In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass explains his life as a slave and how he uses his education and remarkable ability of speaking to influence the freedom of all slaves. Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland and was taken away from his mother, Harriet Bailey, at a young age. His father was a white man who could have been his master but he never found out for sure. Although Douglass has no real proof of his age, he believes he was around twenty- seven or twenty-eight when he began writing his narrative. .
Douglass had two masters during his years as a slave, the first of who was known as Captain Anthony. This master had an overseer named Mr. Plummer who watched over the slaves. Douglass describes Plummer as "a miserable drunkard, a profane swearer, and a savage monster" (41). The slaves on Anthony's farms received a small monthly allowance of food and so little clothing that children often had to run around naked. No beds were supplied, only coarse blankets. Mr. Severe, another one of Anthony's overseers, was a cruel and heartless man. He whipped slaves for no reason and seemed to get joy out of it. Mr. Hopkins, who was a very different man, then replaced Mr. Severe. He was not as brutal as Mr. Severe and only whipped slaves when he felt it was necessary, but took no joy in it. The slaves considered Mr. Hopkins a good overseer but his time there was short. Not only did overseers treat slaves differently, but also some masters were more hostile than others. Douglass was just a child when he worked on Colonel Lloyd's plantation. Colonel Lloyd was another very cruel man compared to Hopkins. He would tar his gardening fence just to keep the slaves from eating his fruit. This is also the man that that whipped Douglass's aunt so brutally that he will never forget the impression it left. Douglass recalls "after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor"(43).