Notes on Characters from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Major Characters

Frederick Douglass: Author of the narrative, he recounts the journey from his days in slavery to his eventual escape to freedom. Writing as an abolitionist, he decries the practice of slavery and depicts the dehumanizing effects of slavery on both the slaves and the slaveholders. His narrative is a first-hand, eyewitness account of his experiences as a slave. His father is rumored to be a white man, perhaps even his first master, Captain Anthony. Through many trials and ordeals, Douglass goes from a slave boy on a Southern plantation to the greatest ex-slave orator of the abolitionist movement.

Captain Anthony: Frederick Douglass's master and rumored to be his father, he is a small-time slaveholder with three farms and about thirty slaves. He is the superintendent for the rich landowner, Colonel Lloyd. Captain Anthony has two sons, Andrew and Richard and one daughter, Lucretia. Captain Anthony is a cruel man. Douglass's first horrifying experience of slavery is when Captain Anthony whips his Aunt Hester. When Captain Anthony passes away, Douglass is taken into the possession of Mrs. Lucretia Auld.

Captain Thomas Auld: Mrs. Lucretia's husband, young Douglass is sent to Baltimore to live with Captain Thomas Auld's brother, Hugh Auld. Two years after Mrs. Lucretia's death, Thomas has a falling out with his brother and takes Douglass back to live with him at St. Michael's. Captain Thomas Auld is an incompetent slaveholder who has neither the ability nor courage to hold slaves. At a religious meeting he 'finds religion' and becomes extremely religious. However, Douglass sees no change in his depraved nature and considers him a religious hypocrite. After Douglass's unsuccessful attempt to escape, Captain Auld sends him back to his brother Hugh in Baltimore.

Colonel Lloyd: A rich landowner in Talbot County, he owns about four hundred slaves in more than twenty farms. He lives in a place called the Great House Farm, where all transactions take place. Slaves from the surrounding farms consider it the highest honor to serve in the Great House Farm. Colonel Lloyd owns so many slaves that he does not know them all and they all do not know him. Douglass spends a part of his childhood at the Great House Farm running errands for Ms. Lucretia Auld and Master Daniel Lloyd, Colonel Lloyd's son.

Mr. Austin Gore: The man who replaces Mr. Hopkins, Gore has all the qualities of a first-rate overseer: ambition, discipline, and workmanlike severity. Mr. Gore shoots and kills a slave named Demby because he would not listen to his warnings. He defends himself by making the argument that if slaves are not punished for disobedience, it will be mean the end of slavery. His explanation is accepted and his reputation as a quality overseer spreads.

Mr. Hugh Auld: The brother of Thomas Auld, Douglass is sent to live with Hugh in Baltimore where he spends seven years before he is sent back because of a dispute between the brothers. After an unsuccessful escape attempt at St. Michael's, Douglass is sent back to Hugh. When Douglass first arrives in Baltimore, Mr. Auld rebukes his wife for teaching Douglass how to read. On Douglass's second stay in Baltimore, Mr. Auld trains him in the calk trade. Douglass detests giving up his weekly pay to his owner.

Mrs. Sophia Auld: The wife of Mr. Hugh Auld. When she first meets Douglass, she greets him with a kind face and a smile. She treats him like a human being and even begins to teach him how to read. But after getting rebuked by her husband for teaching Douglass how to read, she turns from a gentle soul to a cruel slaveholder. Douglass uses her case to point out that slavery has a menacing effect on both the slaves and the slaveholders.

Mr. Edward Covey: A farm renter with a reputation for being a 'nigger breaker.' Captain Thomas Auld makes Douglass work for him so that he can be broken. Mr. Covey is known as 'the snake' because it is his nature to deceive. He is a hard worker and he makes his slaves work hard by sneaking up on them. For the first six months, Douglass suffers greatly under Mr. Covey. After one severe beating, Douglass tries to seek shelter from Master Thomas but to no avail. He decides then to fight back if attacked. After a two-hour battle with Mr. Covey, Douglass gets the better of him. As a result, Douglass becomes a true man, not fearing anyone. For the next six months, Douglass is not beaten again.

