Frederick Douglass -- Aunt Katy and Daniel
I need to differentiate now the white people that possessed legal authority to determine the course of Frederick Douglass’s early life.
master, was an important employee of Colonel Edward Lloyd, a former Maryland governor and senator. Anthony, once the master of the Sally Lloyd, the sloop that carried
Colonel Lloyd’s abundance of crops, tobacco, corn and wheat to market at U. S. Baltimore, was at the time of ’s arrival the overseer of Lloyd’s
vast land holdings and some 1,000 slaves.
Anthony and his family lived in the Wye House, a cottage on the spacious
grounds of the main Lloyd estate not far from the Great White House, where
Lloyd frequently lodged and entertained important guests. Frederick
Anthony had three grown children: two sons, Andrew and Richard, and a daughter, Lucretia, who was married to a Thomas Auld. Thomas and Lucretia, who would eventually own
Frederick, would impact
The Anthonys kept apart from Colonel Lloyd and his family, they being of a subservient class. Anthony’s slaves at the Wye House were expected as well to separate themselves from the slaves of the Colonel. When Anthony rode out each morning to adjacent farms to do his work, he left behind the tyrannical slave cook. Aunt Katy, to administer his dictates.
“Aunt Katy stood in the long tradition, both fictional and all too real, of cooks who tyrannized the families they defiantly served.” If she was related to
, it was a distant
relationship. “Women and men who
presided over critical plantation enterprises, like the laundry sheds,
carpentry shops, and harness rooms, were called ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ often by
their owners and always by the younger slaves.
Katy’s particular authority, if limited, was great. As Douglass put it, ‘What he [Anthony] was to
Col. Lloyd, he made Aunt Katy to him.’
She ruled Anthony’s household with an iron hand. ‘Ambitious, ill-tempered and cruel,’ she was
responsible not only for her own children, but for the young Baileys in the
Anthony household” (McFeely 18). Isolated
from the Lloyds, the Anthony children, even though they were young adults, were
intimidated by Katy as well. Frederick
At one time
slept on the floor of a closet in her kitchen.
He ate mush with an oyster shell or a piece of shingle from a wooden
trough with the other slave children, “like so many pigs. … He that ate fastest got most.” When he was too aggressive, Katy punished him
either by whipping him or by sending him away from the food. Soon he became a primary target of her
One reason undoubtedly was the consequence of a chance visit of
mother, Harriet, to Katy’s kitchen.
Other than this one encounter, Frederick
would only remember seeing his mother five or six times during the two year
period he lived at Wye House, and always in the middle of the night. Harriet Bailey was a field hand, hired out to
the owners of adjacent farms, one man, a Mr. Stewart, fourteen miles away. “… a whipping is the penalty of not being in
the field at sunrise, unless a slave has special permission from his or her
master to the contrary-a permission which they seldom get … She would lie down with me, and get me to
sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.
Very little communication ever took place between us. Death soon ended what little we could have
while she lived. … I was not allowed to
be present during her illness, at her death, or burial. She was gone long before I knew any thing
about it” (Douglass 22). Frederick
On this one last afternoon visit, Harriet discovered that
had been denied food the entire day.
“With fiery indignation” Harriet told Katy never to deny Frederick food again; and
then, in the slave woman’s own kitchen, Harriet made Frederic a sugar
cake. Upon her lap he ate his cake, “a
king upon his throne.” It was the last
time he saw her. It was an experience
that stoked the cook’s resentment of him (McFeely 19). Frederick
The childless Lucretia Anthony Auld, captive by circumstance in her father’s house, made this relationship even worse. Lucretia “was allowed by Katy little to do. … Finding
companion, she made something of a pet of him, and when she too discovered him
to be hungry, she got food to the child, thereby increasing Katy’s ire. Katy had in some way twisted her resentment
of a cheating world into an almost pathological need to abuse Frederick .
She wanted no one in her charge to outstrip her own children or herself
in importance in the household; it was as if by withholding food she was
starving a rival into puniness and insignificance” (McFeely 21). Frederick
A third reason for Katy’s persecution was that
refused to stay
away from the Lloyd slaves and the great house of the master. The magnificent garden with its exotic trees
and strange fruit, the graveyard, and the imposing house were irresistible
temptations for a young boy of imagination and intelligence. Frederick
Daniel, laden with privilege, may have been almost as lonely amidst the crowd of people at the great house as
was. Far younger than his siblings, he
had no peers. The nearest neighbors of
the Lloyds’ rank, if any there were, were miles away. The boy surely could not play with the
children of the overseers. The only
appropriate companion, paradoxically, was a slave, who could present no threat
of encroachment on Lloyd superiority since his position was unequivocally
fixed. Although Daniel was five years
older than Frederick ,
the two boys probably achieved their friendship on their own (McFeely 12). Frederick
wrote, “he became quite attached to me, and was a sort of protector of me. He would not allow the older boys to impose
upon me, and would divide his cakes with me” (Douglass 43). In return, during most of his leisure time, Frederick went hunting
with Daniel and helped retrieve the birds that the white boy shot. Frederick
I was seldom whipped by my old master, and suffered little from any thing else than hunger and cold. I suffered much from hunger, but much more from cold. In hottest summer and coldest winter, I was kept almost naked-no shoes, no stockings, no jacket, no t rousers, nothing on but a coarse tow linen shirt, reaching only to my knees. I had no bed. I must have perished with cold, but that, the coldest nights, I used to steal a bag which was used for carrying corn to the mill. I would crawl into this bag, and there sleep on the cold, damp, clay floor, with my head in and the feet out. My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes (Douglass 43).
The real benefit of
friendship with Daniel was that he had opportunities to exercise and develop
his intelligence. Already acknowledged
as a skillful mimic of farm animals before he was brought to Wye House, Frederick learned the
speech patters of the privileged beings residing in the Great White House, and
he amused Anthony’s slaves with this mimicry as well. When the Lloyds hired a New England tutor,
Joel Page from Frederick Massachusetts, to refine and
culture their son,
learned as well the speech characteristics of the educated Northerner. Frederick
He was ceaselessly curious about this world from which he was excluded (McFeely 22).
At the age of seven
had seemingly decided that he would not be what his master, Aunt Katy, and the
system of slavery insisted he had to be. Frederick
of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.
McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass.
, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991. Print. New