Who is Frederick Douglass?

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Frederick Douglass Biography & Facts

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, c. February 1817 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counterexample 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.Douglass wrote three autobiographies, describing his experiences as a slave in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which became a bestseller and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). Following the Civil War, Douglass was active campaigner for the rights of freed slaves and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 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 permission, 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.Douglass believed in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto "No Union with Slaveholders", criticized Douglass's willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong." Life as a slave Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland. The plantation was between Hillsboro and Cordova; his birthplace was likely his grandmother's cabin east of Tappers Corner, (38.8845°N 75.958°W / 38.8845; -75.958) and west of Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography, Douglass stated: "I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it." However, based on the extant records of Douglass's former owner, Aaron Anthony, historian Dickson J. Preston determined that Douglass was born in February 1818. Though the exact date of his birth is unknown, he chose to celebrate February 14 as his birthday, remembering that his mother called him her "Little Valentine." Birth family Douglass was of mixed race, which likely included Native American and African on his mother's side, as well as European. In contrast, his father was "almost certainly white", according to historian David W. Blight in his 2018 biography of Douglass. Douglass said his mother Harriet Bailey gave him his name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey and, after he escaped to the North in September 1838, he took the surname Douglass, having already dropped his two middle names.He later wrote of his earliest times with his mother: The opinion was…whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion I know nothing. … My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant. … It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. … I do not recollect of ever seeing my mother by the light of day. She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone. After separation from his mother during infancy, young Frederick lived with his maternal grandmother Betsy Bailey, who was also a slave, and his maternal grandfather Isaac, who was free. Betsy would live until 1849. Frederick's mother remained on the plantation about 12 miles (19 km) away, only visiting Frederick a few times before her death when he was 7 years old. Early learning and experience The Auld family At the age of 6, Frederick was separated from his grandparents and moved to the Wye House plantation, where Aaron Anthony worked as overseer. After Anthony died in 1826, Douglass was given to Lucretia Auld, wife of Thomas Auld, who sent him to serve Thomas' brother Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Douglass felt that he was lucky to be in the city, where he said slaves were almost freemen, compared to those on plantations. When Douglass was about 12, Hugh Auld's wife Sophia began teaching him the alphabet. From the day he arrived, she saw to it that Douglass was properly fed and clothed, and that he slept in a bed with sheets and a blanket. Douglass described her as a kind and tender-hearted woman, who treated him "as she supposed one human being ought to treat another." Hugh Auld disapproved of the tutoring, feeling that literacy would encourage slaves to desire freedom. Douglass later referred to this as the "first decidedly antislavery lecture" he had ever heard. "'Very well, thought I,'" wrote Douglass. "'Knowledge unfits a child to be a slave.' I instinctively assented to the proposition, and from that moment I understood the direct pathway from slavery to freedom."Under her husband's influence, Sophia came to believe that education and slavery were incompatible and one day snatched a newspaper away from Douglass. She stopped teaching him altogether and hid all potential reading materials, including her Bible, from him. In his autobiography, Douglass related how he learned to read from white children in the neighborhood, and by observing the writings of the men he worked with.Douglass continued, secretly, to teach himself to read and write. He later often said, "knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom." As Douglass began to read newspapers, pamphlets, political materials, and books of every description, this new realm of thought led him to question and condemn the institution of slavery. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator, an anthology that he discovered at about age 12, with clarifying and defining his views on freedom and human rights. First published in 1797, the book is a classroom reader, containing essays, speeches, and dialogues, to assist students in learning reading and grammar. He later learned that his mother had also been literate, about which he would later declare: I am quite willing, and even happy, to attribute any love of letters I possess, and for which I have got—despite of prejudices—only too much credit, not to my admitted Anglo-Saxon paternity, but to the native genius of my sable, unprotected, and uncultivated mother—a woman, who belonged to a race whose mental endowments it is, at present, fashionable to hold in disparagement and contempt. William Freeland When Douglass.... Discover the Frederick Douglass popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Frederick Douglass books.

Best Seller Frederick Douglass Books of December 2021

Frederick Douglass book summary, reviews and downlod

Frederick Douglass

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**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**“Extraordinary…a great American biography” (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the ninete...

A Slave No More book summary, reviews and downlod

A Slave No More

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The newly discovered slave narratives of John Washington and Wallace Turnage—and their harrowing and empowering journey to emancipation.   Slave narratives, ...

Young Frederick Douglass book summary, reviews and downlod

Young Frederick Douglass

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Drawing on previously untapped sources, Young Frederick Douglass recreates with fidelity and in convincing detail the background and early life of the man who was to become "the gadfl...

The Columbian Orator book summary, reviews and downlod

The Columbian Orator

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First published in 1797, The Columbian Orator helped shape the American mind for the next half century, going through some 23 editions and totaling 200,000 copies in sales. The book ...

Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition book summary, reviews and downlod

Indian Ocean Slavery in the Age of Abolition

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While the British were able to accomplish abolition in the trans-Atlantic world by the end of the nineteenth century, their efforts paradoxically caused a great increase in legal and illegal...

American Oracle book summary, reviews and downlod

American Oracle

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<b>“The ghosts of the Civil War never leave us, as David Blight knows perhaps better than anyone, and in this superb book he masterfully unites two distant but inextricably bound eve...

Delia's Tears book summary, reviews and downlod

Delia's Tears

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In 185 seven South Carolina slaves were photographed at the request of the famous naturalist Louis Agassiz to provide evidence of the supposed biological inferiority of Africans. Lost for ma...

Frederick Douglass: Speeches & Writings (LOA #358) book summary, reviews and downlod

Frederick Douglass: Speeches & Writings (LOA #358)

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Library of America presents the biggest, most comprehensive trade edition of Frederick Douglass's writings ever published, selected by his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer 

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Frederick Douglass (Unabridged) MP3 Audiobook

Frederick Douglass (Unabridged)

Biographies & Memoirs$29.99

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**“Extraordinary…a great American biography” (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the ninete...

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory MP3 Audiobook

Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

History$22.99

No historical event has left as deep an imprint on America's collective memory as the Civil War. In the war's aftermath, Americans had to embrace and cast off a traumatic past. David Blight ...

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself: The Bedford Series in History and Culture (Unabridged) MP3 Audiobook

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself: The Bedford Series in History and Culture (Unabridged)

Biographies & Memoirs$9.99

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was a former slave and great American abolitionist, author, and orator. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is his best-selling autobiography, w...

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation (Unabridged) MP3 Audiobook

A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation (Unabridged)

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Slave narratives are extremely rare. Of the one hundred or so of these testimonies that survive, a mere handful are first-person accounts by slaves who ran away and freed themselves. Now two...

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