The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
1. Why is Frederick not sure when he was born?
Slaveholders kept slave ignorant of any knowledge containing „personal identity‟
2. What is Frederick‟s last name at birth?
3. Why would slaveholders want to keep a slave ignorant of such a simple thing as the date of his
They wanted them as isolated as possible- with no sense of belonging to anyone
4. Who were Frederick‟s mother and father?
Harriet Bailey and Capt. Anthony
5. Why does Frederick make the point that a slaveholder who has fathered a child is likely to be
tougher on that child?
Because the slave would be a constant offense to the slaveholder‟s wife, who would know her
husband had been cheating on her with a slave. Also, the slaveholder would have to whip his own
child or sell him or her.
6. Why does Frederick only rarely see his mother?
She works on a far 12 miles away
7. Is Frederick‟s relationship with his mother typical of other slave children?
Yes- they separate families
8. What is the role of the overseer on the plantation?
The overseer is responsible for managing slaves and reporting to slaveholders
9. What is the relationship of the slaveholder to the overseer to the slave on the plantation?
Slaveholders are the „boss‟
10. What do we learn about Plummer, the overseer?
Baaaaad man- rapes the women, swears, and drinks too much
11. Who is Frederick‟s first master?
12. Why does Frederick tell the story of Lloyd‟s Ned?
To show how the overseers were having relations with the women and not punished
1. Who were the family members of Frederick‟s master Colonel Edward Lloyd?
Richard, Lucretia, Andrew
2. What is the relationship of Colonel Lloyd to Frederick‟s master?
Captain Anthony is the overseer for Colonel Lloyd
3. Was there a pecking order among slaves? Explain.
Yes, some slaves got better jobs, the honor going to the Great House Farm, or to do less horrible
errands for the overseers
4. Why would a slave whose life on a plantation was very bad fear being sold to a slave-trader?
The fear of the unknown horrors of the south were scary.
5. Why was Severe an appropriate name for the overseer?
He was a sever man
6. Why is it difficult to find copies of slave songs?
They were not recorded because slaves could not write and did not want the crys for help to be
7. Why does Frederick suggest that slaves sing out of sorrow rather than out of joy?
They sang most when they were sad.
1. How did Colonel Lloyd keep the slave boys from taking his fruit?
He tarred the fences
2. Why was it particularly difficult to be the slaves in charge of Colonel Lloyd‟s horses?
He loved the horses and was very particular about them
3. What is ironic about Colonel Lloyd‟s treatment of his horses compared to the treatment of his
He treated the horses better than he treated his slaves
4. What happened to the slave who told Colonel Lloyd the truth about his master?
He was sold
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 really horrible, which made a „good‟overseer. His name is
ironic because it sounds like gory- which is bloody
2. What reason does Mr. Gore give for killing Demby the slave?
He had become „unmanagable‟
3. What other examples does Frederick give of his statement “that killing a slave, or any colored
person,... is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community.”
The girl who was killed for not getting to the drying baby fast enough and the old man who was
killed for going onto someone else‟s property by mistake.
1. What was life like for Frederick on the plantation?
Actually pretty easy because he was too young for field labor, but he was very cold and hungry
2. Why was Frederick so happy to be leaving the plantation?
He was actually going to get a pair of pants and he‟d heard Baltimore was beautiful.
3. Why did he particularly want to go to Baltimore?
His cousin had told him how wonderful it was
4. What relationship did his new master have to his old master?
His new master is the brother to his old one.
5. Why did Frederick, who was seven or eight, not know the month or year of his sailing?
He was kept ignorant of EVRYTHING, even time
6. What were Frederick‟s initial impressions of his new mistress, Mrs. Sophia Auld?
She was very beautiful and kind
1. To what does Frederick attribute the kindness of Mrs. Auld?
She had never owned a slave before
2. What, according to Frederick, changes her?
Owning slaves- the poison of irresponsible power
3. Why is Mr. Auld angry when he finds that Mrs. Auld is teaching Frederick his letters?
Because he knows that keeping slaves ignorant is the only power they have over them
4. Why does Frederick call Mr. Auld‟s forbidding his learning how to read “invaluable instruction”?
He unwittingly gives him to key to mental freedom
5. Why does inability to read keep men enslaved according to Frederick and to Mr. Auld?
Knowledge is Power
6. What does Frederick hope to gain by learning how to read?
The key to freedom. He would be able to write his own pass.
7. Who teaches Frederick why black men are not taught to read?
8. Why is this lesson so important to him?
It tells him what he has do- learn!
9. Why is the life of a city slave so much better than the life of a plantation slave?
There is a lot of leaisure time, and there is always enough to eat. Also, there was a sense of shame
in punishing the slaves in the city.
