Study Guide

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Chapter 8

By Frederick Douglass

Chapter 8

  • Douglass is just getting used to life in Baltimore when suddenly everything is turned upside down. His master Anthony dies without leaving a will saying where all his property is to go.
  • The problem is not that Douglass is expecting to inherit anything, of course. It's that Douglass is going to be inherited. Remember, he's considered property.
  • Before the slaves can be sold, however, they have to figure out how much each one is worth. So the slaves are marched out and lined up to be evaluated alongside all the cows, pigs, and horses.
  • Naturally, Douglass isn't particularly pleased at being treated like a piece of cattle. But the worst is yet to come. Once the slaves have been assigned dollar values, they are all divided up between the heirs and sent away to new homes. Families are divided and friends separated, never to see each other again.
  • The slaves are frightened to death of being bought by a harsh master. Douglass is particularly worried, since his time in Baltimore had showed him what it's like to be treated kindly. He is lucky and gets sent back to the family he'd been living with in Baltimore. Phew!
  • His grandmother, however, is not so lucky. After working like a dog her whole life, she now has to watch her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren being sold away from her, never to be seen again. She never even gets a chance to say goodbye.
  • Grandmother herself was not valuable enough to sell. So instead of selling her, they simply turned her out into the woods to fend for herself. Not surprisingly, Douglass is quite angry about this.
  • For reasons that aren't too important, Douglass is sent from his master in Baltimore to another master out in the country. When he finds out, he wishes he had tried to escape, since it's much harder to escape in the country than in a big city like Baltimore.