Mr. William Freeland: After his service to Mr. Covey, Douglass goes to work for Mr. Freeland, a fair and respectable slaveholder. Douglass considers Mr. Freeland the best master he had before becoming his own master. Unlike many slaveholders, Mr. Freeland has no religious pretensions. While working for Mr. Freeland, Douglass tries an unsuccessful escape with two of Mr. Freeland's slaves. Mr. Freeland's mother blames Douglass for corrupting the minds of her slaves.

Minor Characters

Harriet Bailey: Frederick Douglass's mother, she is described as being dark. As was the custom, Douglass is separated from his mother as an infant. She makes several twelve-mile trips to see her son. She dies when Douglass is about seven years old, but he does not get to go to her burial.

Isaac and Betsy Bailey: Frederick Douglass's grandparents, they are described as being dark in color. Betsy Bailey raises Douglass until he is old enough to live at Colonel Lloyd's plantation. Douglass regards the treatment of his grandmother as one of the greatest injustices of slavery.

mulatto: Term for children of mixed races. There is a growing number of mulatto children from slave women and their white masters. White mistresses especially treat mulatto children harshly. They are sold by their masters who are, in many cases, also their fathers.

Hester: Douglass's aunt, she is a woman of few superiors in appearance. She is severely beaten by Captain Anthony for being with a slave named Ned Roberts, whom he has forbidden her to see. Captain Anthony ties her up and whips her. For Douglass, it is the first time experiencing the barbarity of slavery.

Ned Roberts: A slave of Colonel Lloyd, he is referred to as Lloyd's Ned. Douglass's Aunt Hester is forbidden to see him. She is severely whipped for being found with him.

Andrew: Captain Anthony's eldest son, he is a cruel and heartless man. After his father's death, he beats Douglass's brother and warns Douglass that he will receive the same if he comes under his possession. He dies shortly after Douglass goes back to Baltimore.

Richard: Captain Anthony's youngest son, he dies before his father does, leaving the rest of the estate to his brother, Andrew, and his sister, Lucretia.

Lucretia: Captain Anthony's daughter, she is married to Captain Thomas Auld. As a young boy, Douglass runs errands for Mrs. Lucretia. After the death of her father, Douglass comes under her possession. She sends him back to Baltimore, to her brother-in-law, Mr. Hugh Auld. She dies shortly after Douglass goes to Baltimore.

Mr. Severe: An overseer at the Great House Farm, he dies shortly after young Douglass arrives. A cruel man known for constantly swearing, the slaves consider his death an act of merciful divine providence.

Mr. Hopkins: The overseer of the Great House Farm, he is the replacement for Mr. Severe. Mr. Hopkins is quiet, reserved, and fair; the slaves consider him a good overseer. Mr. Gore replaces him, perhaps because he lacks the severity Colonel Lloyd looks for in an overseer.

Old and Young Barney: Father and son slaves of Colonel Lloyd who are given the task of maintaining the prized stable of horses, they are constantly beaten for any reason, often at the whims of their white masters.

Jacob Jepsen: A slave owner whose slaves often get into arguments with the slaves of Colonel Lloyd over which master is better. Jacob Jepsen's slaves claim that their master can lick Colonel Lloyd and Colonel Lloyd's slaves argue that their master is richer than Jacob Jepsen is.

Demby: A slave that is shot to death by Mr. Austin Gore for trying to avoid getting whipped. There is no legal action taken for his death.

Master Daniel Lloyd: Colonel Lloyd's son, on the Great House Farm. Young Douglass spends most of his leisure time going hunting with Master Daniel Lloyd.

Cousin Tom: Douglass eagerly anticipates his arrival in Baltimore because of the good things he hears from Cousin Tom. Cousin Tom tells him that Baltimore is more splendid and majestic than anything he has seen in Talbot County.

