Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass encompasses eleven chapters that recount Douglass' life as a slave and his ambition to become a free man.
Douglass begins by explaining that he does not know the date of his birth, and that his mother died when he was 7 years old. He has very few memories of her (children were commonly separated from their mothers), only of the rare nighttime visit. He thinks his father a white man, possibly his owner. At a very early age he sees his Aunt Hester being whipped. Douglass details the cruel interaction that occurs between slaves and slave holders, as well as how slaves are supposed to behave in the presence of their masters, and that even when Douglass says that fear is what kept many slaves where they were, when they tell the truth they are punished by their owners.