Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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The following is chapter by chapter information that you need to know for discussion and other activities involving Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Write out all answers and put the page numbers where you found the information.
These are terms that you need to be aware of in order to understand the structure and topic of this novel.


  1. Irony: words that convey a meaning that’s opposite of its literal meaning




  1. Abolition: the legal prohibition & ending of slavery




  1. Abolitionist: a person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.A.




  1. Chattel: slave—a moveable article of personal property




  1. Primary Source: an original fundamental & authoritative document pertaining to an event or subject of inquiry; a firsthand or eyewitness account of an event




  1. Secondary Source: any document that describes an event, person, place, or thing



Chapter I


  1. Why is Frederick not sure when he was born?

He wasn’t allowed to be told & he wasn’t allowed to ask questions (1)


  1. What is Frederick’s last name at his birth?

Bailey (1)

  1. Why would slaveholders want to keep a slave ignorant of such a simple things as the date of his birth?


They’d want to know more and more


  1. Who were Frederick’s mother and father?

Mother—Harriet Baileyblack Father—white master


  1. Why does Frederick make the point that a slaveholder who has fathered a child is likely to be tougher on that child?

To show respect to his wife (that he doesn’t love the child more than their own) & so not to seem a “weak” master


  1. Why does Frederick only rarely see his mother?

They were separated when he was little and she works far away (1-2)


  1. Is Frederick’s relationship with his mother typical of other slave children?

Yes


  1. What is the role of the overseer on the plantation?

Make sure slaves did their work



  1. What is the relationship of the slaveholder to the overseer to the slave on the plantation?

Slaveholder—owner of farms, owner of slaves Overseer—watches over farm & slaves Slaves—work on farms (3)


  1. What do we learn about Plummer, the overseer?

He was a drunkard, swears a lot, savage monster, beat slaves & got pleasure from it—would beat FD’s Aunt (3)


  1. Why does Frederick tell the story of Lloyd’s Ned?

b/c it was w/ Ned’s interaction that led to FD’s Aunt Hester brutal beating; wants to show result of disobeying master and the types of consequences people lived with
Chapter II

  1. Who were the family members of Frederick’s master, colonel Edward Lloyd?


Sons: Andrew & Richard Daughter: Lucretia—her husband—Captain Thomas Auld (5)


  1. What is the relationship of Colonel Lloyd to Frederick’s master?

FD’s master was Colonel Lloyd’s clerk & superintendent—overseer of the overseers (5)


  1. Was there a pecking order among the slaves? Be able to explain.

Yes (5)


  1. Why was Severe an appropriate name for the overseer?

Cruel man; took pleasure in beating others (physically); cursed at others all the time (7)


  1. Why does Frederick suggest that slaves sing out of sorrow rather than out of joy?

Songs of slaves represent the sorrows of his heart & people are relieved by them (9)
Chapter III


  1. How did Colonel Lloyd keep the slave boys from taking his fruit?

Put tar on the fence & any person who has tar on him—ate the fruit! Whipped! (10)


  1. Why was it particularly difficult to be the slaves in charge of Colonel Lloyd’s horses?

b/c Colonel Lloyd’s horses were of noble blood & finest form, and if anything went wrong, the slaves were beaten


  1. What is ironic about Colonel Lloyd’s treatment of his horses compared to the treatment of his slaves?

He treated his horses well—they needed “proper attention” while he beats his slaves. The animals get treated better than the slaves


  1. What happened to the slave who told Colonel Lloyd the truth about his master?

Handcuffed, chained, sold to Georgia trader, left his family & friends


  1. What is a maxim?

A standard or rule

Chapter IV


  1. Why is Mr. Austin Gore a “first-rate overseer”? What is the irony of this description of him? What is ironic about his name?

He was proud, ambitious & persevering. He acted fully up to the maxim laid by slaveholders. He committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge. (12-13)


  1. What reason does Mr. Gore give for killing Demby, the slave?

Demby became unmanageable (14)


  1. What other examples does Frederick give on his statement “that killing a slave, or any colored person…is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community”?

