Saturday, January 28, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- On the Abolitionist Circuit
Immediately after the Nantucket meeting John A. Collins, general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, urged Frederick to become a touring speaker.  He would be paid at least what he already made in New Bedford and the Society would ensure his protection.  Frederick, flush from his triumph but nonetheless caution, agreed to try it for three months.  He would tour the eastern counties of Massachusetts with a white abolitionist.  The two of them would hold meetings at which both would speak with Frederick telling the same story he had told at Nantucket.  Afterward, they would try to sell subscriptions to the Anti-Slavery Standard and the Liberator.
The meetings went well.  In most of the towns that the two abolitionists visited, local abolitionists had arranged for the public meetings, had assembled the crowds, and were themselves speakers.  They were not the reason why most of the townspeople came to listen, however.  Few had ever seen a fugitive slave, none had actually heard one speak of his experiences.  Frederick Douglass did not disappoint them.  As the tour progressed, the public meetings became livelier.  New converts were made to the cause.  Soon John C. Collins, a more prestigious abolitionist, replaced George Foster as Frederick’s touring companion.
Amidst the seriousness of the cause, the two used humor.  Collins would point at the handsome and dignified young fugitive and, grinning, refer to him as a “thing, a piece of Southern property, a chattel.”  After an appropriate pause, he would say, “it could speak.”  After the laughter subsided, Frederick indeed did speak.
He was especially effective using his gift of mimicry.  He became the Southern minister, speaking to the slaves gathered below him.  “Servants, be obedient unto your masters,” he would intone.  “Oh, consider the wonderful goodness of God!  Look at your hard, horny hands, your strong muscular frames, and see how mercifully he had adapted you to the duties you are to fulfill!  While to your masters, who have slender frames and long, delicate fingers, he has given brilliant intellects, that they may do the thinking while you do the working.”  Invariably this parody caused wild cheering.
Frederick relished his new work.  It seemed to him that he had found at last his calling in life.  The suffering that he had endured and what he had become because of it were now the tools he would use in a cause that seemed more important than life itself.  In the company of the white abolitionists with whom he traveled and whom he met he sought to broaden himself.  He talked with them, analyzed their ideas, formed his own, read constantly.  As he continued to speak, he began to express these thoughts, along with the recital of his own slave experiences.  As he continued this trend, he discovered that his abolitionist friends were becoming increasingly disturbed.
Collins advised him, before the beginning of one meeting, to “stick to the facts”; he and the white abolitionists would provide “the philosophy.”  Parker Pillsbury advised that it was better to “have a little of the plantation” in his speech.  Garrison, himself, suggested that Frederick should not sound too “learned.”  Otherwise, people might not “believe you were ever a slave.”  Frederick, however, refused to accept the limited role his white companions apparently had prescribed for him.  His continued effectiveness as a speaker ultimately silenced their objections.  He always remained within the boundaries to Garrisonian doctrine—that slavery and all institutions that tolerated slavery, including government and the church, should be denounced, that slavery should be combated as a moral issue and could be eradicated only when humanity recognized it as a moral evil.  Still, Frederick would not permit his independent nature to be checked.
To the surprise of many, he contradicted, to some extent, some of the stereotypical propaganda the white abolitionists had leveled at white slaveholders.
He made it clear to his listeners that slaves, far from having been brutalized into stupidity, were consciously and acutely aware of their oppression.  They only “pretend to be stupid,” Douglass told the people of Hingham, as they “commit all sorts of foolery and act like baboons and wild beasts in [the] presence of their master; but every word is noted in the memory, and told to their fellow slaves.”  And he observed, “Waiters hear their masters talk at table, cursing the abolitionists, John Quincy Adams, &c.; the masters imagine that their poor slaves are so ignorant they don’t know the meaning of the language they are using” (McFeely 94).
If the white abolitionists were incorrect about matters he knew about from first-hand experience, Frederick was forthright in correcting them.  He was equally forthright in his observations about what he perceived to be a terrible evil in the North.
If only his South could be granted the “quietness” of emancipation, it would be preferable to the North.  Northern people, he told one audience, “say we [black slaves] could not learn if we had a chance … but … [Southerners] do not believe it, or they would not have laws … to prevent it.  The northern people,” he continued, “think that if slavery were abolished, we would all come north.  … We would all seek our home and our friends, but, more than all, to escape from northern prejudice, would we go to the south” (McFeely 95).
