A Speech by Fredrick Douglass
How many of you here today, know when your birthday is? Almost everyone. I do not know the exact date on which I was born (1). When I was young, I overheard my master say that I was born around 1818 but the day or even the season I am not sure of (1). How many of you know who your parents are? Again, almost everyone does. I only saw my mother a hand full of times during my entire life (2). We were separated at birth so I would grow up without her. So that I wouldn’t make any ties to her. However, some nights she would walk twelve miles just to lye next to me at night, but she’d be gone by the morning. When I heard that she had died, I felt no more remorse than I did for a stranger’s death. That’s what she was to me, a stranger (3). My father was said only to be a white man and there was talk that he was my master (2). However, the law stated that the child would be born in to the mother’s social position, not the fathers. So, the horrible act of raping their own female slaves was beneficial to the slave owners. It increased their number of slaves(3).
My first master was Colonel Lloyd (7), and under him I worked under three overseers while I was at Great House Farm. The first was a man named Mr. Severe and so rightly he was named that (9). He was a cruel man and a profane swearer and I remember seeing him whip a woman in the presence of her children. The second was a man with a much kinder disposition, Mr. Hopkins, who took no pleasure in whipping the slaves (10). I guess my master didn’t think he was cruel enough because he didn’t stay there long. He was replaced by Mr. Gore a cruel, proud, and ambitious man that was perfect for the job (18). I remember one account where a Slave by the name of Demby was whipped horribly then ran into the creek to sooth the pain. Mr. Gore gave him three chances to come out of the creek, and when Demby refused, Mr. Gore murdered him. The crime wasn’t...