My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass

My Bondage and My Freedom

subjects: Autobiography, Slavery & Abolition of Slavery

Description

My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Douglass, a former slave, following his liberation went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and publisher. As his narrative unfolds, Frederick Douglass-abolitionist, journalist, orator, and one of the most powerful voices to emerge from the American civil rights movement-transforms himself from slave to fugitive to reformer, leaving behind a legacy of social, intellectual, and political thought.

Excerpt

In Talbot county, Eastern Shore, Maryland, near Easton, the county town of that county, there is a small district of country, thinly populated, and remarkable for nothing that I know of more than for the worn–out, sandy, desert–like appearance of its soil, the general dilapidation of its farms and fences, the indigent and spiritless character of its inhabitants, and the prevalence of ague and fever.

The name of this singularly unpromising and truly famine stricken district is Tuckahoe, a name well known to all Marylanders, black and white. It was given to this section of country probably, at the first, merely in derision; or it may possibly have been applied to it, as I have heard, because some one of its earlier inhabitants had been guilty of the petty meanness of stealing a hoe—or taking a hoe that did not belong to him. Eastern Shore men usually pronounce the word took, as tuck; Took–a–hoe, therefore, is, in Maryland parlance, Tuckahoe. But, whatever may have been its origin—and about this I will not be positive—that name has stuck to the district in question; and it is seldom mentioned but with contempt and derision, on account of the barrenness of its soil, and the ignorance, indolence, and poverty of its people. Decay and ruin are everywhere visible, and the thin population of the place would have quitted it long ago, but for the Choptank river, which runs through it, from which they take abundance of shad and herring, and plenty of ague and fever.

It was in this dull, flat, and unthrifty district, or neighborhood, surrounded by a white population of the lowest order, indolent and drunken to a proverb, and among slaves, who seemed to ask, “Oh! what’s the use?” every time they lifted a hoe, that I—without any fault of mine was born, and spent the first years of my childhood.