Thomas: The son of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld, he is of grammar school age when Douglass begins his quest to learn how to read. Douglass uses Thomas's copybook to also learn how to write.

Henrietta: Douglass acknowledges that in Baltimore, slaves are treated more humanely than in the country. Henrietta is an exception, as her mistress constantly whips her.

Mary: Along with Henrietta, Mary is another slave girl in Baltimore who is constantly whipped. She is so often mistreated that she is known as 'pecked' rather than by her name.

white kids (in Baltimore): Douglass befriends as many white kids around the neighborhood as he can so that he can receive reading and writing lessons from them. He develops many friendships and although he wants to acknowledge some of them by name, for their sake he refrains.

two Irishmen: Two Irishmen that Douglass helps at the wharf. When they find out that he is a slave, they urge him to escape. Douglass sets it upon his heart to do what these two Irishmen advise.

Whittier : Out of all the injustices of slavery, Douglass finds that the way his grandmother is treated toward the end of her life is the cruelest. He quotes Whittier's poem about slavery, relating the line 'Gone, gone, sold and gone...' to his grandmother's fate in seeing her children and grandchildren taken away from her.

Mr. George Cookman: After Captain Thomas Auld's religious conversion, he hosts many preachers at his house. The slaves are most fond of Rev. George Cookman who is known to have convinced a rich slaveholder to emancipate his slaves. When he is around, the slaves pray that he can do the same for them.

Mr. Wilson: A young white man, he sets up a Sabbath school for the slaves to learn about the New Testament. After a few meetings, religious folks wielding sticks and weapons forcefully shut down the school.

Henny: A lame slave girl that Captain Thomas Auld considers a burden, after unsuccessfully trying to give her away, he throws her out to fend for her self.

Master William Hamilton: Captain Thomas Auld's father-in-law. Douglass allows the horses to get lost so that he can make his way to Master William Hamilton's house to get something to eat.

Caroline: A slave woman whom Mr. Covey purchases as a breeder, she is forced to shack up with another slave for the purpose of getting her pregnant. She gives birth to twins and Mr. Covey considers them a welcome addition to his wealth.

Sandy Jenkins: A superstitious old slave who advises Douglass to carry a certain root by his side for protection against Mr. Covey. At Sandy's persistence, Douglass tries it and it seemingly works that Sunday. However, the effect of the root does not last long as Mr. Covey attacks Douglass the next day.

Mr. Rigby Hopkins: A reverend, who Douglass considers the greatest religious hypocrite, Mr. Hopkins is known to beat his slaves any chance he gets and justifies it through religion.

Henry Harris: A slave of Mr. Freeland, Douglass finds him to be of noble spirit and integrity. When a betrayer foils their escape plan, Henry refuses to be tied up and it takes several men to subdue him. Meanwhile, Douglass is able to rid himself of the fake pass.

John Harris: Another slave of Mr. Freeland, he is part of the group that attempts an escape.

Henry Bailey: Douglass's uncle, he is one of the slaves Douglass recruits to escape with him.

Charles Roberts: Douglass's uncle-in-law, he is part of the group of slaves that attempts an escape.

Betsy Freeland: Mr. Freeland's mother, she hands Henry Harris and John Harris some biscuits as they are taken away to jail. She then blames Douglass for corrupting them into wanting to escape.

Mr. David Ruggles: An abolitionist, he helps Douglass during his uncertain time in New York. Ruggles advises Douglass to settle in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

abolitionists: People committed to the emancipation of slaves. After his escape to the North, Douglass receives assistance from many abolitionists. Douglass himself becomes a world-renowned abolitionist.

Anna: Douglass's wife, she is a free woman in Baltimore before they are married.

Mr. and Mrs. Nathan: Abolitionists who aid Douglass in settling down in New Bedford. Mr. Nathan gives Douglass, who is previously known as Frederick Johnson, the surname 'Douglass.'

Mr. William C. Coffin: An abolitionist who, at a meeting in Nantucket, encourages Douglass to speak in front of a white audience for the first time about his experiences as a slave.

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