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A Classic Essay by Frederick Douglass, American Slave

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Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) eventually became a major leader of the civil rights movement in the United States. In this narrative passage from Chapter 10 of his first autobiography, Douglass recounts "the turning-point" in his "career as a slave." Refusing to take further abuse from Edward Covey, a farmer who had a reputation as a "slave-breaker," the 16-year-old Douglass rebelled--and in so doing renewed his "determination to be free."

from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave*

Written by Himself

I have already intimated that my condition was much worse during the first six months of my stay at Mr. Covey"s than in the last six. The circumstances leading to the change in Mr. Covey"s course toward me form an epoch in my humble history. You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man. On one of the hottest days of the month of August, 1833, Bill Smith, William Hughes, a slave named Eli, and myself, were engaged in fanning wheat. Hughes was clearing the fanned wheat from before the fan, Eli was turning, Smith was feeding, and I was carrying

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