Fredrick Douglas is one of the most popular abolitionists who lived in the 19th century and is one of the fathers of the abolitionist movement. His biography titled The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas is one of the most popular books written by a former slave. Douglas succeeded in escaping slavery and there are many factors that helped him to escape slavery as outlined in the book.
As a slave, Douglas was treated cruelly by his masters just like the other slaves and he made several attempts to escape, some of which were not successful. Unlike many other slaves, Douglas was well educated. His first master was kind enough to give him basic education and also treated him very well. However, the master realized the disastrous effects of having a slave educated very late when Douglas was already enlightened. The master, therefore, cut short the education he was receiving but Douglas had received enough education that would later enable him to further his cause. The enlightenment he got from the little education he got was very important in his future and the future of the other slaves. The enlightenment enabled him to view the situation of the slaves critically and he did not like the treatment of the black slaves. He courageously pointed out the evils of slavery and reacted boldly to the barbarism of the masters. This made him unpopular with most of his masters because he would always incite other slaves against the masters. He became the most hated slave and would be mistreated by the masters because they feared that his influence would create a revolution.
Douglas’ thirst for education often led him to trick young educated white boys who would educate him during his free time and the lessons he got from the boys were very invaluable. He was the only slave who was literate and this was one of the factors that enabled him to resist the barbarism of the white men. His first attempt to escape slavery was aided by his literacy skills. During this attempt, he forged some notes which he used to escape the persecution that he was undergoing at the hands of his cruel masters.
Another factor that helped Douglas to escape slavery was the encounter with one of his worst masters called Mr. Covey. Covey would beat Douglas so much that at times he developed a sore back. Douglas could not stomach the barbarism of his new master and one day he rose and fought against the master in a battle he easily won though they fought for almost an hour. This victory gave Douglas a renewed sense of freedom and energy. This was the turning point in his life because the master started respecting him and the rekindled embers of freedom made him start campaigning for the better treatment of the slaves.
After his second attempt to escape, Douglas was incarcerated for seven days before being sent to Baltimore where he was given more mature responsibilities that enabled him to become independent (Douglas 44). He learned very many trades that even helped him to make some money. He would hire himself out to calk boats and he became responsible for his own upkeep in Baltimore. This sense of freedom gave him a lot of pleasure but there was something that troubled him; his master wanted a portion of the income he made and he felt that this was quite unjust. Forfeiting some of his earnings to someone else was a great injustice and this energized him to create means which he eventually used to escape this servitude in Baltimore.
Another thing that helped Douglas in his attempts to escape from bondage was religion. Douglas was not religious and he hated religion mainly because his worst masters were very religious while his best masters did not profess any religion. Therefore he saw a lot of hypocrisy in religion and was very averse to religion. His literacy enabled him to see the levels of hypocrisy in religion. Religion was used to subjugate the slaves. The slaves were taught by their owners that servitude and obedience were the principles of religion and this was one of the key factors that kept them in servitude and bondage. However, Douglas was clever enough to know that the bible also stressed independence, equality, and freedom and therefore understood that the slave owners taught the bible selectively to the slaves to further their own interests. The understanding of these principles made Douglas a rebel who often criticized religion for its role in the mistreatment and the subjugation of the slaves. The hypocrisy of religion was one of the areas that the abolitionist led by Douglas himself used to attack and he used his knowledge and wisdom to enlighten the slaves on their rights. His bashing of religion proved to be more influential in ensuring his freedom and the freedom of the other slaves because the attacks he directed at the church made the slave owners, most of whom were senior church leaders to loosen their grip on the slaves.
His public speaking skills and courage also influenced his escape from slavery and his abolitionist campaigns. Douglas would often address the slaves to enlighten them though at times the presence of the white masters during these forums was meant to limit his speech. However, his boldness would make him go beyond the limits and the public forums proved to be the most important tool that helped the abolitionist movement to succeed. His writings were even more influential especially the periodical he used to write before he eventually wrote his autobiography. Douglas eventually escaped from bondage and this helped him to fully participate in the abolitionist movement that led to the freedom of many other slaves in America at the end of the 19th century (Douglas 67).
It is therefore important to note that there were more than three factors that helped Douglas to escape slavery at the height of the abolitionist movement in the United States of America. One of the most influential factors that helped him in his escape was education. All the other factors were driven by the enlightenment he got from the exposure to education. His education enabled him to critically analyze the hypocrisy of the religion and address the issues that were affecting the slaves boldly. Without the education, he would not have learned the trades that enabled him to be independent in Baltimore. Education was therefore the key to his freedom. All the other factors he credits were enabled by his literacy which really enlightened him.
Douglas, Fredrick. Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas. New Jersey: Pearson Books, 1979.