Fredrick Douglass Saturation Paper

TheReporter By TheReporter, 2nd Mar 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

A possible account of Fredrick Douglass's thoughts as he escaped from slavery.

The Breath of Freedom

The Baltimore sun seared my neck through the window while the humidity cooked my room to an unbearable ninety degrees (Douglass 45). I plopped down into my threadbare chair, pulling out the “The Columbian Orator.” As I slouched down, a noisy pounding of the old, wooden door startled me from deep reading. As I rapidly slammed the book shut, I hastily threw “The Columbian Orator” on a shelf hidden from view. Spinning around, I immediately straightened up at the sight of my wretched master. He commanded, “Go out to run the errands, Fredrick. Now!”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll be out in a minute, Master,” I replied.
“You better be,” as Master Auld left my bare, austere room. I yanked the book from shelf and popped it open, the pages crinkled and worn from heavy use. The Orator chronicled dialogues involving a large Southern landowner and his recaptured escaped slave, whose lucid antislavery arguments wins his freedom from his master. As I quietly enjoyed the fascinating book, Master Auld popped his head through the door, “Come out here now or I swear I will give you a good whipping!” he snapped, as he left the room.
If this slave can run away, I can, I contemplated. 1830…the year I discovered that I wasn’t locked in the prison of slavery my whole life. I could run away for a better life in the North (Douglass 49).

I stared up at the sign: “Trains to Havre de Grace,” and the date on the wall: “September 3, 1838” (“Fredrick Douglass”). Patiently waiting for the next train, I constantly looked out for slave catchers (“Escape From Slavery, 1838”). Clothed as a sailor to disguise my appearance, I wondered, Ugh, why is it still so chilly in September? ("Baltimore, Maryland (21201) Conditions & Forecast: Weather Underground"). As it rolled into the station, I jumped onto the train. Peering around the Negro train car, the black passengers kept their own business—reading books, staring outside the window at the passing city, chatting amongst themselves. They seemed calm and collected, as if it were a daily, everyday event. Shuffling past the other travelers, I settled into my seat—Row 5, Seat B—expelling a soft grunt in greeting to the weary, gray-haired black man next to me, whose face was rumpled like an old book.
Strutting into the train car, the angry, white conductor ordered the other Negro passengers to reveal their free papers, greatly disconcerting me and causing apprehension within me. Gazing at the description on the official looking document, I realized it was completely different from my appearance and stuffed it back in my pocket. When he strolled over to me, his mood completely changed as he saw I had not divulged my free papers. The conductor asserted, “‘I suppose you have your free papers?’
To which I answered, ‘No, sir; I never carry my free papers to sea with me.’
‘But you have something to show that you are a freeman, haven't you?’ the conductor replied.
‘Yes sir,’ I answered, ‘I have a paper with the American eagle on it, and that will carry me around the world.’” I exposed my sailor’s papers for the man to check, hoping the conductor wouldn’t notice the differences (“Escape From Slavery, 1838”). There is no one moment of my life that could be more crucial. If I’m lucky and the conductor scans the document, I’m a free man. If I’m unlucky and he scrutinizes it, I’m back to working in the fields for “slave-breaker” Covey (“Fredrick Douglass”). Oh please speed up, conductor, I thought. He scanned the papers and handed them back to me, failing to notice the differences in my appearance compared to the man described. Careful to detect he was out of range, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was on my way to Havre de Grace and freedom (“Race & Ethnicity: Douglass: My Escape from Slavery”).

New York. The mighty industrial city of the North. It took twenty-four hours, two train rides, and a ferry to get here, I sighed. I could blend in with the hordes of people, “like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway”. The final chain link between my slave life and my new one was broken. I was free. Free to become do anything I wished—practice law, preach, learn medicine…no man could ever identify me as his property again. (“Race & Ethnicity: Douglass: My Escape from Slavery”).


Fredrick Douglas, Freedom, Saturation Paper, Slavery

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author avatar TheReporter
Currently studying business at the University of California in Los Angeles.

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