At another meeting he said,
“Prejudice against color is stronger north than south; it hangs around my neck like a heavy weight.  It presses me out from among my fellow men, and, although I have met it at every step the three years I have been out of southern slavery, I have been able, in spite of its influence, ‘to take care of myself.’”  … With vivid descriptions of beatings and of how families were torn apart by sales, he did establish that the South’s treatment of his people was far worse than that meted out to him in the North, but unlike many white abolitionists, he seldom allowed his audiences the comfort of thinking their region was innocent” (McFeely 94).
Whenever he traveled by train, as he now increasingly did, Douglass had to contend with racial segregation.
On September 8, 1841, Douglass and John A. Collins attempted to sit together as they traveled to an antislavery meeting in Dover, New Hampshire.  The conductor ordered Douglass to go into the “negro car.”  When he refused, the conductor called for help, and four or five men dragged him away from his seat; Collins was also knocked around in the process.  Toward the end of the month Douglass boarded a first-class car of the Eastern line … at Lynn and was again confronted by a conductor—perhaps the same one, and certainly one with whom he had had an earlier discussion.  When told to move, Douglass said quietly, “If you give me one good reason why I should …, I’ll go willingly.”  The conductor, trembling with anger, said, “You have asked that question before” and Douglass retorted, “I mean to continue asking the question over and over again … as long as you continue to assault me in this manner,” and he asked it again.  The conductor hesitated before finally blurting out, “Because you are black.”  Then he called for reinforcements to “snake out the d—d nigger.”  Douglass clutched the bolted bench with his stevedore hands, and when he landed back on the Lynn platform, he still had his seat.
Work cited:
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Book Review
One-Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Jim Fergus

All historical fiction writers depend on their readers’ willingness to suspend disbelief.  Most readers will tolerate one or two difficult-to-accept situations or coincidental happenings if the writing is good, the characters are well-crafted, and the story engages their emotions.  They will accept a lot if the story provides accurate information about the people and culture of the narrated time period.  With “One Thousand Women” I was not able to be that charitable.
The writing is competent. The characters are imaginatively conceived.  The author integrates informational content about Cheyenne culture in his narration.  I have several quibbles about the narration, but my major objection is that the story too frequently strains believability.
Mr. Fergus took a huge risk in determining the concept of this novel.  In his “Author’s Note” he states: in 1854 at a peace conference at Fort Laramie, a prominent Northern Cheyenne chief requested of the U.S. Army authorities the gift of one thousand white women as brides for his young warriors.  Because theirs is a matrilineal society in which all children born belong to their mother’s tribe, this seemed to the Cheyenne to be the perfect means of assimilation into the white man’s world—a terrifying new world that even as early as 1854, the Native Americans clearly recognized held no place for them.  … the Cheyennes’ request was not well received, the Cheyennes went home, and, of course, the white women did not come.  In this novel they do. 
The author has the Cheyenne chief’s request occur in 1874.  Chief Little Wolf offers one thousand horses for the one thousand white women “to teach us and our children the new life that must be lived when the buffalo are gone.”  President Grant and his advisors see possible practical benefit in accepting Little Wolfe’s offer.  Here might be a peaceful solution to “the still explosive situation on the Great Plains.  … Besides placating the savages with this generous gift of brides, the administration believed that the ‘Noble American woman,’ working in concert with the church, might also exert a positive influence upon the Cheyennes—to educate and elevate them from barbarism to civilized life.”  The consequent “Brides for Indians” program  would “supplement an anticipated shortage of volunteers by recruiting women out of jails, penitentiaries, debtors’ prisons, and mental institutions—offering full pardons or unconditional release, as the case might be, to those who agreed to sign on for the program.”  May Dodd, the novel’s protagonist, committed to a mental institution by her rich parents for living with a man of low economic and social station and for having given birth to two children, accepts the government’s offer.  Her journals of her experiences are the novel’s content.
I could not suspend my disbelief that such an attempt to assimilate such disparate cultures could actually happen.  I did let pass (but not by much) my skepticism that incarcerated women might be willing to become Indian wives in exchange for their release and that wealthy parents might be so cruel as to commit their wayward daughters to mental institutions to gain control of their infant grandchildren.
I plunged into the story hoping that the forthcoming story and the author’s narrative skill would overcome my imitial reservations. They did not.
The novel is 434 pages, too long I thought.  It is told in segments.  The wives do not meet their husbands until more than 100 pages are read.  We must read first May Dodd’s angst about being incarcerated in the mental institution, her separation from her children, her indecision about how complicit her lover was in the relinquishment of her babies, her acquaintanceship with the other future Indian wives, and her budding love affair with Captain Bourke, assigned to command the detachment of soldiers assigned to deliver the women to Chief Little Wolf.  I believe all of this could have been accomplished in half the space. 
