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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Questions

You should know the answers to all of these questions in order to make sure you are comprehending the book and also able to participate in Harkness discussions.  However, you do not need to turn in these answers.


Initial Questions:


1. What is a narrative?




2. Is this a primary or secondary source?  How do you know?




3. Who do you think this book was originally written for?  Why?




Chapter I (1)


1. Where and when (approximately) was Douglass born?




2. Discuss Douglass’ parentage.




3. What happens to Douglass’ mom?  Apparently, this practice was common among southern slaveholders.  What attitude does Douglass say it gave to slaves?




4. Law decreed that all children born to slave women, no matter the father, were to remain slaves.  How does this law benefit slave masters?




5.  Who is Douglass’ first master?  First overseer?  What seems to be the overseer’s job?




6. What is the first “bloody scene” of slavery that Douglass ever sees?  What happens?


Chapter II (2)


1. What is a sloop (use a dictionary!)?  In what business is the sloop involved on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation?





2. List the members and relations of Douglass’ master’s family.





3. What did children on the plantation wear?





4. Where did the children sleep?





5. What was Colonel Lloyd’s plantation called?





6. Why did the slaves sing?  What mistake did people in the North frequently make regarding slave songs?





7. What did Douglass first understand due to these songs?





Chapter III (3)


1. How did Colonel Lloyd deal with the slaves that took care of his horses?




2. How wealthy was Colonel Lloyd?  Give two to three examples.




3. When asked about his/her master, what did a slave usually say?  Why?





Chapter IV (4)


1. Describe Mr. Gore.




2. What was Mr. Gore’s maxim?  Why might he have practiced this?




3. Describe the situation between Demby and Mr. Gore.




4. What reason does Mr. Gore give for his treatment of Demby?  How does Mr. Gore seem to want slaves to think of him?




5. What happened to people who murdered slaves?  Why?




Chapter V (5)


1. How did the slave children eat?





2. How does Douglass get to leave Colonel Lloyd’s plantation?  Where does he go?  How is his new master connected to Captain Anthony?





3. Why was Douglass so excited to leave?  Why was it so easy for him to leave his home?

4. What surprised Douglass about Sophia Auld?





5. Why does Douglass describe his “departure from Colonel Lloyd’s plantation as one of the most interesting events” of his life?





6. To whom/what does Douglass credit his eventual freedom?





Chapter VI (6)


1. Describe Sophia Auld.  How and why does Sophia change?






2. Who begins to teach Douglass to read?






3.  Mr. Auld tells his wife, “if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him.  It would forever unfit him to be a slave.  He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.  As to himself… it would make him discontented and unhappy.”  Do you think there is truth in Mr. Auld’s words?  Why or why not?






4. What does Douglass realize after Mr. Auld’s speech?






5. How are city slaves treated as compared to plantation slaves?  Why is there a difference?

6. Describe Henrietta and Mary and their situation.





Chapter VII (7)


1. How does Douglass continue his education?






2. Why does the “Columbian Orator” and a copy of one of Sheridan’s speeches become so often read, and so important to Douglass?






3. Have you ever heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss?”  What does it mean?  How is this phrase proven true in this stage of Douglass’ life?






4. What word does Douglass become curious about?  What does the word mean? (use a dictionary if necessary!)






5. How does Douglass learn to write?




Chapter VIII (8)


1. Why is Douglass required to leave Baltimore?




2. At the valuation, why does Douglass suffer more anxiety than many of his fellow slaves?


3. What happens to Douglass’ grandmother?  Why does her treatment make Douglass especially angry?




4. Why is Douglass forced to permanently leave Baltimore?




Chapter IX (9)


1. Describe Douglass’ new master.




2. How does religion change Thomas Auld?




3. Why does Douglass frequently let his master’s horse run away?




4. Describe Mr. Covey.  Why does Douglass gladly take him as a temporary master?




Chapter X (10) (pages 69-102)


1. Why is Douglass first whipped by Mr. Covey?  Describe the scene.




2. Why does Mr. Covey buy the slave Caroline?




3. What are the first six months of Douglass’ stay with Mr. Covey like?




4. Douglass talks to the boats on the Chesapeake Bay.  What kinds of things does he say to them?  Why does he envy the boats?




5. Douglass spends several days avoiding Mr. Covey.  What happens?




6. What does Sandy Jenkins give Douglass?  Does it work?  Is there any logical reason for Mr. Covey to not whip Douglass that day?




7. What happens between Douglass and Covey on Monday morning?




8. After the Monday morning incident, why do you think Covey stops whipping Douglass?




9. Why are the next six months a turning point in Douglass’ life?




10. Why does Mr. Covey not take Douglass to the constable (police)?




11. What do slaves typically do over the Christmas break?  Why does Douglass think the white masters encourage these activities?

12. Why does Douglass say “I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me”?




13. When Douglass lives with Mr. Freeland, what does he do on the Sabbaths?




14. Why does Douglass think slaves came to his Sabbath meetings?




15. One myth of slavery is that slaves do not love each other.  What does Douglass say to prove this myth false?



16. What does Douglass plan with his fellow slaves?  Does it work?  Why or why not?  What happens?

17. Why does Douglass return to Baltimore?



18. What work does Douglass do while he lives in Baltimore?



19. How has Douglass’ attitude changed since he lived with Mr. Covey?



20.  Why can Douglass receive no justice when he is attacked by his fellow workers?



21. What trade does Douglass learn?



22. What about Douglass’ current experiences made him desire even more to be free?




Chapter XI (11) (pages 103-117)


1. Why does Douglass refuse to give the details about his escape from slavery?




2. What does Douglass ask Hugh Auld for?  Does Hugh agree?  What are his conditions?




3. Douglass leaves Baltimore without Master Hugh’s permission.  Douglass says, “I told him I hired my time, and while I paid him the price which he asked for it, I did not know that I was bound to ask him when and where I should go.  This reply troubled him; and, after reflecting a few moments, he turned to me, and said I should hire my time no longer; that the next thing he should know of, I would be running away.”  Why do you think Master Hugh is so troubled by what Douglass tells him?




4. For a while, Douglass stops working all together.  Then, for several weeks, he becomes very industrious (hard-working).  Why?




5. Why is it so difficult for Douglass to leave Baltimore?




6. How does Douglass feel in New York.  Why?




7. What does Mr. Ruggles do for Douglass?




8. To what city do Anna and Douglass travel?  Which state is it in? (you may need to look it up on the internet).



9. Why does Douglass take the name Frederick Douglass?




10. Why is Douglass surprised by New Bedford?




11. Why is he so excited to find New Bedford clean and wealthy?




12. How do blacks in New Bedford treat each other?  Give an example.




13. What job does Douglass take?  Why can he not get a job calking?




14. While in New Bedford, Douglass subscribes to a newspaper, “The Liberator.”  How does his paper effect Douglass?




15. What has Douglass begun to do by the end of this book?  How does he feel about it?




Follow-up Questions:


1. Examine the book’s bibliography.  How many books did Douglass write in his life?




2. What happens to Frederick Douglass after the end of his narrative?




3. What do you think the purpose of this narrative was?  Did Douglass meet that purpose?




4. Is this a good narrative?  Why or why not?