Frederick Washington Bailey, the son of a white man and a black slave, was born in Tukahoe, Maryland, on 7th February, 1817. He never knew his father and was separated from his mother when very young.
Douglas lived with his grandmother on a plantation until the age of eight, when he was sent to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. The wife of Auld defied state law by teaching him to read.
When Auld died in 1833 Frederick was returned to his Maryland plantation. In 1838 he escaped to New York City where he changed his name to Frederick Douglass. He later moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he worked as a labourer.
After hearing him make a speech at a meeting in 1841, William Lloyd Garrison arranged for Douglass to become an agent and lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass was a great success in this work and in 1845 the society helped him publish his autobiography, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
After the publication of his book, Douglass was afraid he might be recaptured by his former owner and so he travelled to Britain where he lectured on slavery. While in Britain he raised the funds needed to establish his own anti-slavery newspaper, the North Star. This created a break with William Lloyd Garrison, who was opposed to a separate, black-owned press.
During the Civil War Douglass, a Radical Republican, tried to persuade President Abraham Lincoln that former slaves should be allowed to join the Union Army. After the war Douglass campaigned for full civil rights for former slaves and was a strong supporter of women's suffrage.
Douglass held several public posts including assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission (1871), marshall of the District of Columbia (1877-1881) and U.S. minister to Haiti (1889-1891). In 1881 he published the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass died in Washington on 20th February, 1895.
Slavery in the United States (£1.29)