Skip to main content

Collection Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

1818 to 1835

  • 1818

    Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, a slave, in Tuckahoe, Talbot County, Maryland. Mother is a slave, Harriet Bailey, and father is a white man, rumored to be his master, Aaron Anthony. He had three older siblings, Perry, Sarah, and Eliza.

  • 1819-23

    Raised by grandmother Betsey Bailey at Holme Hill Farm, where he was born; sees his mother only a few times.

  • 1820

    Sister Kitty is born.

  • 1822

    Sister Arianna is born.

  • 1824

    Moves to plantation on Wye River, where he lives with his siblings Perry, Sarah, and Eliza.

  • 1825

    Sees his mother for the last time.

  • 1826

    His mother dies.

    Sent to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld and his wife Sophia. His master, Aaron Anthony, dies late in the year; Frederick becomes the property of Thomas Auld, Anthony's son-in-law. Thomas Auld sends him back to Hugh Auld.

  • 1827

    Asks Sophia Auld to teach him to read. She does so until Hugh Auld stops them, believing that education makes slaves rebellious.

  • 1829-30

    Works in shipyard as general assistant; practices reading and writing in secret.

  • 1831

    Reads newspaper article on John Quincy Adams's antislavery petitions in Congress; learns of the abolitionist movement.

    Buys copy of a compilation of speeches, Caleb Bingham's The Columbian Orator, with which he hones his reading and speaking skills.

  • 1832

    Sister Sarah is sold to a planter in Mississippi.

  • 1833

    Sent to St. Michaels, Maryland, where he works for Thomas Auld. Tries to teach other slaves to read until Auld discovers it and stops him.

  • 1834

    Auld rents him out to farmer Edward Covey, known as a "slave breaker." He is beaten several times and finally fights back. Covey never tries to beat him again.

  • 1835

    Hired out to work for William Freeland, a Talbot County, Maryland, farmer. Secretly organizes Sunday school and teaches other slaves to read.

 Back to top