Frederick Douglass

Born: 1818
Place of Birth: Maryland
Died: 1895

While there are many voices for civil rights and freedom for Black Americans, Frederick Douglass remains one of the most noteworthy of all.

Douglass was a former slave that became an activist and writer and was so influential in his speaking and topics that he became the advisor to presidents.

  • In the days of slavery, when the mother was a slave, any child born to her was automatically a slave. Frederick Douglass was born on a Maryland plantation and he never knew how his father was or his real birthdate. By the time he was seven years old Frederick had been sent to the plantation at Wye House and three years later his mother died. He was then sent to Baltimore to be a slave for the Auld family.
  • During those days it was against the law to teach slaves to read and write but the wife of the master of the plantation, Sophia Auld, started teaching Frederick how to read when he was twelve. She continued to teach him even though she was told not to. Frederick was very intelligent and he continued his own teaching by observing the white children when they were learning.
  • Douglass began to establish his ideas of slavery by reading articles and newspapers and developed his beliefs about human rights. He got into trouble when he was caught teaching other slaves how to read. He was moved to another farm where the owner beat him to try to break his spirit, but this only caused Douglass to be stronger.
  • Douglass hatched a plan in 1838 to take on the disguise of a sailor and escape to freedom. He had papers that verified that he was a free black seaman and on 1838 he got on a train heading north. Arriving in New York, Douglass was a free man and not too long later he married Anna Murray and established a home in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts held a lot of people that were abolitionists which were those against slavery. As a former slave, Frederick started speaking at their meetings and he soon became famous. He was afraid of being captured by his former owners and so Douglass went to England and Ireland to continue his speaking.
  • Douglass was also talented at writing and he wrote an autobiography entitled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” that was a best seller. In his life he wrote two additional books, “My Bondage and My Freedom” and “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.”
  • The demand for women’s rights was happening around the same time as the abolitionist movement and Douglass loudly supported the right to vote for women. He worked with activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and went to the first convention for women’s rights in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.
  • Douglass saw that many of the Black Americans were fighting in the Civil War and when the southerners said that they would enslave or kill any black soldiers, Douglass went to President Lincoln for help. Lincoln told those in the south that for every Union prisoner killed that he would kill a confederate soldier. Douglass established a good relationship with Lincoln and they went to Congress to require equal treatment and pay for the Black soldiers that fought in the Civil War.
  • Douglass continued working with President Andrew Jackson on the right to vote for Black Americans.
  • Frederick Douglass died in 1895 and it’s unknown if the cause of death was a stroke or a heart attack.


How did Frederick Douglass learn to read and write?
Wife of the slave owner taught him

What causes did Frederick Douglass fight for?
Equal rights for Black Americans, equal rights for women, equal pay and treatment for Black Civil War soldiers, Black American right to vote

What book became a best seller and made Frederick Douglass famous?
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Which Presidents did Frederick Douglass work with for equal rights for Black Americans?
President Lincoln and President Jackson

When he was afraid of being captured and returned as a slave, which countries did Frederick Douglass go to?
Ireland and England

What famous event did Frederick Douglass attend as part of his support for women’s rights?
First convention for women’s rights