In the darkness of night, the flickering gas lamps cast an eerie light over the otherwise deserted train station. The steam from the locomotive billows, dissipating into the chilly air. On the platform stands an imposing figure. His name is Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, an enslaved man from Maryland who is breaking free from the chains that have held him captive. He holds tightly onto forged papers declaring him a free man, praying that these documents will secure his passage to a new life.
Frederick’s heart pounds as the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” He hesitates momentarily, scanning the station for signs of danger, then boards the train, hoping to blend in with the other passengers. He finds a seat in the back, away from the watchful eyes of the conductor and other prying gazes. The journey is dangerous, for slave catchers are on the prowl, ready to capture and return him to enslavement.
The train lurches into motion, and the journey to Philadelphia begins. From Philadelphia, Frederick plans to go to New York City, then maybe somewhere else. But all in the North, where he can finally live without the oppressive yoke of slavery.
Hours into the journey, a gentleman boards the train and sits next to Frederick. He strikes up a conversation. Frederick does his best to appear at ease though his heart pounds. They talk about life and literature. And as the train arrives in Philadelphia, the man tells Frederick, “There is a lovely town in New York called New Bedford; you should visit.” Frederick can tell the man knows that Frederick is escaping enslavement. Yet, the advice is that of help. “Thank you, I’ll make sure to explore a visit,” Frederick replies with an appreciative smile.
Frederick disembarks the train, his legs wobbling from tension and excitement. He has arrived. And now, with liberty, he chooses a new name. Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey will become Frederick Douglass.
While based on real events, “Destination: Freedom” is a work of biographical historical fiction.
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