Significance of Frederick Douglass:
Early Life of Frederick Douglass:
He was originally named Frederick Bailey by his mother, Harriet Bailey. He was separated from his mother when he was young, and was raised by other slaves on the plantation.
Escape From Slavery:
Frederick became determined to escape to freedom. After one failed attempt, he was able to secure identification papers in 1838 stating he was a seaman. Dressed as a sailor, he boarded a train northward and successfully escaped to New York City at the age of 21.
A Brilliant Speaker for the Abolitionist Cause:
In 1841 Douglass attended a meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Nantucket. He got onstage and gave a speech which riveted the crowd. His story of life as a slave was delivered with passion, and he was encouraged to dedicate himself to speaking out against slavery in America.
He began touring the northern states, to mixed reactions. In 1843 he was nearly killed by a mob in Indiana.
Publication of Autobigraphy:
As he became prominent, he feared slave catchers would apprehend him and return him to slavery. To escape that fate, and also to promote the abolitionist cause overseas, Douglass left for an extended visit to England and Ireland, where he was befriended by Daniel O'Connell, who was leading the crusade for Irish freedom.
Douglass Purchased His Own Freedom:
At the time, Douglass was actually criticized by some abolitionists. They felt that buying his own freedom only gave credibility to the institution of slavery. But Douglass, sensing danger if he returned to America, arranged for lawyers to pay $1,250 to Thomas Auld in Maryland.
Douglass returned to the United States in 1848, confident he could live in freedom.
Activities In the 1850s:
He had met John Brown, the anti-slavery fanatic, years earlier. And Brown approached Douglass and tried to recruit him for his raid on Harper's Ferry. Douglass though the plan was suicidal, and refused to participate.
When Brown was captured and hanged, Douglass feared he might be implicated in the plot, and fled to Canada briefly from his home in Rochester, New York.
Relationship With Abraham Lincoln:
When Lincoln became president, Frederick Douglass did visit him twice at the White House. At Lincoln's urging, Douglass helped recruit African-Americans into the Union army. And Lincoln and Douglass obviously had a mutual respect.
Frederick Douglass Following the Civil War:
In the late 1870s President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Douglass to a federal job, and he held several government posts including a diplomatic posting in Haiti.
Douglass died in Washington, D.C. in 1895.