Biography Of Frederick Douglass

Biography of the life of Frederick Douglass, the highly revered former slave turned abolitionist. His anti-slavery work, speeches, and writings and the early history of his life.

Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Tuckahoe, Maryland, sometime in either 1817 or 1818, to a black slave named Harriet Bailey, and an unnamed white father. Harriet was the daughter of Isaac and Betsy Bailey. Douglass lived with Betsy during his early childhood and therefore she was the prominent figure in his early life. As a result of Betsy's influence, the author demonstrated a great respect for women throughout his life.

Although he admitted that he was not very close to his own mother, he put the blame explicitly on slavery, later writing, "The slave mother can be spared long enough from the field to endure all the bitterness of a mother's anguish, when it adds another name to a master's ledger, but not long enough to receive the joyous reward afforded by the intelligent smiles of her child." At seven years old, he was separated from his grandmother and relocated to work at the Wye House, twelve miles away from Betsy's cabin.

Douglass was an intelligent, curious child. While working as a house servant in Baltimore, he learned to read and write. Because of the abundance of free, former slaves living in the city, Baltimore gave him confidence and hope""hope that he would one day be one of the "free people of color." In his relatively short time as a slave, he experienced slavery in all it's varieties, from its most brutal to its most complaisant. Although his first attempted escape in 1836 failed, he tried again, and succeeded in 1838.

As a free man, Douglass moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, changed his name, and worked as a common day-laborer. Six months after moving to New Bedford, a salesperson for William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper, convinced Douglass to accept a free trial subscription. Douglass later noted, "I was brought in contact with the mind of William Lloyd Garrison." Douglass became an activist. He began speaking against slavery at his church, the New Bedford Zion Chapel. There he was heard by William C. Coffin, a dedicated abolitionist.

Coffin thought that people should hear what the earnest young black man had to say; thus, three years after his escape, Douglass was urged to lecture at a convention of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Nantucket. He spoke of his life. It was an electrifying story about a runaway slave. Before the convention was over, he was asked to join the Society and go out on the lecture circuit to tell the world about his experiences of slavery. Although he was often humiliated and assaulted at his speaking engagements, he was always a proud and impassioned speaker.

Douglass then (when?) traveled to Europe to tell the British and Irish abolitionists about his story. When he came back to America, he worked on The Liberator. Concerned with growing doubts about Garrison's approach toward eliminating slavery (what were they?) Douglass began publish his own anti-slavery newspaper, the North Star, which became a leading journal of the abolitionist movement. The pages of the North Star became a forum where he aggressively communicated the difference between America's Christian democratic values and its racial prejudice and discrimination.

Through the North Star and his associations with the Liberty and Radical Abolition parties, he supported industrial education for Negroes and championed the cause of equal rights for all, including women. Ironically, white abolitionists tended to prevent blacks from decision-making positions in their efforts against slavery, but Douglass' energies could not be stifled. He played a prominent role in the Negro Convention movement of the 1840s and 1850s and in the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1848.

When the Civil War broke out, he used the pages of the North Star as a means to gather blacks to fight for the Union Army. After President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Douglass personally recruited black soldiers for the Army, although he viewed these activities as only setting the groundwork for the larger task of obtaining full citizenship rights for Negroes, an achievement which he believed would mean the beginning of full freedom for his brothers and himself.

Douglass continued to work for Negro equality during Reconstruction. He protested against the unethical growing patterns of segregation and mob violence. From 1871 to 1891 he held an number of government positions. During this time he distanced himself from the black community, but, inspired by Ida B. Wells, a leader in the anti-lynching crusade, he reemerged in 1894 to give what was called his last great speech, "The Lesson of the Hour." Douglass died at the age of 77 on February 20, 1895.

His early writings included Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845, and My Bondage and My Freedom published in 1855, both of which were autobiographies. He also wrote numerous speeches. His last book, also an autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was published in 1892.

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