Narrator: Among those killed, Frederick Douglass had started life as a boy. He was taken from his family in Maryland and transported hundreds of miles through the South. In The House I Live In, Douglass recalls the cotton gin, the system of chattel slavery in which black women were forced to pick the seeds for white farmers.
Narrator: The House I Live In came from the handwritten journals of some of the last white men of slavery. The book describes life in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which was founded by merchants who bought and sold black sailors. "Be on thlook out, that your wife and children be not carried away by the Negroes," one warns. "On no account allow your wife and children to come near the Negroes. God only knows what may happen." Historian Dolph Briscoe calls this assessment a "secret code for whites owning black people." In the 1850s, the editor of the US Patent Office, John A. Griscom, wrote that the black man's life was so different than that of the white that "a blind man could know him by his track." Griscom said it was as easy to "find a turkey track in the snow as to pick out a Negro...who don't make a sound".