Frederick Douglass Biography (1818-1895)

was a former slave who became one of the great American anti-slavery leaders of the 1800s. Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland but in 1838, at age 20, he escaped to freedom in New York. A few years later he went to work for William Lloyd Garrison, travelling and speaking on behalf of Garrison’s paper The Liberator. Douglass published his memoir Narrative of the Life of , an American Slave in 1845. Eloquent, smart and determined, Douglass gained fame as a speaker, began his own anti-slavery publications and became a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. In later years he became a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln and helped persuade Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He also was a strong supporter of women’s rights. He is often described as the founder of the American civil rights movement.

After his escape from slavery, Douglass chose his new last name from a character in the Sir Walter Scott book The Lady of the Lake… Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman, shortly after his escape from slavery in 1838. They had four children: Rosetta (b. 1839), Lewis (b. 1840), Frederick Jr. (b. 1842) and Charles (b. 1844). Anna Douglass died in 1882, and two years later Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white woman who had been his secretary.

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