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Frederick Douglass’s Emotional Meeting With His Former Slave Master

February 13, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Illustrations depicting Frederick Douglass's life from slavery to abolitionist. (Credit: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

As Frederick Douglass approached the bed of Thomas Auld, tears came to his eyes. He had not seen Auld for years, and now that they were reunited, both men could not stop crying. Douglass and Auld clasped hands and spoke of past and future, confronting death and reminiscing over their years of acquaintance and separation.

Auld wasn’t an old friend of Douglass’s—he was his former owner and master. But now, the two men stood on different terms. For years, Douglass had spoken out against Auld’s cruel treatment of himself and his family members, becoming one of the nation’s most recognizable abolitionists and advocates for equal rights for African-Americans. Now, with the abolition of slavery, Douglass could confront his former master without fearing arrest or re-enslavement.

The 1877 meeting was one of a series of moving encounters Douglass had later in life with those who once held him in bondage. Fraught with strong emotions and bitter memories, the meetings show how determined Douglass—one of the most morally and politically influential African-American public figures of the 19th century—was to confront the legacy of slavery in his own life, in private as well as in public.

Douglass, born into slavery in 1818 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, wasn’t always owned by the Auld family. After living with an aunt and his grandmother, he was sent to serve at the Wye Plantation in Talbot County, Maryland. There, he saw the brutality of slavery on full display. His owner and overseer, Aaron Anthony, fed slave children from troughs and mercilessly whipped slaves who did not obey his orders quickly enough.

Illustrations depicting Frederick Douglass’s life from slavery to abolitionist. (Credit: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

When Frederick was about 10, he was given to Anthony’s daughter, Lucretia Auld. She and her husband Thomas sent Douglass to serve his brother, Hugh, in Baltimore, where he learned to read while working as a house slave. In 1833, after Thomas and Hugh got in a dispute, Thomas took back the slaves. Douglass returned to Thomas’s estate the same year and resumed work as a field hand.

Thomas was a cruel master, starving and beating his slaves and breaking up their attempts to worship, read and write. He leased Douglass out to other masters who attempted to break his independent spirit with physical and emotional abuse. Eventually, Douglass returned to Hugh in Baltimore, fell in love and started …read more

Source: HISTORY

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