Frederick Douglass -
The author and narrator of the Narrative. Douglass,
a rhetorically skilled and spirited man, is a powerful orator for
the abolitionist movement. One of his reasons for writing the Narrative is
to offer proof to critics who felt that such an articulate and intelligent man
could not have once been a slave. The Narrative describes
Douglass’s experience under slavery from his early childhood until
his escape North at the age of twenty. Within that time, Douglass
progresses from unenlightened victim of the dehumanizing practices
of slavery to educated and empowered young man. He gains the resources
and convictions to escape to the North and wage a political fight
against the institution
Captain Anthony -
Douglass’s first master and probably his father. Anthony
is the clerk for Colonel Lloyd, managing Lloyd’s surrounding plantations
and the overseers of those plantations. Anthony is a cruel man who
takes pleasure in whipping his slaves, especially Douglass’s Aunt
Hester. He is called “Captain” because he once piloted ships up
the Chesapeake Bay.
Colonel Edward Lloyd -
Captain Anthony’s boss and Douglass’s first owner.
Colonel Lloyd is an extremely rich man who owns all of the slaves
and lands where Douglass grows up. Lloyd insists on extreme subservience
from his slaves and often punishes them unjustly.
Lucretia Auld -
Anthony’s daughter and Thomas Auld’s wife. After Captain Anthony’s
death, Lucretia inherits half his property, including Douglass.
Lucretia is as cruel an owner as her husband.
Captain Thomas Auld -
Lucretia Auld’s husband and Hugh Auld’s brother.
Thomas Auld did not grow up owning slaves, but gained them through
his marriage to Lucretia. After attending a church meeting in Maryland,
Thomas Auld becomes a “pious” man, but he uses his newfound Christianity
to be even more self-righteously brutal toward his slaves.
Hugh Auld -
Auld’s brother and Douglass’s occasional master. Hugh lives in Baltimore
with his wife, Sophia. Thomas and Lucretia Auld allow Hugh to borrow Douglass
as a servant for Hugh’s son, Thomas. Hugh is well aware that whites
maintain power over blacks by depriving them of education, and he
unwittingly enlightens Douglass in this matter. Hugh is not as cruel as
his brother Thomas, but he becomes harsher due to a drinking habit
in his later years. Hugh seems to suffer some consciousness that
slavery and the law’s treatment of blacks are inhumane, but he does
not allow this consciousness to interfere with his exercising power
Sophia Auld -
Auld’s wife. Sophia was a working woman before marrying Hugh, and
she had never owned slaves. The corruption of owning a slave transforms
Sophia from a sympathetic, kind woman into a
Edward Covey -
notorious slave “breaker” and Douglass’s keeper for one year. Slave
owners send their unruly slaves to Covey, who works and punishes
them (thus getting free labor to cultivate his rented land) and returns
them trained and docile. Covey’s tactics as a slaveholder are both
cruel and sneaky. He is deliberately deceptive and devious when
interacting with his slaves, creating an atmosphere of constant surveillance
Betsy Bailey -
grandmother. Betsy raised Douglass on Captain Anthony’s land after
Douglass’s mother was taken away. Betsy served the Anthony family
her whole life and had many children and grandchildren who became
slaves for the Anthonys. After seeing Captain Anthony’s children
from birth to death, Betsy is abandoned to a hut in the woods instead
of being allowed to go free.
Aunt Hester -
aunt. Aunt Hester is an exceptionally beautiful and noble-looking
woman, superior to most white and black women. Captain Anthony is extraordinarily
interested in Hester, and she therefore suffers countless whippings
at his hands.
Harriet Bailey -
mother. Harriet is separated from Douglass after his birth, but
she still attempts to maintain family relations by walking twelve
miles to see him at night. She dies when Douglass is young.
Sandy Jenkins -
slave acquaintance of Douglass. The highly superstitious Sandy stands
in the Narrative as a representative of all uneducated,
superstitious slaves. Sandy is kind to Douglass when Douglass runs
away from Covey’s, but the Narrative also implies
that Sandy may have informed William Freeland about Douglass’s plans
William Freeland -
Douglass’s keeper for two years following his time
with Covey. Freeland is the most fair and straightforward of all
Douglass’s masters and is not hypocritically pious. Douglass acknowledges Freeland’s
exceptional fairness with a pun on his name—“free land.”
William Hamilton -
Father-in-law of Thomas Auld. After Lucretia Auld’s
death, Thomas remarries Hamilton’s oldest daughter. Hamilton himself
sometimes takes charge of Douglass, as when Hamilton arrests Douglass
for plotting to escape from Freeland.
William Gardner -
A Baltimore shipbuilder. Hugh Auld sends Douglass
to Gardner to learn the trade of caulking. Gardner’s shipyard is
disorderly with racial tension between free-black carpenters and
white carpenters, and Gardner is under pressure to complete several
ships for a deadline.
Anna Murray -
wife. Anna is a free black woman from Baltimore who becomes engaged
to Douglass before he escapes to freedom. After his escape, Anna
and Douglass marry in New York and then move to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Nathan Johnson -
Massachusetts worker and abolitionist. Johnson is immediately kind
and helpful to the Douglasses, loaning them money, helping Douglass find
work, and suggesting Douglass’s new name. Johnson is well informed
on national politics and keeps a nice household.
William Lloyd Garrison -
Founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison
meets Douglass when Douglass is persuaded to tell his history at
an abolitionist convention in Nantucket in 1841.
Immediately impressed with Douglass’s poise and with the power of his
story, Garrison hires him for the abolitionist cause.
Wendell Phillips -
President of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Phillips
considers Douglass a close friend. He admires Douglass’s bravery
in publishing his history without pseudonyms, but also fears for