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Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass

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With the weight of slavery on his shoulders, Frederick Douglass overcame his upbringing and became one of the most famous African-American intellectuals of his time.

February 1818 (the exact date of his birth is unknown) in Talbot County, Maryland, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born a slave.

Soon after Douglass was uprooted from multiple plantations he was sent to work for Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Douglass defied the laws of slaves being prohibited to read and write, and was taught by Auld’s wife, Sophie, the letters of the alphabet and how to read. After learning how to read he later bought ‘The Columbian Orator’ filled with speeches and debates, that clarified his viewpoint on human rights at age 12.

After years of slavery, Douglass tried numerous failed attempts to escape. He continued to fail until finally meeting his former wife, Anna Murray, who helped him escape to New York as ‘free’ sailor.

As a ‘free’ slave, Douglass paved the way to abolishing slavery. He spoke for the masses, at anti-slavery meetings, the American Anti-Slavery Society and through his first autobiography Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. Throughout the time many found out of his ‘freedom’, making Douglass flee to safety in Europe. There he raised awareness of slavery and made allies, that helped him buy his freedom in 1847.

Once he returned to America, Douglass made “The North Star” (famous anti-slavery newspaper) and stood up for women’s rights as the first African-American to attend the first woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York in 1948. He later wrote his most well-known autobiography ‘My Bondage and My Freedom’ in 1955.

As the Civil War approached in 1861, Frederick Douglass was one of the most well-known African-Americans in the United States to advocate for the union. He spoke with President Abraham Lincoln as the voice of black soldiers suffering in the war. He continued to encourage other African Americans to fight alongside the union within the war alongside his two sons.

He maintained his influence throughout the government, and he was put on the Equal Rights Party ticket, without consent or knowledge in 1872 alongside Victoria Woodhull. He did not win the running but became the first African-American to be nominated to be Vice President

He lived out the rest of his life, as a United States Marshall in Washington, D.C. He wrote his final autobiography Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and continued delivering speeches throughout the country. He attended a meeting for the National Council of Women, delivering his last speech, before having a heart attack in his home later that day. He died February 20, 1895, at the age of 77.

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future,” Frederick Douglass said.

 

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