Certain passages appealed to me.  I liked this subjective narration about May’s frustration of not knowing what her lover’s role was in her parents' custody-taking of his and her children.
God only knows what has become of you, Harry.  Did they kill you or did they pay you?  Did you die or did  you sell us to the highest bidder?  Should I hate you or should I mourn you?  I can hardly bear to think of you, Harry, without knowing … now I can only dream of someday returning to Chicago, after my mission here is fulfilled, of coming home to be again with my children, of finding you and seeking the truth in your eyes.
I accepted the author’s need to spice up (add additional conflict to) the first 110 pages by creating a love affair between May and the principled Captain Bourke.  Some of the narration, however, seemed florid, too sensuous.
Page 85 – I still stared at the horizon, but I could feel the Captain’s dark eyes on my face, the heat of his arm against mine.  My breath came in shallow draughts as if I could not take sufficient air into my lungs.  “It is late, Captain,” I managed to say.  “Perhaps we should take our stroll another time.”  Where our arms had touched and now parted it was like tearing my own flesh from the bone.
Page 110 – When John Bourke kissed me, I tasted the faint sweetness of whiskey on his lips, and felt his deep moral reluctance giving itself up to my more powerful need for him. I felt us both being swept away together, and I held tight, held on for dear life, as if only the contact of our bodies could fix me in this time and place, as if only when his flesh and mine became seamless, seared together as one, would I be truly anchored to this world, the only world I know.  “Will you show me now, John,” I whispered into his mouth, “dear John, will you show me now,” I implored, “how a civilized man makes love?”
This one-time consummated love affair produces, improbably, May’s entirely white “Cheyenne” child.  The author thereby places in the reader’s mind – in a counterfeit way, I believe -- additional concern about probable disastrous outcomes.
I did like how the white women and May were assimilated rather easily into Little Wolf’s tribe.  Most of the natives were accepting and the white women were surprisingly adaptive.  All the white women were expected to learn their gender-determined domestic tasks and to work as hard as the native women.  Rather quickly, the white women developed an appreciation of the Cheyenne people.  May makes this comment on the day of her marriage.
… there is a universality to poverty that transcends culture; just as in our own society, there are among the savages both rich and poor—those who are successful hunters and providers who live in well-appointed lodges with many hides and robes and have a good string of horses, and those who have little and depend on the largesse of their neighbors.  And never have I seen a more generous, selfless people than these.  I believe that those unfortunates who came to our lodge that night … were the families of men who had been killed in battle, or possibly the families of some of those poor wretches whom we had encountered at the forts—the drunk and beggars who had deserted their wives and children.
During the large middle section of the novel, the author must sustain the reader’s interest.  He does this by inventing incidents – some credible, some, in my opinion, not so credible -- that characterize what we consider flaws of Native American culture. The Native American villain of the novel -- half-breed Jim Seminole -- buys whiskey from a trading post and, with destructive intent, distributes it to the men of the tribe.  Violent, destructive actions result.  Sometime afterward, the warrior element of the tribe raids a Crow village and brings back many horses.  Later, retaliating, Crow warriors abduct many of the white women, who are subsequently rescued by their husbands.  Lives are lost including a white women.  Much later, a band of Cheyenne warriors attack a Crow village and return with ten cut-off hands of Crow babies, done ostensibly to celebrate the birth of May’s baby and to ensure that the Cheyenne tribe would dominate the Crow in the future.
Given what actual history tells us of the conflict between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government and Army in the 1870s, we know before we start reading that the white women’s habitation with the Cheyenne tribe would be brief in duration.  The author uses the improbable relationship of May and Captain Bourke to inform us of that fact.  Concerned about May’s peril, Bourke, who is a harsh critic of Indian ways, warns May through a trusted messenger that the government has rescinded the Brides for Indians program and that independent tribes like Little Wolf’s must locate on designated reservations or be militarily destroyed.  Consequently, May must determine what to advise her honorable husband: remain strong and independent and fight injustice or be realistic, accept reservation habitation, and save many lives.  The issue of believability again intrudes.
“One Thousand White Woman” has its good sections.  I applaud the author for his research and his ambitious undertaking.  Too many perceived implausibilities and event contrivances, however, limited my enjoyment of the novel.      

