"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" by Frederick Douglass, Chapter 11 and Appendix

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

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definitions & notes only words
  1. vigilance
    the process of paying close and continuous attention
    Secondly, such a statement would most undoubtedly induce greater vigilance on the part of slaveholders than has existed heretofore among them; which would, of course, be the means of guarding a door whereby some dear brother bondman might escape his galling chains.
  2. suppress
    control and refrain from showing
    I deeply regret the necessity that impels me to suppress any thing of importance connected with my experience in slavery.
  3. exculpate
    pronounce not guilty of criminal charges
    I would allow myself to suffer under the greatest imputations which evil-minded men might suggest, rather than exculpate myself, and thereby run the hazard of closing the slightest avenue by which a brother slave might clear himself of the chains and fetters of slavery.
  4. emphatically
    without question and beyond doubt
    I have never approved of the very public manner in which some of our western friends have conducted what they call the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, but which I think, by their open declarations, has been made most emphatically the UPPERGROUND RAILROAD.
  5. profoundly
    to a great depth psychologically
    I would keep the merciless slaveholder profoundly ignorant of the means of flight adopted by the slave.
  6. myriad
    a large indefinite number
    I would leave him to imagine himself surrounded by myriads of invisible tormentors, ever ready to snatch from his infernal grasp his trembling prey.
  7. commensurate
    corresponding in size or degree or extent
    Let him be left to feel his way in the dark; let darkness commensurate with his crime hover over him; and let him feel that at every step he takes, in pursuit of the flying bondman, he is running the frightful risk of having his hot brains dashed out by an invisible agency.
  8. exhort
    force or impel in an indicated direction
    He told me I could go nowhere but that he could get me; and that, in the event of my running away, he should spare no pains in his efforts to catch me. He exhorted me to content myself, and be obedient.
  9. endure
    undergo or be subjected to
    He received all the benefits of slaveholding without its evils; while I endured all the evils of a slave, and suffered all the care and anxiety of a freeman.
  10. perpetually
    without interruption
    The wretchedness of slavery, and the blessedness of freedom, were perpetually before me.
  11. conveyance
    something that serves as a means of transportation
    But I remained firm, and, according to my resolution, on the third day of September, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind. How I did so,--what means I adopted,--what direction I travelled, and by what mode of conveyance,--I must leave unexplained, for the reasons before mentioned.
  12. ardor
    feelings of great warmth and intensity
    I was yet liable to be taken back, and subjected to all the tortures of slavery. This in itself was enough to damp the ardor of my enthusiasm.
  13. devise
    arrange by systematic planning and united effort
    Mr. Ruggles was then very deeply engaged in the memorable DARG case, as well as attending to a number of other fugitive slaves, devising ways and means for their successful escape; and, though watched and hemmed in on almost every side, he seemed to be more than a match for his
  14. hospitable
    disposed to treat guests and strangers with generosity
    Upon reaching New Bedford, we were directed to the house of Mr. Nathan Johnson, by whom we were kindly received, and hospitably provided for.
  15. distinguish
    mark as different
    But when I got to New Bedford, I found it necessary again to change my name. The reason of this necessity was, that there were so many Johnsons in New Bedford, it was already quite difficult to distinguish between them.
  16. pomp
    ceremonial elegance and splendor
    And upon coming to the north, I 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.
  17. dilapidated
    in a state of decay, ruin, or deterioration
    I saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-stricken inmates; no half-naked children and bare-footed women, such as I had been accustomed to see in Hillsborough, Easton, St. Michael's, and Baltimore.
  18. scathing
    marked by harshly abusive criticism
    Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds--its scathing denunciations of slaveholders--its faithful exposures of slavery--and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institution--sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!
  19. unacquainted
    having little or no knowledge of
    I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion.
  20. impartial
    showing lack of favoritism
    I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.
  21. misnomer
    an incorrect or unsuitable name
    Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.
  22. advocate
    a person who pleads for a person, cause, or idea
    He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity.
  23. ravage
    a destructive action
    He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution.
  24. semblance
    an outward appearance that is deliberately misleading
    Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other--devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.
  25. iniquity
    morally objectionable behavior
    Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

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