Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Frederick Douglas: Slave, Writer, Abolitionist

Frederick Douglas: Slave, Writer, Abolitionist

Brenda Haugen
For ages 12 and up
Compass Point Books, 2005   ISBN: 978-0756508180

Frederick Augustus Washington was born into slavery in February, 1818. No one wrote down the date so Frederick never knew when his exact birthday was. Slaves were considered property and barely human so writing down the birthdates of slave babies was not something the masters bothered with. Early on Frederick was taken away from his mother and he, along with many other slave children, was raised by his grandmother.

When he was only eight years old Frederick was taken to the big house to begin working. He was too young to toil in the fields, but he still was given a great deal to do around the house and in the gardens. He was thrilled when his master decided to send him to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld, the brother of one of his master’s in-law relations. Frederick hoped that the conditions in Auld’s house would be better.

The Auld’s were, on the whole, kind to the little boy. Mrs. Auld in particular took a liking to him. She taught him to read and write until her husband told her that she could not longer do so. Learning to read opened up Frederick’s horizons enormously and he began to fully appreciate the injustice of his situation. He began to think about running away but before he could do so he was sent back to his master in Maryland. His master then sent him to work on Thomas Auld’s farm. Thomas was terribly cruel and at one point he even sent Frederick to a “slave breaker” whom he hoped would beat the spirit out of Frederick. The “slave breaker” did not succeed, and when Frederick was sent back to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld again, Frederick carefully planned his escape.

Thanks to the help of kind abolitionists, Frederick ended up in New York. He was able to send for his wife Anna – who was a freed slave – not long after his arrival, and then the couple, using the name Douglass, moved to Bedford, Massachusetts. It was here that Frederick began the work that would one day make him famous – writing and speaking in public about the plight of the slaves.

This well written book not only tells the story of Frederick Douglass’ life. It also paints a picture of what it was like to be a slave, and it gives readers a very clear portrait of what life in America was like in the 1800’s. The book if full of illustrations and informative boxes which break up the text nicely and which add to information provided in the main text.

This is one of the titles in the “Signature Lives” series.