Frederick Douglass was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in February 1818. He was named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. His mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave on a plantation in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Douglass and his mother belonged to Aaron Anthony who was the plantation superintendent and probably was his father. He did not have much contact with his mother who was hired out to a neighboring plantation. She was only able to visit on a few occasions because the twelve-mile journey was too far to travel on a regular basis and probably tired her out.
As a young boy, Douglass lived with his grandparents until he was six. He was then sent to live on the Lloyd Plantation. Where he stayed until he was sent to Baltimore when he was eight years old. In Baltimore, he lived with Hugh and Sophia Auld. At his new home, Sophia Auld began to teach him to read. However when her husband found out he did not allow it and she stopped.
Despite this setback, Douglass had a revelation about slavery when he overheard Hugh Auld explain to his wife about why she should not teach him to read. Auld explained that "if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him" and he would "become unmanageable, and of no worth to his master." According to Douglass: "I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty -- to wit the white man's power to enslave the black man.... From that moment. I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom." He realized that there was power in learning to read.
Douglass became determined to learn to read. He studied every chance he got. He learned from white playmates he met on the street. He carried bread with him to give to the poor hungry ones in exchange for their help. He later learned to write by watching carpenters initial shipbuilding wood. He mastered the letters by challenging his playmates ability to write better then him. Additionally he learned by copying the letters from Webster's Spelling-Book and...