10. Why does Frederick relate the story of the slaves Henrietta and Mary?
To show not all slave were treated kindly
1. How did Mrs. Auld change and why did she change?
Poison of irresponsible power
2. What plan did Frederick adopt to learn how to read now that Mrs. Auld was no longer teaching
He would bribe the poor little white boys into teaching him
3. Why is it ironic that he bribed the little white boys to teach him to read?
Because you don‟t expect a slave to be better off than a white boy at the time
4. What irony does Frederick find in this statement: “It is almost an unpardonable offence to teach
slaves to read in this Christian country.”?
A Christian country should want to teach people who are ignorant, but they do not
4. What did Frederick learn from the book “The Columbian Orator”?
A slave could argue his way into freedom by being more intelligent than his owner
6. How does Master Auld‟s prediction about Frederick and learning come true?
When he learns to read, he really more unhappy than he was before.
7. How does Frederick learn the meanings of the words abolition and abolitionist?
8. What do the two Irishmen encourage him to do? Why does he not trust them?
Run away, but he is scared they are tricking him.
9. How does Frederick learn to write?
He challenges the boys in town to a letter writing competition and then studies their handwriting
10.How does he trick the white boys into teaching him new letters?
He says- “I bet I can write better than you!”
1. Why was Frederick forced to return to the plantation after the death of his master?
To be valued
2. How was the value of the master‟s property determined? How were the slaves valued?
They were inspected with the other property
3. Why was the division of property between Mistress Lucretia and Master Andrew so horrifying to
Because Andrew was really horrible, so no one wanted to end up with him
4. What happened to Frederick‟s grandmother after the deaths of Lucretia and Andrew?
She was put out on her own to die
5. How does this anecdote help explain the value of slaves? How are slaves valued when compared
to livestock? [The ironic comparison of slaves to livestock is a continuous theme of the narrative.]
Again , the animals are treated better than the slaves
6. Who owns Frederick by the end of chapter eight?
7. Why is Frederick forced to leave Baltimore?
Because Thomas and Hugh got into a fight
1. Why does Frederick now know the date?
He can read the date on newspapers
2. Who is Frederick‟s newest Master?
3. What rule of slaveholding does Master Thomas Auld violate?
Not giving the salve enough to eat
4. How did the slaves get food?
5. Why does Frederick say that “adopted slaveholders are the worst”?
They are used to the rules of slaveholding, so they over compensate with meanness
6. What, according to Frederick, happens to Master Thomas Auld after his conversion to
He becomes worse because he feels that „ god is on his side‟
7. Why does Frederick find irony in the fact that the slaves sabbath school is discontinued?
They should want the salves to be Christians, but they don‟t
8. Why does Frederick let Master Thomas‟s horse run away?
So he can go down to a nearby farm and get food
9. Again, Frederick compares the treatment of slaves to the treatment of horses. How?
The horses have enough to eat and the slaves don‟t
10. How does Master Thomas propose to „break‟ Frederick?
Sending him to Mr. Covey
11. Why is the use of the verb „to break‟ ironic?
Because break means to destroy and it‟s doesn‟t seem like they would want to destroy the slave, just
12. Why was Mr. Covey‟s reputation for breaking slaves of great value to him?
He would get free labor out of it.
13. Why does Frederick suggest that Mr. Covey‟s “pious soul” adds to his reputation as a slave-
Because the religious slaveholders were the worst
1. Why does Mr. Covey whip Frederick?
Because he was awkward with the oxen
2. Why are the slaves so fearful of Mr. Covey? Why does their work go on in his absence?
He would sneak up on them to see if there were working
3. Why is it “never safe to stop a single minute” ?
Because Mr. Covey might be watching
4. What does Frederick mean by “Mr. Covey‟s forte consisted in his power to deceive”?
He can even lie to himself
5. Why does Mr. Covey buy a slave to use as a breeder?
Because he wants to create more slaves
6. Why does he hire Mr. Samuel Harrison, a married man? What irony does Frederick find in this?
He is supposed to be religious, and yet he making these people commit adultery
7. How does Mr. Covey succeed in breaking Frederick?
He breaks his spirit
8. How does Frederick succeed in again becoming a man?
He stands up for himself by not putting up with Mr. Covey‟s abuse
9. Why does Frederick go to Master Thomas Auld?
To lodge a complaint against Covey
10. Why does he return to Covey? Who convinces him to do so? What does Sandy Jenkins suggest
that Frederick do?
