Bear Me Into Freedom Book Cover
Visualizing the land of Frederick Douglass’s youth, the source of his powerful narrative

Bear Me Into Freedom

The Talbot County of Frederick Douglass

by Jeffrey C. McGuiness

To fully understand Frederick Douglass, it is essential to have a pictorial sense of the unusual place that gave rise to one of America’s most consequential figures.Read more...

look inside

About the Book

To fully understand Frederick Douglass, it is essential to have a pictorial sense of the unusual place that gave rise to one of America’s most consequential figures. Bear Me Into Freedom: The Talbot County of Frederick Douglass provides an important new perspective into the early years of America’s most famous freedom fighter.

Frederick Douglass is an iconic figure in American history—a powerful writer, stirring orator, and revolutionary philosopher. He was a crusading figure in the fight to abolish enslavement, establish emancipation, and promote justice and civil rights.

The story of Frederick Douglass is inextricably linked with Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is the place where he was born into slavery in 1818 and spent eleven of the first twenty years of his life before seeking his freedom in New England. Douglass detailed his Talbot experiences with astonishing precision in his three autobiographies, experiences that became the foundation of the most powerful slave narrative in American literature.

The county, half water and half land, is like no other in America. Riddled with streams, creeks, rivers, and bays, its unique geography was the source of his fervent belief that Talbot’s waters would one day bear him into freedom.  

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Frederick Douglass books with hundreds of thousands of words describing his time in Talbot. Bear Me Into Freedom is the first attempt to marry imagery with Douglass's words to picture what Talbot County may have looked like when Frederick Douglass lived there two centuries ago.

Look Inside
look inside

Bear Me Into Freedom by Jeffrey C. McGuiness is a monument and memorial to the world experienced by 'Frederick Bailey, the slave' and remembered and relived by Frederick Douglass 'the free man.' An inspirational photographer, McGuiness' powerful pictures recreate, reimagine, and remember the rivers, the woods, the fields, the buildings, and the towns where Frederick Douglass lived, imagined, philosophized, protested, resisted, and warred by any and every means necessary against the 'hottest hell of unending slavery.' Bear Me Into Freedom is a powerful testament to Frederick Douglass's lifelong conviction: "a picture is a power."

Celeste-Marie Bernier

Author of If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection and Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century's Most Photographed American

Jeff McGuiness's book offers an invaluable window into the early years of one of America's towering figures. It speaks to the ongoing presence of Frederick Douglass in the landscape of his early life--the brooding beauty of those places where Douglass dreamed, yearned and suffered as a boy and young man. Through his stunning photographs, McGuiness pays homage to the primacy of place in our national memory. This book is a lasting testament to Douglass and the rivers, fields and forests that did so much to form him. It calls for us to honor his greatness by honoring the very land that he was forced to flee. Read more...

Neil King Jr.

author of the forthcoming memoir, American Ramble: A Walk of Memory and Renewal

McGuiness succeeds admirably in his stated goal of visually representing the “physical surroundings that shaped [Douglass’] perceptions during those ten years in Talbot County.Read more...

Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

jeff mcguiness

Jeff McGuiness is a photographer and writer who has lived in St. Michaels, Maryland for a quarter century. An avid boater, he enjoys exploring his beloved Chesapeake, divining the mysteries it holds.  

McGuiness was born in California and grew up in suburban Washington, D.C. After graduating from college with an art degree in 1969, he spent the next four years in the U.S. Air Force as a photographer during the Vietnam conflict. He then worked as a commercial photographer in St. Louis for a time before deciding to pursue a law degree.  

McGuiness practiced law in Washington, D.C. for more than four decades, concentrating on public policy and managing non-profit organizations. Today, he delights in tapping his varied experiences to discover what deserves to be seen but is often overlooked. His latest project, a new addition to the books about Frederick Douglass, is Bear Me Into Freedom: The Talbot County of Frederick Douglass. It reflects five years of work exploring, researching, and photographing the land Frederick Douglass walked during his eleven years of bondage in the county. Among all the Frederick Douglass books, Bear Me Into Freedom is the first one that marries imagery to the words of Frederick Douglass.

More information can be found at

About the Title

Say the words "Talbot County," and most people unfamiliar with the Eastern Shore of Maryland have no sense of where it is and what it looks like. Yet, without realizing it, millions of us share a common image of this rural tidewater area, one that comes from an improbable source.

Read more

Find this Frederick Douglass Book in Stores

Stay Updated

Enter your email below for notifications to any additions to this website.

Explore More

More information, insights, and resources from the place Frederick Douglass spent his early years.


Share This Site

Please send this to others interested in life and works of Frederick Douglass