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CamWinstead at Apr 28, 2021 04:37 PM




Loneliness and Insecurity--"Allender's Jake"--Succored by a Sailor--David Ruggles-
Marriage--Steamer "J. W. Richmond"--Stage to New Bedford--Arrival There--Driver' s
Detention of Baggage--Nathan Johnson--Change of Name--Why called "Douglass"--
Obtaining Work--The Liberator and its Editor.

My free lite began on the third of September, 1838. On the morning of the
4th of that month, after an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I
found myself in the big city of New York, a free man; one more added to the
mighty throng which like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to
and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway. Though dazzled with the won-
ders which met me on every hand, my thoughts could not be much with-
drawn from my strange situation. For the moment the dreams of my youth,
and the hopes of my manhood, were completely fulfilled. The bonds that
had held me to "old master" were broken. No man now had a right to call me
his slave or assert mastery over me. I was in the rough and tumble of an
outdoor world, to take my chance with the rest of its busy number. I have
often been asked, how I felt, when first I found myself on free soil. And my
readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my
exrerience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new
world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the "quick round
or blood," I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a
time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter
mitten to a friend soon after reaching New York. I said: "I felt as one might
feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions." Anguish and grief, like dark-
ness and rain, may be depicted: but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy
the skill of pen or pencil. During ten or fifteen years I had, as it were, been
dragging a hea,y chain, which no strength of mine could break: I was not
only a slave, but a slave for life. I might become a husband, a father, an aged
man, but through all, from birth to death, from the cradle to the grave, I had
felt myselfdoomed. All efforts I had previously made to secure my freedom,
had not only failed, but had seemed only to rivet my fetters the more firmly,
and to render my escape more difficult. Baffled, entangled, and discour-
aged, I had at times asked myself the question. May not my condition after
all be God's work, and ordered for a wise purpose, and if so, was not submis-
sion my duty? A contest had in fact been going on in my mind for a long
time, between the clear consciousness of right, and the plausible make-shifts
of theology and superstition. The one held me an abject slave--a prisoner