Friday, January 13, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- Birth of an Abolitionist
Established as a lay preacher, Douglass was beautifully positioned to be a leader in the honorable, relatively safe, correct black community of New Bedford.  By 1841, the Douglasses had moved from a small house in the rear of 157 Elm Street into a larger house at 111 Ray Street.  Secure employment, even of an almost dignified sort, could be counted on in the prosperous town, which provided schools for black children.  The Douglasses already had two; by the summer of 1841 a third was on the way.  Anna had her garden, Frederick his violin on which to play the Handel, Haydn, and Mozart in the music books he had brought with him.  This was a world, shorn of slavery, … a world into which she fit comfortably.  Her husband, already respected in the black community, could have reasonably aspired to being the second African American member of the library society.  The Douglasses had the makings of an exemplary American family, one that was getting on well.
But soon Douglass was restless for something more than the respectability of black New Bedford.  The churches not only gave their members religious nourishment but also provided them with the opportunities to raise their confidence by talking together of both personal and public concerns.  … Temperance … was among the chief of the public concerns.  So was antislavery, but many proper black church groups shunned it as too controversial.
This refusal to face what he knew from experience to be an evil troubled Douglass.  … On March 12, 1839, at a church meeting where the respectable subject of colonization was being debated, Douglass had risen and, assailing the idea of shipping slaves to Africa, had spoken of what slavery was like and why slaves should be set free, right here in America.
If making the speech felt good, reading the notice of it in William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator may have been even more exhilarating.  With this brief item, the world took note of Frederick Douglass.  At another meeting, attended largely by white antislavery New Bedford people, Thomas James [minister of the New Bedford Zion church] was making an address when he spotted Douglass in the audience, and he called on him to “relate his story.”  This time Douglass did not simply assail colonization, but told of his own experiences as a slave (McFeely 82-83).
A few months after Frederick and Anna had arrived in New Bedford, a young man had come to the Douglass house “selling subscriptions to William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator.
Douglass tried to get rid of the agent.  When the fellow persisted, he had to reveal that he had just escaped from slavery and was still hard pressed to earn enough money to support himself and his wife.  On the strength of this the young man decided to enter a subscription for the foundry worker without payment of the fee.
Douglass was entranced by Garrison’s paper.  Not only did he pour over it in his spare time at home, but at the foundry he devised ways of propping a copy before him as he worked the bellows.  The picturesque denunciations of oppressors, the passionate cries for human brotherhood, the rebukes to hypocrisy in church and state, … everything about the Liberator stirred Douglass’s blood.  Garrison became his teacher, his hero, his idol.  When he finished with a copy of the Liberator, its contents had been practically memorized (Bontemps 24).
On April 16, 1839, Garrison came to New Bedford to speak to an integrated audience in Mechanics Hall.  Seated well back in the gallery, Frederick saw Garrison for the first time.
Here was the young crusader who had been thrown into a Baltimore jail for accusing a ship owner of carry slaves in his vessel, who ten years ago, while still in his twenties, had begun publishing the Liberator in a dingy third-floor in Boston, setting the old secondhand type himself and running it on a press he had bought at a bargain.  Here was the American who for his convictions had been dragged through Boston streets and with a rope tied around his neck and for whose arrest and conviction the state of Georgia was ready to pay $5,000.  He it was who had given words to ageless human agony when he put the following paragraph in the first issue of his paper:
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity?  I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice.  On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak with moderation.  No!  No!  Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; … I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.
Douglass was thrilled.  It seemed to him that Garrison was uttering “the spontaneous feeling of my own heart” (Bontemps 27-28).
Garrison returned to New Bedford six weeks later to speak at Liberty Hall.  Douglass again attended.  The meeting was thrown open for discussion, and the twenty-four-year-old Douglass stool up.  Somehow he had begun to feel that he too must be heard.  His words on this occasion was not preserved, but in the report of the meeting which Garrison sent back to the Liberator, he took occasion to mention “several talented young men from New Bedford, one of them formerly a slave whose addresses were listened to by large and attentive audiences with deep interest” (McFeely 85).
Frederick had attracted the attention of William C. Coffin, a bookkeeper in the Merchants Bank, a trustee of the Social Library, a Quaker, and a member of the vast Coffin family of Nantucket.  A staunch abolitionist, Coffin wanted many people outside of New Bedford to heard Frederick speak of his experiences.  Consequently, Coffin persuaded Frederick to attend a great mid-summer meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society on Nantucket Island.
