Frederick Douglass Biography / Autobiography / Memoir resources

Full Name: Mr. Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
Date of Birth: February 1818
Place of Birth: Talbot County, Maryland, USA
Died: February 20, 1895
Place of Death: Washington, DC, USA
Classification: Heroes & Icons

Frederick Douglass portrait

Short Biography of Frederick Douglass

Famous in his own time for his eloquent oratory abilities and publications, Frederick Douglass went down in history as an icon for the abolitionist movement. It was his passion and brilliant speeches that inspired millions to better themselves, fight for their basic human rights, and to do it all with as much gumption, desire, and nonviolence as possible.

Young Frederick was separated from his mother just after being born. Douglass, later in life, believed that his father was a white slave owner, Captain Aaron Anthony. However, at the age of seven, Frederick’s mother died and soon after so did Anthony. It was then that he was given to Mrs. Lucretia Auld, who began teaching the young, bright boy how to read the newspaper. Once word got out that he had been learning a few letters of the alphabet, his education was stopped. It was against the law to teach slaves how to read. However, the clever Douglass learned to read from area white kids and from the men he worked with each day on boats.

Just before reaching the age of 20, Douglass was able to escape the throngs of slavery by dressing up as a sailor and borrowing papers from a friend. He took a route that led him to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a free city dominated by the Quakers, who fought against slavery. His account is detailed in his autobiography, a best seller at the time, entitled The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. He would settle down for a while in New York and Massachusetts. Through reading the newspaper called The Liberator, he became inspired to join the abolitionist movement and became a follower of William Lloyd Garrison, an orator and editor of the paper.

Douglass began giving speeches all across the country and gained prominence as an excellent voice for African American movements. He soon became the editor and publisher of his own newspapers called North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, and the New National Editor. During the American Civil War, Douglass fought for and discussed the fair treatment of black soldiers to President Lincoln. Following, he went to Europe to travel and give speeches about equality. He was welcomed in both Ireland and England with open arms and was treated as a man and not someone of a different color. Douglass attended the funeral of Abraham Lincoln and gave an impromptu speech that was remembered as one of the best eulogies ever given to a man. With President Grant, Douglass was able to stomp out many campaigns ignited by the Ku Klux Klan with the signing of the Enforcement Act. He lived the rest of his days on his Washington D.C. estate.

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