Mr. Thomas Lanman killed 2 slaves (one with a hatchet); Mr. Giles Hick mangled a 15-16 yr. old girl (FD’s wife’s cousin) (14-15)
Chapter V


  1. What was life like for Frederick on the plantation?

Good—Master Daniel Lloyd was protective & kind; FD didn’t work much—had simple duties & lots of leisure time (16)


  1. Why was Frederick so happy to be leaving the plantation?

Could wash & clean self (16)


  1. Why did he want to go to Baltimore?

b/c he got to get trousers! (17)

  1. What relationship did his new master have to his old master?


Mr. Hugh Auld was brother to FD’s old master’s son-in-law, Captain Thomas Auld (16)


  1. Why did Frederick, who was seven or eight, not know the month or year of his sailing?

He couldn’t read (17)


  1. What were Frederick’s initial impressions of his new mistress, Mrs. Sophia Auld?

She was very kind & friendly (18)
Chapter VI


  1. To what does Frederick attribute the kindness of Mrs. Auld?

She’s never had a slave (19)


  1. What, according to Frederick, changes her?

Power (19)


  1. Why is Mr. Auld angry when he finds that Mrs. Auld is teaching Frederick his letters?

b/c if blacks learn, they’ll become unmanageable (20)


  1. Why does the inability to read keep men enslaved according to Frederick and to Mr. Auld?

b/c if you teach them, they’ll be unfit to be a slave—doesn’t benefit the owner—slaves will want to know more (20)

  1. What does Frederick hope to gain by learning how to read?

Freedom (20)


  1. Who teaches Frederick why black men are not taught to read?

Mr. Auld (20)


  1. Why is this lesson so important to him?

b/c he realizes that education & knowledge can get him to freedom (20)



  1. Why is the life of a city slave so much better than the life of a plantation slave?

City slaves have more freedom, clothes, fooddon’t have to do hard labor on a plantation (21)


  1. Why does Frederick relate the story of the slaves, Henrietta and Mary?

To show that it’s still bad & brutal in the city (21)
Chapter VII


  1. How did Mrs. Auld change and why did she change?

She stopped teaching FD and she became more mean (22)


  1. What plan did Frederick adopt to learn how to read now that Mrs. Hugh was no longer teaching him?

He befriended white boys & gave them bread for lessons in reading (23)


  1. What is ironic about this plan?

White people were to hate blacks & white people were supposed to have food (23)


  1. What did Frederick learn from the book, The Columbian Orator?

That people fought against slavery; he learned how cruel white people are; he learned about slavery and freedom (24)


  1. How does Master Auld’s prediction about Frederick and learning come true?

Learning more caused FD to want freedom more and more (24)


  1. How does Frederick learn the meanings of the words abolition and abolitionist?

From the newspaper (25)

  1. What do the two Irishmen encourage him to do? Why does he not trust them?


Run up North—feared they were treacherous faithless/deceptive & would use him. If he listened, they would capture him and get money for reward (25)


  1. How does Frederick learn to write?

Copied letters that were written on a ship & competed with white boys to write—tricked them--learned more (26)


  1. How does he trick the white boys into teaching him new letters?

He would say “I don’t believe you. Let me see it.” He’d watch them write and would copy it. (26)

Chapter VIII


  1. Why was Frederick forced to return to the plantation after the death of his master?

His master died (26-27)


  1. How was the value of the master’s property determined? How were the slaves valued?

Slaves were ranked in value w/ animals (horses, sheep & swine) (27)


  1. Why was the division of property between Mistress Lucretia and Master Andrew so horrifying to the slaves?

Dreaded Master Andrew (cruel) (27)


  1. What happened to Frederick’s grandmother after the deaths of Lucretia and Andrew? How does this anecdote help explain the value of the slaves?

