external image frederick_douglass2.jpgFrederick Douglas was an active abolitionist and one of the greatest orators of his time. Called "The Sage of Anacostia" and "The Lion of Anacostia", Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in African American and United States history. He was an escaped slave, born in Maryland to a black mother and white father, and escaped to Massachusetts in 1838. He spent two years lecturing over seas in England before he bought his freedom from his slave owner in Massachusetts. He is well known for his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass which painted a picture of the terrible life of slaves. The book almost instantly became a best seller, but his new fame and success was short lived because of his fear of being recaptured. He then decided to flee to England for safety. While overseas in Europe, Douglas attended the World Temperance Convention where he would make his most contreversial speech. There he attacked the American Temperance Movement and criticized slave owners and felt that most temperance activists were hostile to free african americans. Douglass lead tour of lectures throught Europe for years before he returned to the states where he bought his freedom due to the thanks of his european friends. Upon his return he founded the North Star, an antislavery newspaper in Rochester NY. During the first few years of his paper not many people were happy that another antislave paper had started especially one edited by a former slave himself. Though the paper was praised with many influential reviews it did not translate into financial success, depending on his own savings and contributions from friends. Douglass again had to start his lecturing circuits to raise some sort of income for the paper. Douglas demanded that every African American be equal in all aspects of the American society. With Douglass as a new and rising leader of the antislavery movement alliances began to form between white antislavery leaders. One of the white antislave leaders, William Garrison, became his mentor. Though their views on slavery would later diverge and their relationship would also change.

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The North Star was an abolitionist paper established on December 3, 1847, in Rochester, NY. It developed into the most influential antislavery paper published during it's time. It was used to not only denounce slavery, but to fight for the emancipation of women and other oppressed groups. The motto was "Right is of no Sex - Truth is of no Color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren." It was read by over 4,00 people. In June 1851 the paper merged with the Liberty Party Paper of Syracuse, NY and was renamed Frederick Douglass' Paper. It circulated under this new name until 1860. Douglass devoted the next three years to publishing an abolitionist magazine called Douglass' Monthly.

Violent Reprisals

Anti-Abolistionism was rising throughout the states. Southern whites and some northern whites as well looked upon the Antislavery movement with fear and contempt.The abolitionist crusade was dangerous and frightening to the existing social system. Whites feared that it would produce a destructive race war. It was a sign of the disorienting social changes their society was experiencing, a threat to stability and order.

-During the 1830s Prudence Crandall attempted to admit several African American girls to her private school in Conneticut, the locals had her arrested, vandalized her property and forced her to close her school.

-In 1834, a mob in Philidelphia attacked the "Temple of Liberty" and burned it to the ground. The mob seized Garrison and threatened to hang him.

-In Alton, Illinois, Elijah Lovejoy was an editor for an abolitionist newspaper. He was a victim of mob violence 3 times. Each time they smashed his presses. When they came a fourth time, he resisted. The Attackers set fire to the building and when lovejoy fled, they shot and killed him.

Life and Early Age

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in February of 1818 in Maryland. He spent his childhood years with his grandparents and with an aunt, Douglass only saw his mother only four or five times before she died when he was at the age of seven. All Douglass knew of his father was that he was white. During this time he was exposed to the harsh demonstrations of slavery, witnessing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time in the state of poverty. He witnessed constant whippings at the hands of his first master, Aaron Anthony. When he was eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. There he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists.

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Douglass' best-known work is his first autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published in 1845. People questioned whether a black man could have produced such an great piece of literature. The book received positive reviews and it became a bestseller. Within three years of its publication, the autobiography had been reprinted nine times with 11,000 copies in the United States; it was also translated into other languages and published in Europe.The book's success had an unfortunate side effect: Douglass' friends and mentors feared that the publicity would draw the attention of his ex-owner, Hugh Auld, who might try to get his "property" back. They encouraged Douglass to tour Ireland, as many other former slaves had done. Douglass set sail on the Cambria for Liverpool on August 16, 1845, and arrived in Ireland as the Irish Potato Famine was beginning.Douglass published three versions of his autobiography. Each time expanding on the previous one. After the Narrative was My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855. In 1881, after the Civil War, Douglass published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which he revised in 1892.


On January 1, 1836, Douglass knew that he had to escape by the end of the year. During the coming months he planned an escape. But in early April he was caught and sent to jail after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train again, he arrived in New York City the following day. A couple weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his new bride that he had met in Baltimore under his new name, Frederick Douglass.

The escape was not easy. Douglass had to disguise himself as a sailor wearing a red shirt, a tarpaulin hat, and a black scarf tied loosely around his neck. He also had to talk like a sailor. His knowledge from working at a shipyard for almost 2 years became very useful.

​Anti-Slavery Conventions

During his time, Douglass was well-known and revered as a breath-taking public speaker. Abolitionists would gather from many states over to hear Douglass talk. The most well known speech was given at the World Temperance Convention he attacked the American Temperance Movement and criticized slave owners and felt that most temperance activists should not act violently to free african americans. In 1877, Douglass was invited by veterans of the 1st Maine Cavalry, a famous civil war unit, to give a speech at their reunion in Old Orchard Beach. Douglass knew that it was a sign of great progess and relations between black and white.

Fun Facts!
external image ExclamationPoint.jpg - Douglass worked at a shipyard for most of his teenage life and into his mid-twenties.
- Douglass’ second wife was a white woman named Helen Pitts. Their marriage was radical at the time because they were not of the same race and because she was nearly twenty years younger.
- Douglass became an honorary member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity posthumously in 1921.
- Douglass was the first African American to be nominated for the office of Vice President of the United States.
- Douglas wasnt always such a confident speaker, at his very first public speech he was nervous and shy but later on grew
on to become an amazing speaker