9 Pages

Afterword: Why Douglass Knew

WithDavid Roediger

The horrors of textile factory life rightly emphasized and brilliantly captured by the Lowell museum could, of course, be compared to those of the fortified buildings at which slaves were massed for export. Enter Frederick Douglass, as wonderfully portrayed by Charles Pace in a one-person show which brought to a close the conference's second day. Hearing Douglass's words recalled his acuity in naming the Civil War before it became a war to emancipate those in chains. Growing up in commodity-producing areas outside Baltimore and in the city itself, Douglass saw slave-grown products make their ways into the city for processing by both waged and unfree labor. Until his freedom was controversially purchased by supporters, Douglass always "felt like one who had escaped into a den of hungry lions," so strongly did he fear detection and recapture. Douglass participated in many of the processes by which slavery acquired contested meanings in the North.