"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" by Frederick Douglass, Chapters 9 -10

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. subsist
    support oneself
    There were four slaves of us in the kitchen--my sister Eliza, my aunt Priscilla, Henny, and myself; and we were allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal per week, and very little else, either in the shape of meat or vegetables. It was not enough for us to subsist upon.
  2. destitute
    completely wanting or lacking
    Bad as all slaveholders are, we seldom meet one destitute of every element of character commanding respect.
  3. sanction
    official permission or approval
    I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty.
  4. sagacity
    the ability to understand and discriminate between relations
    He could not come among us without betraying his sympathy for us, and, stupid as we were, we had the sagacity to see it.
  5. pernicious
    exceedingly harmful
    My city life, he said, had had a very pernicious effect upon me.
  6. trifle
    waste time; spend one's time idly or inefficiently
    Just as I got into the woods, he came up and told me to stop my cart, and that he would teach me how to trifle away my time, and break gates.
  7. discordant
    not in agreement or harmony
    To show himself independent of me, he would start and stagger through with his hymn in the most discordant manner.
  8. forte
    an asset of special worth or utility
    Mr. Covey's forte consisted in his power to deceive.
  9. languish
    become feeble
    My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!
  10. wretched
    very unhappy; full of misery
    Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition.
  11. turbid
    clouded as with sediment
    O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go!
  12. goad
    provoke as by constant criticism
    Thus I used to think, and thus I used to speak to myself; goaded almost to madness at one moment, and at the next reconciling myself to my wretched lot.
  13. epoch
    a period marked by distinctive character
    The circumstances leading to the change in Mr. Covey's course toward me form an epoch in my humble history.
  14. entreat
    ask for or request earnestly
    In this state I appeared before my master, humbly entreating him to interpose his authority for my protection.
  15. solemnity
    a trait of dignified seriousness
    He told me, with great solemnity, I must go back to Covey; but that before I went, I must go with him into another part of the woods, where there was a certain ROOT, which, if I would take some of it with me, carrying it ALWAYS ON MY RIGHT SIDE, would render it impossible for Mr. Covey, or any other white man, to whip me.
  16. insurrection
    organized opposition to authority
    From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection.
  17. calamity
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    Were I to be again reduced to the chains of slavery, next to that enslavement, I should regard being the slave of a religious master the greatest calamity that could befall me.
  18. presumptuous
    going beyond what is appropriate, permitted, or courteous
    Does he ever venture to suggest a different mode of doing things from that pointed out by his master? He is indeed presumptuous, and getting above himself; and nothing less than a flogging will do for him.
  19. imprudent
    not wise
    I held my Sabbath school at the house of a free colored man, whose name I deem it imprudent to mention; for should it be known, it might embarrass him greatly, though the crime of holding the school was committed ten years ago.
  20. smite
    inflict a heavy blow on, with the hand, a tool, or a weapon
    When I think that these precious souls are to-day shut up in the prison-house of slavery, my feelings overcome me, and I am almost ready to ask, "Does a righteous God govern the universe? and for what does he hold the thunders in his right hand, if not to smite the oppressor, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the spoiler?"
  21. imbue
    fill or soak totally
    I therefore, though with great prudence, commenced early to ascertain their views and feelings in regard to their condition, and to imbue their minds with thoughts of freedom.
  22. beckon
    appear inviting
    On the other hand, away back in the dim distance, under the flickering light of the north star, behind some craggy hill or snow-covered mountain, stood a doubtful freedom--half frozen-- beckoning us to come and share its hospitality.
  23. perdition
    the place or state in which one suffers eternal punishment
    I felt myself surrounded by so many fiends from perdition.
  24. hector
    be bossy towards
    ...they commenced making my condition as hard as they could, by hectoring me around, and sometimes striking me.
  25. redress
    a sum of money paid in compensation for loss or injury
    Master Hugh, finding he could get no redress, refused to let me go back again to Mr. Gardner.

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