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 12 years old, his master's sister-in-law, Sophia Auld, was teaching Frederick
the alphabet, despite this being against the law.
When her husband found out and immediately forbade it, saying that if slaves could read, they would grow discontent and desire freedom. Frederick
considered this the "first decidedly anti-slavery lecture"' he had ever heard, causing him to be determined to read all-the-more. Frederick
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. Frederick
voraciously read newspapers, books, and a publication titled The Columbian Orator
He is noted as saying "knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom." Frederick
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.
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 Frederick's
owner sent him a "slave-breaker" who whipped him regularly, nearly breaking him psychologically. After a confrontation, he never tried to beat him again. Frederick's
owner rented him out to caulk ships in a shipyard.
In 1837, Frederick
fell in love with Anna Murray,
a free black in Baltimore. Anne Murray
helped provide Frederick
with a sailor's uniform
and some identification papers from a free black seaman.
On September 3, 1838, Frederick
escaped by boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland, and from there fled to New York. Frederick and Anna Murray
were married eleven days later by a black Presbyterian minister. The newlyweds Frederick and Anne
moved on north to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and joined a black church.
They changed their last name to "Douglass"
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 Anne 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
speak. He was a founder of the Liberty Party
, which was replaced by the Free-Soil Party
and then replaced by the Republican Party
When Frederick Douglass
was unexpectedly asked to speak, William Lloyd Garrison
was so impressed that he eventually hired Douglass to sell subscriptions to the anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator
.Get the book Why the Conservative Mind Matters
In 1843, Douglass
went on a 6-month speaking tour through Eastern and Midwestern States with the American Anti-Slavery Society.
He met Harriet Beecher Stowe.
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.
In 1845, Frederick Douglass
published his autobiography, which became an instant best-seller, being translated into French and Dutch.
Skeptics could not believe a former slave could have written such an eloquent book so they began to question Douglass'
real identity. Frederick Douglass
had to flee to Ireland to avoid slave-catchers.
The Irish were supportive of Douglass
, as during the 17th century
, more Irish Catholics were sold into slavery than Africans
, either by British to the Caribbean
or by Muslim Corsair pirates to Africa's Barbary Coast
met with Irish reformer Daniel O'Connell
, and then traveled to England where his English abolitionist friends raised over $700 to buy Douglass' freedom. Douglass
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." Frederick Douglass
became an adviser to the first Republican
President, Abraham Lincoln.
He even raised the first all Black Regiment, the "54th Massachusetts." Frederick Douglass
stated: "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." Frederick Douglass
told the story of his conversion:
"I loved all mankind, slaveholder not excepted, though I abhorred slavery more than ever. I saw the world in a new light...
I gathered scattered pages of the Bible
from the filthy street gutters, and washed and dried them, that...I might get a word or two of wisdom from them." Get the book Why the Conservative Minds Matters