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PHOTO ESSAY

Frederick Douglass

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"The Fugutive's Song" (1845)

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Separated from his family at age six, Douglas spent the first twenty five years of his life as a slave in Maryland. His rebellion against slavery began while working as a domestic servant in Baltimore, when he taught himself how to read and write at age twelve and disobeyed his master by buying a book. Increasingly independent-minded, at age sixteen Douglass was subjected to brutal labor and merciless whippings at the hands of a slave breaker at his home in St. Michael's, Maryland. This treatment led Douglass to make a failed attempt to escape slavery in 1836, after which he was sent back to Baltimore to work as a caulker in the shipyards. It was from Baltimore, with the aid of his future spouse Anna Murray, that Douglass finally managed to escape slavery by masquerading as a free black merchant sailor. This image comes from a lithograph sheet music cover of "The Fugitive's Song," a piece dedicated to Douglass by the composer Jesse Hutchinson Jr., a member of a family of vocalists who were staunch abolitionists and antislavery lecturers. In it the young Douglass, dressed as a sailor, hides from the mounted men and dogs who pursue him, pointing to a sign labeled "New England."

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