This Day in Black History: Former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born

Black History Month

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

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HOUSTON – Abolitionist Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, also known as Frederick Douglass, was born on Feb. 14, 1818 in Cordova, Maryland.

Born into slavery, Douglass was of mixed race and was separated from his mother at an early age. Douglass was raised by his grandmother, Betty Bailey. At the age of 6, Douglass was separated from his grandmother and moved to the Wye House plantation in Talbot County, Maryland.

As a teen, Douglass started to teach himself how to read and write. Douglass read the Columbian Orator – collection of political poems, essays and dialogues – to learn how to gain his freedom and human rights. Soon after, Douglass taught other slaves on the plantation how to read and write at a weekly Sunday school.

In 1838, Douglass successfully gained his freedom and escaped the plantation by boarding a train from the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroad line to the Northern cities. It took Douglass less than 24 hours to arrive in New York City. Eleven days after his arrival, Douglass married his wife, Anna Murray- Douglass.

In 1839, Douglass became a licensed preacher. In 1843, at the age of 25, Douglass joined other abolitionists and speakers in the American Anti-Slavery Society’s Hundred Conventions tour. In 1845, Douglass wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In 1855, Douglass published My Bondage and My Freedom – an autobiographical slave narrative. In 1881, Douglass published Life and Times of Frederick Douglass — his third autobiography.

In 1847, Douglass published his first abolitionist newspaper, The North Star — nineteenth-century anti-slavery newspaper. Throughout the years, Douglass fought hard for equality for African Americans, women’s suffrage and religious views.

On Feb. 20, 1895, Douglass died of a massive heart attack at the of 77 in Washington D.C.

Douglass’ courage and drive led him to be a very respectable leader. Douglass’ voice and confidence allowed him to be what we know of him today — the most important African American leader of the nineteenth century.

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