She was sent to live in a hut in the woods—nobody cared that she had family—animals are treated better (28-29)


  1. Who owns Frederick by the end of chapter eight?

Master Thomas Auld (brother to old Master Hugh Auld) (30)

  1. Why is Frederick forced to leave Baltimore?


b/c of an argument & Master Thomas said he’d never let FD return to Baltimore
Chapter IX


  1. Why does Frederick now know the date?

He knows how to read now (30)


  1. Who is Frederick’s newest Master?

Master Thomas Auld (30)


  1. What rule of slaveholding does Master Thomas Auld violate?

Didn’t give slaves enough food (31)


  1. How did the slaves get food?

Stole food from neighbors & begged (31)


  1. What, according to Frederick, happens to Master Thomas Auld after his conversion to Christianity? Why?

Be became more cruel—religion supported his slaveholding (32)


  1. Why does Frederick find irony in the fact that the slaves’ Sabbath school is discontinued?

b/c slaves were supposed to learn b/ the class leaders didn’t want to teach slaves to read the New Testament (33)


  1. Why does Frederick let Master Thomas’ horse run away?

So he could go after it & get something to eat (34)


  1. How does Master Thomas propose to ‘break’ Frederick?

Send him to Mr. Covey (34)

  1. Why is the use of the verb ‘to break’ ironic?

break” him in work ethic & physical labor; “break” FD down physically & mentally

  1. Why was Mr. Covey’s reputation for breaking slaves of great value to him?


b/c he got slaves to work on his field—slave owners lent him their slaves so he could “break” them in & in return he got his land tilled


  1. Why does Frederick suggest that Mr. Covey’s “pious soul” adds to “his reputation as a ‘nigger-breaker’”?

b/c he too has the support of religion behind his slave-driving (pious=good)
Chapter X


  1. Why does Mr. Covey whip Frederick?

Broke gate w/ oxen, wouldn’t take off clothes (35-36)


  1. Why are the slaves to fearful of Mr. Covey? Why does their work go on in his absence?

Always felt the presence of Mr. Covey (36)


  1. Why is it “never safe to stop a single minute”?

You never knew where he was or when he’d sneak up on you (he was known as “The Snake”) (36)


  1. What does Frederick mean by “Mr. Covey’s forte consisted in his power to deceive”?

He was great at deception—would hide in the bushes, etc. (37)


  1. Why does Mr. Covey buy a slave to use as a breeder?

To get more slaves to work for him since he couldn’t afford it (37)


  1. Why does he hire Mr. Samuel Harrison, a married man? What irony does Frederick find in this?

To breed w/ Caroline—make more slaves. Ironic b/c Covey looks wealthy b/ is not (37)
  1. How does Mr. Covey succeed in breaking Frederick?


broken in body, soul & spirit, intellect & cheerfulnessbroken to be a brute (38)


  1. How does Frederick succeed in again becoming a man?

Fighting Covey—gained confidence (43)


  1. Why does Frederick go to Master Thomas Auld?

To tell him what happened at Covey’s place (39-41)


  1. Why does he return to Covey? Who convinces him to do so? What does Sandy Jenkins suggest that Frederick do?

b/c he was Covey’s for a year & FD wasn’t to trouble Auld again w/ stories; Sandy told him to go back to Covey’s & carry a root in his right pocket so not to get whipped (41-42)


  1. How does Frederick win the fight with Mr. Covey?

Made Covey bleed (42)


  1. Why does Frederick contend that Mr. Covey does not turn him in?

b/c Covey would be worse off—he has a reputation to protect (43)

  1. What would have happened to Frederick had Mr. Covey turned him in?

Taken to whipping post & whipped regularly (43)


  1. Why is Frederick’s battle with Mr. Covey the climax of the story?

It’s a turning point for FD—gets his confidence back; gets his manhood back


  1. How are the holidays used to “disgust the slave with freedom”?

Masters deceived slaves of what freedom was—drinking a lot—abuse of freedom (45)

  1. Where does Frederick go after leaving Mr. Covey’s on January 1, 1834?


Went & lived w/ William Freeland (45)


  1. Who is his new master and how does he treat Frederick?

William Freeland—educated southern gentleman; respected humanity, no regards to religion (45-46)


  1. Why does Frederick include the anecdotes about the two religious slave holders, Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Weeden?

b/c religion is a “covering of the most horrid crimes” & justified ill deeds; even high class people in religion were cruel (46)


