Portrait of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass and his Desire to be Free

Found in: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: From 1817-1882

Frederick Douglass sketches the stages on his road to literacy in the early chapters of his autobiography, Life and Times (1893). As a young slave, Frederick Douglass struggled with his place in the world.

Colonies, Slavery & Abolition

Although slavery was a delicate subject, and very cautiously talked about among grown-up people in Maryland, I frequently talked about it, and that very freely, with the white boys. I would sometimes say to them, while seated on a curbstone or a cellar door, “I wish I could be free, as you will be when you get to be men.” “You will be free, you know, as soon as you are twenty-one, and can go where you like, but I am a slave for life. Have I not as good a right to be free as you have?” Words like these, I observed, always troubled them; and I had no small satisfaction in drawing out from them, as I occasionally did, that fresh and bitter condemnation of slavery which ever springs from natures unseared and unperverted. (FROM [CHAPTER XI.: GROWING IN KNOWLEDGE) - Frederick Douglass