Frederick Douglass: Letter “To My Old Master”

(1848)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

On the tenth anniversary of his escape from slavery, on September 3, 1848, Frederick Douglass penned a letter to his former slave master, Thomas Auld. The letter appeared in Douglass's weekly antislavery newspaper, the North Star, on September 8, 1848. Intended as antislavery propaganda and obviously for a wider reading audience, the letter offered Douglass an opportunity to expand on the details of his life in slavery. When Douglass's Narrative was published in 1845, he was still legally a fugitive, so his language was somewhat tempered. By 1848, however, Douglass was truly a free man and for a year had been acting as editor of his own antislavery newspaper. The letter to his former master allowed him to condemn all slaveholders through his attack on Auld. His words offered North Star readers a visualization of the horrors of slavery unlike any they had read in the past. “To My Old Master” is one of the most enduring critiques of...

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Frederick Douglass (Library of Congress)

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