The setting of the narrative is primarily Maryland, where Douglass spent his childhood as an enslaved person. There is no permanent place that feels like home to him. Douglass recounts being moved around to different properties in Maryland based on what's happening in the lives of his enslavers. For instance, in Chapter 5, he is sent away from the plantation where he has spent his early childhood. He goes to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld to take care of their son. The Aulds live in Baltimore. Later, when Captain Anthony (Douglass's original enslaver) dies, Douglass is relieved that he is allowed to stay in Baltimore instead of being sent elsewhere.
Being moved around like this emphasizes the lack of control enslaved people have over their lives. Unlike white men in coming-of-age stories, enslaved people do not stand to inherit the homes where they grew up. Instead, they themselves are classified as property. As Douglass explores when he describes his decision to run away on the underground railroad, the prospect of freedom from enslavement even involves a further uprooting.
The way Douglass is moved around also allows him to get a sense of what the institution of slavery looks like in different places. For instance, Baltimore is where he learns to read. Although enslaved people still face abuse in the city, Douglass sees the city as a place of far more opportunity than the country, where people are more isolated and less educated. Douglass positions himself as an eyewitness to the institution of slavery, who can accurately describe it to white readers in the North who have never seen it. By describing both the city and the country in the antebellum South, he garners credibility as a guide to the whole region.
Douglass is less specific about the setting at the end of the narrative when he escapes enslavement. This is by design. As he writes, he does not want to jeopardize the escape routes other enslaved people might take.