by Simon Black
On September 3, 1838 Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey sat in a train car heading north out of Baltimore.
Frederick would later recount how his heart pounded as he waited for the conductor to check his papers. As a black man in a southern slave state, Frederick had to prove he was legally allowed to travel north to the free states.
But Frederick didn’t have “free papers” because he was still enslaved. Instead, he disguised himself as a sailor, and borrowed a “sailor protection pass” from an acquaintance.
The pass included a description of the sailor, and Frederick knew it would not hold up to close scrutiny because they didn’t look all that alike.