  1. What is ironic about what the slaveholders want the slaves to do on the Sabbath?

They read—to learn the New Testament (48)


  1. What is dangerous about Frederick’s confiding of his plans to the Sabbath school slaves?

They may tell


  1. Why did so few slaves escape? Find a quote that provides good explanation of this fact.




  1. What is the plan, and what is the purpose of the “protections?”

Get large canoe from Mr. Hamilton (Saturday before Easter) & paddle up to the Chesapeake Bay, follow North Star beyond Maryland. Protections protect slaves on their venture to freedom; white masters are to write the protections (51)


  1. What happened to each of the slaves who attempted to run away?

They were caught, dragged 15 miles by horses, & put in jail (54)

  1. What happens to Frederick when he decides to fight against attackers? What happens to him?


He gets beat up really bad—big swollen eye, he runs away and tells Mr. Hugh. Hugh is upset & takes it to court b/ nothing happens b/c no white man will testify (58)


  1. What happens to Frederick’s first wages?

Given to Mr. Hugh b/ made $1.50 per day & gave to Master Hugh b/c FD felt compelled to do it b/c Master Hugh had the power to compel (felt obligated to give it to him) (58)

Chapter XI


  1. What are two reasons why Frederick cannot relate his means of escape?

Embarrass others; induce greater vigilance among slaveholders (guarding doors, gates) (59)


  1. What is his opinion of the underground railway? Why?

Hates it—makes owners be more watchful (60)


  1. What does Frederick as of Master Thomas? What is he told?

FD asks if he can hire people to work under him; MT says No, it’s just another strategy of escape (61)


  1. Why does Frederick agree to an arrangement with Master Hugh which benefits the Master?

Asks to hire people to work for him—way to escape (61)


  1. How is the agreement dissolved?

FD must pay master $3 at end of week & buy own equipment b/ didn’t pay master on Saturday (61-62)


  1. When and to where does Frederick run away? What is his attitude about it now?

Sept. 3, 1838 to New York—highest excitement b/ loneliness overcame the joy (63)

  1. How was it possible for Frederick and Anna to marry? Why is there marriage such an important event?


She was a free slave & had a reverend (65)


  1. Why doesn’t Frederick stay in New York?

Not safe (65)


  1. Why did Frederick change his name so much? Who chooses Douglass? Why?

New owners & Johnson was too common of a last name; Mr. Nathan Johnson changed FD to Douglass b/c he just got done reading a book (66)


  1. What had Douglass believed about the life in the North? Was he correct? Explain.

Clean, new, beautiful, cheerful, wealthy—he was NOT correct (67)


  1. What does Douglass discover about prejudice against color in New Bedford?

Blacks vs. fugitive slaves—blacks will accuse fugitive slaves & kill them or return them to their masters; white calkers wouldn’t’ work w/ black calkers (68)


  1. What work does he find?

Stowing a sloop w/ loads of oil (68)


  1. Why is Douglass at first reluctant to speak out against slavery?

B/c others said things so much better than he did; idea of speaking to whites weighed him down (69)

Appendix


  1. Why do you think Douglass added the appendix?

Add explanation of what he wrote that may have turned people away/off of what he said


  1. What does he mean by “slaveholding religion”?

It’s the opposite of what Christianity was supposed to be about (hypocrites) (71)


  1. Why does Douglass contend that the church turns the other check on the treatment of slaves?



  1. How does he compare the slaveholding Christians to the Pharisees and ancient scribes?

(73)


  1. What does he say about the church of the North?

Throughout the narrative, Douglass makes several important points over and over. Review the narrative to find quotes related to these points. Either mark them in your book with the page number beside the quote, or write the page and quote beside the point.




  1. Justice for slaves (and all men of color) is different from justice for whites.



  1. No one can be enslaved if she or he has the ability to read, write, and think.



  1. The way to enslave someone is to keep them from all learning.

What other points do you think that Douglass is making with this narrative? What quotes from the story can you point to in order to prove your opinion? (You must have at least 3 quotes).


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