass speaks dispassionately of his first glimpse of slavery on the plantations where crops like tobacco, wheat, and corn were grown. In case a slave faced conviction for misbehavior, he was whipped severely ‘put on board the sloop….and sold to Austin Woolfolk’ as a warning to the other slaves. Slavery as known to Douglass was bitter and he felt helpless when he witnessed the pittance they received as payment which was mostly in kind and clothing which they received only once in a whole year. Children were given only 2 linen shirts for the whole year and if this got destroyed they remained naked- male as well as female. The overseers were barbaric and most frightful.
Douglass equates being chosen to work on the Great House Farm, to being an elected to a ‘seat in the American Congress’ (Douglas, Chap.2) because they were better privileged than the others.nbsp.