Now, when Coffin spotted the young black man among the people walking in from the packet, he made his way through the crowd to welcome him, defying the unwritten rule of social separation of the races.  As they walked along, Coffin invited him to rise in the meeting and, in the tradition of the Friends, to speak if it seemed right to him to do so.  Coffin had already alerted the organizers of the meeting that the remarkable young runaway might be so moved.  … Several of the great luminaries of the American Anti-Slavery Society were to be seen at the front of the congregation; Garrison … and Wendell Phillips, the patrician orator whom some thought greater than Garrison, and a host of other abolitionist leaders… (McFeely 86-87).
The summer evening’s light was failing as Frederick sat summoning his courage to rise, to speak.  It was a moment of great importance, of great emotion, for him when finally he did so.  Everyone in the room strained to make out the chiseled features of the young man’s face and to hear his words, which, in his unease, he was stammering.  Some later recalled that he had been confused; others spoke of his embarrassment.  He himself said in retrospect that of the hundreds of speeches he had made, it was the only one from which he could “not remember a single connected sentence.”
His first phrases were the apologies of the novice, but then all that he had taught himself with The Columbian Orator, all that he had had within him from the start, poured forth.  The Quaker quiet in the room was cut through with an electricity of excitement that everyone from twelve-year-old Phebe Ann Coffin to her most somber, senior relative would never forget.  With intense concentration, these New Englanders heard Frederick telling them about his life.  It was the story of a runaway slave, yes, but it was his story.  He was telling it, he was calling himself into being, and people—people he had never seen before, white people, important people—were listening (McFeely 88).
William Lloyd Garrison, deeply moved by Frederick’s words, rose to speak when the young man had finished.  For a time he could not be heard above the commotion in the hall.  Finally, he gained the attention of the animated audience.
“Have we been listening to a thing, a chattel personal, or a man?” he asked.  “A man!  A man!” the audience shouted with one accord.  “Shall such a man be held a slave in a Christian land?” called out Garrison.  Anna Gardner, who was to be Douglass’s loyal friend for the rest of their long lives, remembered the whole scene. ”No! No!” shouted the audience.  Raising his voice to its fullest note, he again asked, “Shall such a man ever be sent back to bondage from the free soil of old Massachusetts?”  With a tremendous roar the whole assembly sprang to its feet and continued shouting, “No!  No!  No!”  Garrison’s voice was lost in their vehemence.
As he sat there in the Big Shop, surrounded by standing, cheering champions, Frederick knew a triumph so intense, so total, that he would spend his entire life seeking to sustain it.  He had spoken, he had been heard.  What was more, the man in the world he most admired, “taking me as his text,” had spoken words “of unequaled power, sweeping down, like a very tornado, every opposing barrier.”   And great men pressed forward to shake his hand—Garrison, Phillips, knew him, and he knew them.  Never again would he be anonymous (McFeely 88-89).
Works cited:
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frederick Douglass -- New Bedford Life
Frederick Douglass was surprised at what he saw of the houses and the docks of New Bedford.  He had been taught that those who did not own slaves were of the lowest economic station.  In the slave-free North he had expected to “meet with a rough, hard-handed, and uncultivated population, living in the most Spartan-like simplicity, knowing nothing of the ease, luxury, pomp,, and grandeur of southern slaveholders.
In the afternoon of the day when I reached New Bedford, I visited the wharves, to take a view of the shipping.  Here I found myself surrounded with the strongest proofs of wealth.  Lying at the wharves, and riding in the stream, I saw many ships of the finest model, in the best order, and of the largest size.  Upon the right and left, I was walled in by granite warehouses of the widest dimensions, stowed to their utmost capacity with the necessaries and comforts of life.  Added to this, almost every body seemed to be at work, but noiselessly so, compared with that I had been accustomed to in Baltimore.  There were no loud songs heard from those engaged in loading and unloading ships.  I heard no deep oaths or horrid curses on the laborer.  I saw no whipping of men; but all seemed to go smoothly on.  Every man appeared to understand his work, and went at it with a sober, yet cheerful earnestness, which betokened the deep interest which he felt in what he was doing, as well as a sense of his own dignity as a man.  To me this looked exceedingly strange.  From the wharves I strolled around and over the town, gazing with wonder and admiration at the splendid churches, beautiful dwellings, and finely-cultivated gardens; evincing an amount of wealth, comfort, taste, and refinement, such as I had never seen in any part of slaveholding Maryland.
Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful.  I saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and bare-footed women.  … But the most astonishing as well as the most interesting thing to me was the condition of the colored people, a great many of whom, like myself, had escaped thither as a refuge from the hunters of men.  I found many, who had not been seven years out of their chains, living in finer houses, and evidently enjoying more of the comforts of life, than the average of slaveholders in Maryland. 
I found employment, the third day after my arrival, in stowng a sloop with a load of oil.  It was new, dirty, and hard work for me; but I went at it with a glad heart and a willing hand.  … It was the first work, the reward of which was to be entirely my own.  … I worked that day with a pleasure I had never before experiences.  I was at work for myself and newly-married wife.  It was to me the starting-point of a new existence (Douglass 115-116, 117).
Two days later “He saw a pile of coal that had been unloaded in front of an attractive home.  Douglass … dressed for dirty work … went around to the back door and asked the woman in the kitchen if he might put the coal away for her.
“What will you charge?” she asked.
“I’ll leave that to you, madam.”
When the work was finished, the Reverent Peabody’s housekeeper placed two silver dollars in Douglass’s blackened hands, and he drifted away on a cloud. …
... Someone mentioned a ship which Rodney French, a wealthy antislavery men, was fitting out for a whaling voyage.  A big job of calking and coopering remained to be done on the vessel, work for which Douglass was amply qualified and for which the prevailing wage in New Bedford was two dollars a day.  The owner, to whom Fred applied, agreed to hire the newcomer and directed him to the float-stage where the work was in progress. …
Heads began to wag ominously as he approached the ship.  Though no objections were raised in New Bedford when Negro children attended public schools with whites, though a warm and friendly attitude existed toward black people generally, though a Negro who informed on a runaway slave had recently found it advisable to leave town to escape public indignation, and though many of the most influential citizens were outspoken of the slave’s cause, another attitude—less talked about in public, perhaps—came to the surface when Douglass met the white men of his trade in the shipyard.  He couldn’t work there as a caulker, they informed him bluntly.  He couldn’t do any skilled work on French’s vessel or any other.  If he struck one blow at his trade, every white man engaged on the ship would walk off and leave it unfinished.  They had no personal objection to the black men, but he would have to do unskilled work for which the wage was one dollar a day instead of two (Bontemps 19, 20-21).
… Having been taught a lesson about bigotry in the free North, Douglass took the dollar-a-day mob.
More day-labor jobs followed: “I sawed wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars, moved rubbish from back-yards, worked on the wharves, loaded and unloaded vessels, and scoured their cabins.”  The Douglasses were desperately poor the first winter.  There was little work then for a male day laborer, and Anna, pregnant, was not working.  In the spring, the docks grew busy and jobs were plentiful.  For a time, Frederick worked the bellows in Richmond’s brass foundry.  Finally, he reached out again to the Quaker merchants and obtained a steady job with set wages in the whale-oil refinery of one of his companions on the coach [which took him and Anna to New Bedford that first day], Joseph Ricketson.  Moving the casks of oil “required good wind and muscle,” which Douglass proudly remembered, he had in full measure.  He felt pride in his body as he gained the respect of his fellow “all white” workers:  “I soon made myself useful, and I think liked by the men who worked with me.”
Children are born; dates are given—Rosetta on June 24, 1839, and Lewis Henry sixteen months later on October 9, 1840—but we are told little about the events. 
Frederick and Anna Douglass seemed to be settling permanently into New Bedford’s black community.  Initially, maintaining his commitment to the Methodist Church, even though he had to sit in the galley.  But one Sunday, having come downstairs and waited while the white communicants took the sacrament, he saw how the unctuous Revered Isaac Bonney, looking toward “the corner where his black sheep seemed penned,” called them forward separately and condescendingly.  Thomas Auld’s hypocrisy seemed on display once more.
Frederick then turned far in the other direction; he was drawn to the “deep piety” and the ‘high intelligence” of the Reverend William Serrington at New Bedford’s Zion chapel, a congregation in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination, founded by black Methodists in New York City late in the eighteenth century.  The Zionists … had broken away from the white Methodists churches because they were relegating blacks to back pews and generally and increasingly making them unwelcome.  The Zion chapel, which held its meetings in a schoolhouse on Second Street, was to be the Douglass family’s anchor in New Bedford: “the days I spent in little Zion, New Bedford, in the several capacities of sexton, stewart, class leader, clerk, and local preacher … [were] among the happiest days of my life” (McFeely 80, 81, 82).
Works Cites:
Bontempts, Arna, Free at Last, the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1971.  Print
Douglass, Frederick.  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.  Print.
McFeely, William S.  Frederick Douglass.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.  Print.