Out of the Depths of Chattel Slavery in Maryland

A Look into the Archival Record of Frederick Douglass’s Maryland


  • Maya Davis




Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, also known as Frederick Douglass, is arguably one of the most studied figures in the nineteenth century. His life in the public arena is well documented through public and private collections. This article examines how Frederick Bailey is documented in both public and private collections of records from the antebellum period. It also focuses on the preservation of the private family papers of Captain Aaron Anthony and the donation of the collection to the Maryland State Archives in the early 1960s. As with the personal papers of many slaveholding individuals, much of Douglass’s life in enslavement was recorded through the eyes of his master, Anthony. As 2018 marked the bicentennial of his birth, the state of Maryland celebrated his life and legacy. Archivists at the Maryland State Archives, the state’s official depository, worked to preserve and make accessible historical records of Douglass’s early life as documented in the public record. The Archives house government records of permanent value as well as private papers that document Douglass’s life as an enslaved individual.