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Frederick Douglass

UnknownFrederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in 1818. He was a social reformer, abolitionist, writer, orator and statesman who escaped slavery before the Civil War. Douglass was born on a plantation to a Black slave mother, from whom he was soon separated, as was the custom in Maryland. Though not verified, the master of the plantation was believed to be his father.

Douglass secretly taught himself how to read. After successfully escaping to the North as a young man, Douglass settled in New York and became first a preacher and then an anti-slavery lecturer. Douglass is best known for his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and his work became an immediate bestseller.

Douglass had five children with his first wife, Anna Murray, a free Black woman whom he met in his youth. After Anna’s death, he married a White feminist named Helen Pitts. His marriage to Pitts stirred a great deal of controversy, and he responded by saying that he first married someone the color of his mother and later married someone the color of his father.

In 1888, Douglass was the first Black man to receive a vote for President of the United States. Throughout his life, he remained in the forefront of the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement and the Reconstruction era in the fight for race and gender equality.

Mixed race Frederick Douglass was a lifelong supporter of integration, going against both White abolitionists who supported “Back to Africa” and Black separatists who sought to create Black-only spaces. He grew up beaten, bruised and stripped of any rights, yet he remained a staunch believer in the power of limitless unity.


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