He is made to return by Capt. Auld. Sandy tell him he must return, but gives him a magical,
11. How does Frederick win the fight with Mr. Covey?
After two hours of fighting, Mr covey is whipped and fred. Is not
12. Why does Frederick contend that Mr. Covey does not turn him in?
He did not want to jeopardize his reputation
13. What would have happened to Frederick had Mr. Covey turned him in?
He probably would have been killed
14. Why is Frederick‟s battle with Mr. Covey “the turning-point in my career as a slave”?
He is never whipped again
15. How are the holidays used to “disgust the slave with freedom”?
The salves are deceived in believing that being drunk and sick is what freedom feels like
16. Where does Frederick go after leaving Mr. Covey‟s on January 1, 1834?
Mr. Freeland‟s farm
17. Who is his new master and how does he treat Frederick?
Mr. Freeland is kind, even though he works them hard
18. Why does Frederick include the anecdotes about the two religious slave holders Mr. Hopkins
and Mr. Weeden? What point is he attempting to make? To show that the „religious‟ people were
19. Why and where does Frederick begin a Sabbath school? Why is it essential that the slaves tell
no one about it?
The slaves were holding Sabbath school in a church in the woods, and they couldn‟t tell anyone
because they didn‟t want the overseers to know they were learning
20. What would the slaveholders like the slaves to do on the sabbath? Why is this ironic?
Drink and wrestle—it seems like they would want there to be more Christians, but they don‟t
21. Why does Frederick decide to include the slaves in his Sabbath school in his plans to obtain his
freedom? Why is this dangerous?
He loves them the more peole who know, the more of chance there is for the slaveholders to find
22. Frederick makes the point that many slaves would “rather bear those ills we had, than fly to
others, that we knew not of.” How does this help explain why so few slaves escaped?
They were afraid of what they did not know
23. How do the slaves plan to run away?
They were going to take a canoe up the river to Baltimore
24. What is the purpose of the “protections” written by Frederick?
The protections were supposed to serve a permission slips
25. What happens to their plan, and how do the “protections” nearly cause their deaths?
If they had been found, it would have proved Frederick was behind it
26. What happens to each of the slaves who attempted to run away?
They were brought home, except for Frederick
27. When Frederick returns to Baltimore, what does he do?
He is rented out to a shipyard
28. Frederick again decides to fight when he is attacked. What happens to him? What does Master
Hugh attempt to do for Frederick?
Frederick is blinded and beaten badly. High tried to have the attackers brought up on charges
29. What must Frederick do with the wages he earns each week as a caulker? Why?
Give them over to Hugh, because he had no rights to his own hard earned money.
1. For what two reasons does Frederick tell us that he cannot relate the means of his escape?
He wanted to protect the people who helped him and he didn‟t want to ruin it for the people who
might also escape
2. Why does he not approve of the underground railroad?
It is too well known
3. What does Master Hugh do to attempt to encourage Frederick to continue to earn money? What
effect does his encouragement have?
He gives him a cent on every dollar it only proves to Frederick that he should have it all
4. What does Frederick ask of Master Thomas? What is he told?
To hire out his time NO
5. What arrangement does Frederick eventually make with Master Hugh? Why is this arrangement
to Master Hugh‟s advantage? Why does Frederick agree to it?
High lets him hire his time and take care of himself. Hugh doesn‟t have to take care of Frederick
anymore and he still gets paid. Frederick does it because he wants to know what it is like to be free
6. What does Master Hugh do when he discovers that Frederick has left town to find work?
He stops him from hiring his time
7. Why does Frederick decide to work hard despite the dissolution of their agreement?
He doesn‟t want Hugh to suspect him of being discontented
8. When and to where does Frederick run away?
New York- sept.3, 1838
9. Why does he feel so lonely?
There is no one there to help him or to trust
10. Who helps Frederick in New York? How?
David Ruggles gives him passage to New Bedford
11. How is it possible for Frederick and Anna to marry? Why is their marriage such an important
Ruggles performs the wedding and it is the first legal document of Frederick‟s life
12. Why does Mr. Ruggles suggest that Frederick not stay in New York and go to New Bedford,
New York was not safe
13. Who helps Frederick and Anna in New Bedford? What does he do for them?
Mr. Nathan Johnson gives them food, shelter, and a new name
14. Why did Frederick change his name so many times? Who chooses Douglass? Why?
He did not want to be traced and Mr. Johnson gave him his new name
15. What had Douglass believed about life in the North? Was he correct? What does he find about
life in the North?
He thought the North was going ot be poor since they did not have slaves, but it was more wealthy
than the south
16. How were the wharves in New Bedford different from those in Baltimore?
Clean, quiet, beautiful Baltimore was loud and impoverished
17. What conditions did he find for “colored people”?
Some colored people were more wealthy than the whites
18. What does Douglass discover about prejudice against color in New Bedford?
There was still prejudice
19. How does Douglass make a living when he can‟t find work as a caulker?
Anything and everything chimney sweeping, oil delivering, saw horsing, etc
20. How does Douglass become known to the “anti-slavery world”?
He speaks at conventions
21.Why is Douglass at first reluctant to speak out against slavery?
He was still scared of being returned