Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman.
Douglass was born into slavery in February 1818, on the Eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County Maryland.
Although his actual birthdate is unknown, he chose to celebrate the 14th of February as his birthday.
Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.
Likewise, Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
Her free status strengthened his belief in the possibility of gaining his own freedom.
Murray encouraged him and supported his efforts by aid and money.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies, notably, his best-known work describing his experiences as a slave in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published 1845, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom published in 1855.
In 1847, Frederick Douglass explained to friend and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, “I have no love for America, as such; I have no patriotism. I have no country. What country have I? The Institutions of this Country do not know me—do not recognize me as a man.
First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, the book covers events both during and after the Civil War.
Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices.
Without his approval, Douglass became the first African-American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
In 1877, Douglass bought the house that was to be the family’s final home in Washington D.C., on a hill above the Anacostia River.
He and his wife, Anna, named it Cedar Hill.
One year later, Douglass purchased adjoining lots and expanded the property to 15 acres. The home is now preserved as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
His wife Anna Murray-Douglass died in 1882, leaving the widower devastated.
After a period of mourning, Douglass found new meaning from working with activist Ida B. Wells.
He was remarried in 1884
On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C.
During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and received a standing ovation.
Shortly after he returned home, Douglass died of a massive heart attack. He was 77.
He was buried next to Anna in the Douglass family plot of Mount Hope Cemetery, and Helen joined them in 1903.
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