It’s A Small World: Mapping Frederick Douglass

“Two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master Thomas married his second wife. Her name was Rowena Hamilton, the eldest daughter of Mr. William Hamilton, a rich slaveholder on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, who lived about five miles from St. Michael’s, the then place of my master’s residence” (117).
“The people of the north, and free people generally, I think, have less attachment to the places where they are born and brought up, than have the slaves. Their freedom to go and come, to be here and there, as they list, prevents any extravagant attachment to any one particular place, in their case. On the other hand, the slave is a fixture; he has no choice, no goal, no destination; but is pegged down to a single spot, and must take root here, or nowhere” (113).

map 1

A. St. Michael’s, Maryland – the location of Douglass’s home with Master Thomas Auld and his second wife, Rowena Williams
B. Miles River – “Miles river was broad, and its oyster fishing grounds were extensive; and the fisherman were out, often, all day, and a part of the night…” (120)

map 2

C. Baltimore, Maryland – Douglass’s previous home
D. Current Tuckahoe State Park –Douglass identifies his birthplace as Tuckahoe, Maryland in the first chapter

When I chose to map this area, I hoped to be able to identify the land of Mr. William Hamilton. According to Douglass’s description it was a mere five miles away from the town of St. Michael’s Maryland. However, I was unable to find any record of this land in my research. This may be due to my failure as a researcher. Although Douglass had no actual connection to this land or William Hamilton, it is fascinating to think that people’s worlds were so small.
In fact, it is interesting to look at a map and realize what short distances Frederick Douglass was being forced to move in comparison to the effect the movements had on his emotional and political life. The descriptions of the stress these various movements put on Douglass created an image in my mind of much vaster movements. Of course being forcibly removed from one’s loved ones and roots with the knowledge that being reunited is extremely unlikely would be stressful on anyone. Being able to visualize how truly close Douglass always was to the roots from which he was disconnected without the opportunity to return freely helps me understand, at least to some degree, some of the emotional torture to which the objects of the slavery system were subjected.

 

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