Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland sometime in 1818. He was birthed by an enslaved woman and was the property of a white man. It was presumed his enslaver was his father, although he never knew for sure. He changed his name to Douglass after escaping his bondage at twenty to elude re-enslavement.
Following his self-emancipation in 1838, Frederick Douglass became one of the most celebrated intellectuals of his time and one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement in the decades before the Civil War. He advised presidents and spoke worldwide on various human rights issues. Douglass gained notoriety for his brilliant oratory and incisive antislavery writings. He was a best-selling author, a journalist, and the first African American to hold a high U.S. government rank as Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti.
Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln throughout the Civil War. He provided a powerful voice for enslaved people and the women's suffrage movement in the 19th Century. During the Reconstruction era (1865-1877), Douglass fought for the adoption of the constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for Black people. He is still revered today for his work fighting against racial injustice and has been called the father of the civil rights movement.
Douglass won world fame when his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published in 1845. His autobiography became an instant bestseller and, having escaped slavery just seven years earlier, put his life in immediate danger. Narrative helped change the course of the U.S. Abolitionist Movement in the 19th Century and has inspired and changed readers' lives for more than 175 years. In 2012, the Library of Congress named Narrative one of the 88 Books That Shaped America.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Families trapped in poverty and systemic injustices. Children denied civil rights because of race. A nation with immense potential for freedom spiraling into prejudice, violence, and hate. The country Frederick Douglass knew over one-hundred years ago is strikingly similar to the one we live in today. The truth, lessons, and hope he offered during his […]