1838 – Frederick Douglass escapes from slavery

September 3, 2022

On September 3, 1938, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery at Covey's farm, disguising himself as a sailor. While in captivity, he performed forced labor at Baltimore's shipyards. And during the daring escape, he acquired papers from a freed black sailor to help through the journey.

Douglass's primary leverage was his knowledge of ships' parts, and he could fluently talk like a sailor. After being a freeman and at Twenty Seven years (in 1845), he started raising money in Ireland to support his anti-slavery campaign and stir up rebellion.

But perhaps the biggest win for the war on slavery was Britain's ban on the practice and the US 13th amendment that officially banned slavery, freeing over 100,000 enslaved people from Kentucky to Delaware.

Fun Facts:

  • This was not Douglass’s first attempt at escaping. He was bold with his captures and even fought the notorious “slavebreaker” Edward Covey. Douglass remarks, “This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free.”
  • Douglass successfully escaped from Covey's farm in 1938, boarding a nearby train. After leaving Covey's farm, Douglass boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland. Then he traveled through Delaware, which was also a slave state. And finally, he ended up in New York, where Abolitionist David Ruggles made a haven for formerly enslaved people.
  • The American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1933, the same year that Britain also outlawed slavery.
  • Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and write and spent time helping other slaves become literate. He even wrote an autobiography titled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
  • Frederick Douglass was originally Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He asked his friend Nathaniel Johnson for help changing his last name. Johnson took inspiration from Sir Walter Scott’s poem Lady in the Lake.

2 Comments

  1. Terry Hoffman

    While a student at Cal State Fullerton in CA in a American History we learned the facts of US history. I read Fredrick Douglas book , I was forever transformed and my mind was remodeled learning the horrible suffering of the Black slaves on American soil. It’s clear and heart breaking the covert and overt institutional violence toward this group of people. All this has led to complex social problems on every level.

    Reply
  2. Heather

    There is a reference to 1938 instead of 1838 in the article which should be updated.

    Reply

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