Frederick Douglass

Born February 1818
Died 20 February 1895

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born a slave in February 1818, in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Poorly fed as a young boy, Frederick was often cold and lived in fear of being whipped for not performing his tasks properly.

When Frederick was seven years old, he was sent to Baltimore to work for the Auld family. Although it was against the law at the time to teach a slave to read, in ignorance to the law Mrs. Auld began teaching Frederick the alphabet. She stopped when her husband discovered what was happening, but she had opened an avenue for Frederick. Hiding an old spelling book, Frederick taught himself to read. Later on he taught other black people to read and write also.

Frederick escaped in 1838 to New York City, disguised as a sailor. He changed his name to Douglass to avoid slave hunters.

Frederick Douglass began traveling about the country, attending abolitionist meetings and speaking at many of them. Many people doubted that anyone who had been a slave could ever be as eloquent a speaker as Douglass was, so he decided to write his autobiography. His book invoked more anger and placed him in danger of being enslaved again. As a result he sailed to England in 1845.

Later that same year, Douglass and his family moved to Rochester, New York. There he started his own newspaper, The North Star. This paper printed articles written by African Americans about abolition. It also included articles promoting equal rights for women.

During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass worked to have black men serve in the Union army. When blacks were finally allowed to serve in 1864, Douglass spoke to President Lincoln concerning the unfair treatment of blacks in the army. After the war he continued to fight for equal rights for all people and became the first president of the National Convention of Colored Men, which fought to give African Americans the right to vote.

Before his death on February 20, 1895, Douglass had been appointed as the marshal for the District of Columbia and the United States Minister to Haiti.

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