Here’s one of our local famous African Americans, Frederick Douglass.
Check out these books about and by Frederick Douglass, which are all in the biography section in and around D737b.
This bio came from the History Channel.
(1817–95), American abolitionist, orator, and writer, who escaped slavery and urged other blacks to do likewise before and during the American Civil War.
Originally named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, Douglass was born on Feb. 7, 1817, in Tuckahoe, Md. He was the son of a slave, Harriet Bailey (d. 1824?), and was largely self-educated. He failed in an attempt to escape in 1836, but two years later he succeeded and reached New Bedford, Mass., where he assumed the name of Douglass.
His career as an abolitionist began dramatically in 1841 at an antislavery convention in Nantucket, Mass., where his impromptu address to the convention revealed him to be an orator of great eloquence. As “a recent graduate from the institution of slavery with his diploma on his back,” he was 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, (q.v.) did much to further the cause of the abolitionists and made his name a symbol of freedom and achievement among whites and blacks alike.
In 1845, Douglass, at the urging of his friends, went to England to escape the danger of seizure under the FUGITIVE SLAVE LAWS, (q.v.). His lectures in the British Isles on the slavery question in the U.S. aroused sympathy for the abolitionists’ cause and prompted his admirers to raise funds to purchase his freedom. After returning to the U.S. in 1847, Douglass became the “station-master and conductor” of the Underground Railroad in Rochester, N.Y., where he also established the abolitionist newspaper North Star, which he edited until 1860.
During these years, Douglass became friendly with the American abolitionist John Brown and was given a hint of Brown’s strategy of destroying “the money value of slave property” by training a force of men to help large numbers of slaves escape to freedom in the North via the Underground Railroad. When Douglass learned on the eve of the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 that it was Brown’s intention to seize the federal arsenal there, he objected. Warning Brown that an attack on the arsenal would be tantamount to an assault on the U.S. government and would prove disastrous, Douglass withdrew from further participation.
After the raid, fearing reprisals by the government, Douglass fled to Europe, where he stayed for six months. On his return to the U.S., he campaigned for Abraham Lincoln during the presidential election of 1860 and, following the outbreak of the Civil War, helped raise two regiments of black soldiers, the Massachusetts 54th and 55th. After the war, Douglass, as a recognized leader of and spokesman for the former black slaves, fought for enactment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. He became U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877–81), recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia (1881–86), and U.S. minister to Haiti (1889–91). He died in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 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 abolitionists. In reply, Douglass wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which he revised in later years; in final form, it appeared in 1882 under the title Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
B.Q., BENJAMIN QUARLES, M.A., Ph.D.