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."