Frederick Douglass was a powerful human rights leader during the anti-slavery movement. Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland. His mother died when he was ten years old. He lived with his maternal grandmother until he was chosen to live and work in the house of plantation owners.
During this period, educating slaves were strictly prohibited. Despite restrictions, Douglass refused to sit still, he received lessons from a slaveholder’s wife Sophia who taught him the alphabets and helped him to read and write. Then, the slaveholder Hugh Auld, told his wife not to teach him any longer, but Douglass continued to learn from the white children in the neighborhood.
Douglass constantly thought about freedom and escaping slavery. His master Auld was not happy with him and often found him unwilling to do the work. Therefore, Auld sends him to Covey, another slave master who was known for his reputation as the “slave breaker.” Covey was a land renter, he took slaves and disciplined them while they worked his land. Working under Covey was an intense psychological pressure for Douglass. He was often beaten with sticks or cow skins. Douglass was only 16 at the time when Covey’s constant abuse had him totally collapse.
One day, Douglass decided it was enough. He couldn’t take the beating anymore. He resisted and fought back with Covey and after that incident Douglass was never beaten again. He felt courageous and empowered, he became even more determined to fight for his freedom to escape slavery. Despite his failed attempts with his friends to escape from the slave owners, Douglass continued to try.
On September 3, 1838, Douglass finally boards a train from Baltimore and Ohio railroad station posing as a free black sailor. His soon to be wife Anna Murray, helped him with his final escape, provided him a sailor’s uniform and some money that she saved up. He carried a sailor’s pass as a identification that he borrowed from a free black seaman, which worked as a proof that Douglass was not enslaved.
Within 24 hours, Douglass made it safely to New York and to David Ruggles house who was an anti-slavery abolitionist. Douglass sheltered in Ruggles house for safety. Afterwards, Murray and Douglass got married and adopted the name “Johnson” to conceal the slave identity. Later on, they settle down in a Black prospering community in Massachusetts and adopted back “Douglass” as their married name.
September 3rd was a very significant day for Douglass that transformed his life forever. Douglass always recalled it as the day when his journey to free life began. He used the date to celebrate his unknown birthday for the rest of his life.