This Root Protected Frederick Douglass During His Darkest Days

frederick douglass portrait
Briona Lamback
August 14, 2023

Frederick Douglass fell to his knees in the woods, blood oozing from the fresh wound on his head. He spent months being beaten by Covey, an enslaver temporarily “renting” him.  

Douglass felt he was one lashing away from being whipped to death.

He paced around, considering his fate, trying to avoid his inevitable violent death. Douglass bumped into an acquaintance, Sandy Jenkins, and told him everything. 

Sandy led Douglass through the woods, searching for a root he said would prevent whippings.

Douglass wasn’t convinced, but Sandy took the John the Conqueror root and slipped it into Douglass’ pocket as he returned to the plantation. 

A few days later, Covey cornered him. Douglass remembered the root, dug into his spirit, and whooped Covey’s instead.

For the next six months, Convey didn’t lay a finger on Douglass. “I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me,” he later wrote.

Douglass trusted his friend, and their strategy helped him survive. We must lean on one another and our intuitions to imagine a liberated future.