Frederick Douglass

Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in 1817 in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Since his mother was a slave, Douglass was also a slave. Largely self-educated, he used that education to escape slavery. He tried to escape in 1841, but then succeeded two years later when he escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts. There he assumed the name of Douglass.

During an antislavery convention in 1841 Douglass gave an impromptu address that revealed him to be an orator of passionate eloquence. He was quickly engaged as an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. His speeches in the following years in the northern states and his work for the Underground Railroad did much to further the cause of he abolitionist and made his name an emblem of freedom among both whites and blacks.

In 1845 his friends encouraged him to relocate to Europe to escape the danger of seizure under the fugitive slave laws. He gave lectures in the British Isles the aroused sympathy for the cause of the abolitionist. His admirers raised the funds necessary to buy his freedom, so he returned to the United States in 1847. He became a Station Master of the Underground Railroad in Rochester, New York. There he also established the abolitionist newspaper, North Star.

In the late 1850's Douglass became friendly with the American abolitionist, John Brown. He helped Brown develop the Underground Railroad. Brown wanted to destroy the financial value of slaves by training a force of men to help large numbers of slaves escape to the North via the Underground Railroad. But, on the eve of the raid on Harper's Ferry, Douglass learned that it was Brown's intention to seize the federal arsenal. He was against it and warned Brown that the raid would be an attack on the U. S. government and would prove to be a disaster. He refused to participate but still left for Europe in fear of reprisal. After six months he returned in time for the election.

Douglass campaigned for Abraham Lincoln and helped raise two regiments of black men for the Union Army. After the war, he fought for the enactment of the 13th , 14th, and 15th amendments. He became U.S. marshal for Washington, D.C., a recorder of deeds, and a U. S. minister to Haiti. He died in Washington, D.C. On February 20, 1895.

So impressive were Douglass's oratorical and intellectual abilities that opponents refused to believe he had been a slave and alleged that he was an impostor foisted on the public by the abolitionist. He wrote several autobiographies to describe his life as a slave. In 1845 he wrote "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave". His second book was "My Bondage and My Freedom" published in 1855. He wrote his last autobiography after the Civil War, "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass". The last book covered the years during and after the war. He was an active supporter of Women's Suffrage. Even though he didn't ask for the privilege, Douglass was the first black man to be nominated for Vice President nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872.

As a proponent of equal rights for all no matter the race or sex, Douglass was active in speaking for the Native Americans, and recent immigrants. When he was criticized for his willingness to speak to slaveholders, Douglass replied, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong".

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself

"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself" is a memoir published by Frederick Douglass in 1845. The book tells the story of Douglass's early life as a slave in Maryland. His memoir begins with his birth as the son of a slave woman, and probably, the master of the plantation. The story follows the cruel and brutal treatments of him and his fellow … [Read more...]