Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 148 pages of information about Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did any thing very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant.  The dictionary afforded me little or no help.  I found it was “the act of abolishing;” but then I did not know what was to be abolished.  Here I was perplexed.  I did not dare to ask any one about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about.  After a patient waiting, I got one of our city papers, containing an account of the number of petitions from the north, praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and of the slave trade between the States.  From this time I understood the words abolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow-slaves.  The light broke in upon me by degrees.  I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, I went, unasked, and helped them.  When we had finished, one of them came to me and asked me if I were a slave.  I told him I was.  He asked, “Are ye a slave for life?” I told him that I was.  The good Irishman seemed to be deeply affected by the statement.  He said to the other that it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should be a slave for life.  He said it was a shame to hold me.  They both advised me to run away to the north; that I should find friends there, and that I should be free.  I pretended not to be interested in what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand them; for I feared they might be treacherous.  White men have been known to encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and return them to their masters.  I was afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but I nevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to run away.  I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape.  I was too young to think of doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass.  I consoled myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance.  Meanwhile, I would learn to write.

The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey’s ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters, after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended.  When a piece of timber was intended for the larboard side, it would be marked thus—­“L.”  When a piece was for the starboard side, it would be marked thus—­“S.”  A piece for the larboard side forward, would be marked thus—­“L.  F.”  When a piece was for starboard side forward, it would be marked thus—­“S.  F.” 

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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