"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" by Frederick Douglass, Chapters 5-8

Written by the influential abolitionist, Douglass's autobiography bears witness to the horrors of slavery. Read the full text here.

Here are links to our lists for the text: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-8, Chapters 9-10, Chapter 11 and Appendix

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. impose
    inflict something unpleasant
    He would not allow the older boys to impose upon me, and would divide his cakes with me.
  2. devour
    eat greedily
    The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons.
  3. relish
    derive or receive pleasure from
    I looked for home elsewhere, and was confident of finding none which I should relish less than the one which I was leaving.
  4. consolation
    the comfort you feel when soothed in times of disappointment
    If, however, I found in my new home hardship, hunger, whipping, and nakedness, I had the consolation that I should not have escaped any one of them by staying.
  5. prosperity
    the condition of having good fortune
    Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.
  6. manifestation
    an indication of the existence of some person or thing
    I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me, and marked my life with so many favors.
  7. abhorrence
    hate coupled with disgust
    I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.
  8. lacerate
    cut or tear irregularly
    He is a desperate slaveholder, who will shock the humanity of his non-slaveholding neighbors with the cries of his lacerated slave.
  9. odium
    state of disgrace resulting from detestable behavior
    Few are willing to incur the odium attaching to the reputation of being a cruel master; and above all things, they would not be known as not giving a slave enough to eat.
  10. emaciated
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    Henrietta was about twenty-two years of age, Mary was about fourteen; and of all the mangled and emaciated creatures I ever looked upon, these two were the most so.
  11. depravity
    moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles
    She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness.
  12. chattel
    personal as opposed to real property
    In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so.
  13. pious
    having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
    When I went there she was a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman.
  14. urchin
    a poor and often mischievous city child
    This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.
  15. orator
    a person who delivers a speech
    Just about this time, I got hold of a book entitled "The Columbian Orator."
  16. emancipation
    freeing someone from the control of another
    The slave was made to say some very smart as well as impressive things in reply to his master--things which had the desired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master.
  17. vindication
    the act of defending against criticism or censure
    What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights.
  18. writhe
    move in a twisting or contorted motion
    As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing.
  19. abolition
    doing away with a system or practice or institution
    From this time I understood the words ABOLITION and ABOLITIONIST, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow-slaves.
  20. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    I left Baltimore with a young heart overborne with sadness, and a soul full of apprehension.
  21. indelicate
    slightly indecent, offensive, or improper
    There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination. Silvery-headed age and sprightly youth, maids and matrons, had to undergo the same indelicate inspection.
  22. sunder
    break apart or in two, using violence
    A single word from the white men was enough--against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties--to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings.
  23. profligate
    recklessly wasteful
    He was known to us all as being a most cruel wretch,--a common drunkard, who had, by his reckless mismanagement and profligate dissipation, already wasted a large portion of his father's property.
  24. loathing
    hate coupled with disgust
    If any one thing in my experience, more than another, served to deepen my conviction of the infernal character of slavery, and to fill me with unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their base ingratitude to my poor old grandmother.
  25. barbarity
    the quality of being shockingly cruel and inhumane
    And, to cap the climax of their base ingratitude and fiendish barbarity, my grandmother, who was now very old,... her present owners finding she was of but little value, her frame already racked with the pains of old age... they took her to the woods, built her a little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and then made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness; thus virtually turning her out to die!

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