Jim Austin

Frederick Douglas Quote

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"The fifth day after my arrival [in Bedford, Massachusetts], I put on the clothes of a common laborer, and went upon the wharves in search of work. On my way down Union street I saw a large pile of coal in front of the house of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, the Unitarian minister. I went to the kitchen door and asked the privilege of bringing in and putting away this coal. 'What will you charge?' said the lady. 'I will leave that to you, madam.' 'You may put it away,' she said. I was not long in accomplishing the job, when the dear lady put into my hands two silver half-dollars. To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who could take it from me,--that it was mine--that my hands were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin,--one must have been in some sense himself a slave...I was not only a free-man, but a free working-man, and no 'master' stood ready at the end of the week to seize my hard earnings." [italics original.] p. 130 "My Escape from Slavery" by Frederick Douglas, The Century Magazine, Volume XXIII, No. I, November 1881.

I found the quote many long years ago. It indicates that among the rights appreciated by a newly freed slave was property rights, who traced his ownership of the money he earned to his ownership of his person.

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