was born Frederick "Baily" on a Maryland plantation around FEBRUARY 7, 1817, though no accurate records exist, as he was a slave.
He later chose the birth date of February 14 as he remembered his mother calling him her "little valentine."
He never saw his mother in the daylight, as he was separated from her as an infant. He did not know who his father was.
Around the age of seven, Frederick witnessed a terribly mean overseer, Mr. Gore, shoot a slave in the face.
Douglass was sent to Baltimore where, around the age of 12, his master's sister-in-law, Sophia Auld, began teaching
the alphabet, despite this being against the law.
An example of these laws was one in Virginia, which specified:
"Every assemblage of negroes for the purpose of instruction in reading or writing, or in the night time for any purpose, shall be an unlawful assembly."
In 1854, a Virginia woman, Mrs. Margaret Douglass (no relation to Frederick), was imprisoned in the common jail of Norfolk for a month for teaching colored children to read.
husband found out that she was teaching
to read, he immediately forbade it, saying that if slaves could read, they would grow discontent and desire freedom.
considered this the "first decidedly anti-slavery lecture"' he had ever heard, causing him to be determined to learn how to read all-the-more.
wrote in his autobiography of learning to read from neighborhood white children.
He would carefully observe the writings of men he worked with.
He remembered reading a newspaper only to have it snatched away from him with a scolding.
voraciously read newspapers, books, and a publication titled
The Columbian Orator
He is noted as saying "knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom."
was hired out to the William Freeland plantation where he taught other slaves to read the New Testament at a weekly Sunday school.
Slaves would use dirt as a chalk board.
Enthusiasm in learning to read drew more than 40 slaves to attend.
"I held my Sabbath school at the house of a free colored man, whose name I deem it imprudent to mention; for should it be known, it might embarrass him greatly, though the crime of holding the school was committed ten years ago.
I had at one time over forty scholars, and those of the right sort, ardently desiring to learn. They were of all ages, though mostly men and women.
I look back to those Sundays with an amount of pleasure not to be expressed. They were great days to my soul. The work of instructing my dear fellow-slaves was the sweetest engagement with which I was ever blessed.
We loved each other, and to leave them at the close of the Sabbath was a severe cross indeed.
When I think that these precious souls are to-day shut up in the prison-house of slavery, my feelings overcome me, and I am almost ready to ask, 'Does a righteous God govern the universe? and for what does he hold the thunders in his right hand, if not to smite the oppressor, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the spoiler?'"
Neighboring Democrat plantation owners were incensed that their slaves were learning to read, as this made it harder to control them.
One Sunday, slave owners from the surrounding Democrat plantations burst in with clubs and dispersed
owner sent him a "slave-breaker" who whipped him regularly, nearly breaking him psychologically. After an abrupt confrontation, the slave-breaker never tried beating Frederick again.
owner rented him out to caulk ships in a shipyard.
fell in love with
a free black in Baltimore.
and some identification papers from a free black seaman.
On September 3, 1838,
escaped by boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland, and from there he fled to New York.
were married eleven days later by a black Presbyterian minister.
moved on north to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and joined a black church.
They changed their last name to
to hide Frederick's former identity from Democrat fugitive slave catchers.
In New Bedford,
Frederick Douglass became a licensed preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
Frederick and Anna Douglass
At the age of only 23, he was an accomplished public speaker.
regularly attended abolitionist meetings, where, in 1841 they heard
William Lloyd Garrison
was a founder of the
, which was replaced by the
, which was replaced by the
was unexpectedly asked to speak,
William Lloyd Garrison
was so impressed that he eventually hired Douglass to sell subscriptions to the anti-slavery newspaper,
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went on a 6-month speaking tour through Eastern and Midwestern States with the American Anti-Slavery Society.
He met Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of
Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Frederick Douglass wrote of speaking at a convention in Buffalo, New York:
Frederick Douglass was frequently accosted by Democrat mobs
"For nearly a week I spoke every day in this old post office to audiences increasing in numbers and respectability til the
Michigan Avenue Baptist church was thrown open to me. When this became too small I went on Sunday into the open park and addressed an assembly of 4,000 persons."
, even having his hand broken, which never healed properly.
published his autobiography, which became an instant best-seller, being translated into French and Dutch.
Douglass condemned hypocritical "religious" slave owners in the land of the Democrat South, but clarified that he supported true Christianity:
"I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion.
To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation.
What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slave-holding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper;
for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference--so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.
I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land."
Skeptics could not believe a former slave could have written such an eloquent book so they began to question
Realizing that if his true identity was discovered, fugitive slave-catchers would try to capture him and return him to his owner,
decided to flee to Ireland.
The Irish were supportive of
, as during the
more Irish Catholics were sold into slavery than Africans
, either by
British to the Caribbean
Muslim Corsair pirates to Africa's Barbary Coast
met with Irish reformer
was referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator for his emancipation efforts to remove discriminating Acts against Irish Catholics.
then traveled to England where his English abolitionist
friends raised over $700 to buy his freedom.
"I may be deemed superstitious, and even egotistical, in regarding this event as a special interposition of divine Providence in my favor.
But I should be false to the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence.
From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom.
This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise."
returned to New York where he founded
The North Star newspaper
and wrote in support of abolition and women's suffrage.
His motto was:
"Right is of no sex--Truth is of no color--God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren."
After Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, issued the Emancipation, January 1, 1863,
"Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?"
became an adviser to Lincoln.
even raised the one of the the first all Black Regiments, the
as portrayed in the film
(1989), in which Denzel Washington won an Academy Award.
Others early all Black regiments were the
1st Rhode Island Regiment,
which fought for America during the Revolutionary War;
First Kansas Colored Volunteers,
which fought for the Union during the Civil War, notably in the Battles of Island Mound, Cabin Creek, Honey Spring, Poison Springs.
"I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress."
Many notable Black authors have observed how
is reminiscent of the
dependency that existed on Southern Democrat plantations,
where slaves waited for
handouts from their masters.
founder of CURE (Center for Urban Renewal) wrote
Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can Do About It.
produced a documentary
Runaway Slave Movie,
"I am a 'Runaway Slave' from the Democrats' plantation."
C. Mason Weaver
It's OK to Leave the Plantation: The New Underground Railroad.
Unfounded Loyalty: An In-Depth Look Into The Love Affair Between Blacks and Democrats.
Jesse Lee Peterson
From Rage to Responsibility: Black Conservative Jesse Lee Peterson and America Today
told the story of his conversion:
"I was not more than thirteen years old, when I felt the need of God, as a father and protector.
My religious nature was awakened by the preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson.
He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God; that they were, by nature, rebels against His government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God, through Christ ...
I was, for weeks, a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and misery of doubts and fears.
I finally found that change of heart which comes by 'casting all one's care' upon God, and by having faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of those who diligently seek him. After this, I saw the world in a new light ...
I loved all mankind-slaveholders not excepted; though I abhorred slavery more than ever ...
... I gathered scattered pages of the
from the filthy street gutters, and washed and dried them, that ... I might get a word or two of wisdom from them."
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