Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

By: Madeline Beaulne and Amanda Hoppie

Frederick Douglas a former slave turned abolitionist, who spoke and wrote about the evils of slavery, as well as other issues of inequality, such as women’s rights.


  • The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, "Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey" was born in February of 1818 on Maryland's eastern shore. He spent his early years with his grandparents and with an aunt, seeing his mother only four or five times before her death when he was seven. (All Douglass knew of his father was that he was white.) During this time he was exposed to the degradations of slavery, witnessing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time cold and hungry. When he was eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. There he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists.

  • Douglass spent seven relatively comfortable years in Baltimore before being sent back to the country, where he was hired out to a farm run by a notoriously brutal "slavebreaker" named Edward Covey. And the treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was "broken in body, soul, and spirit."

  • On January 1, 1836, Douglass made a resolution that he would be free by the end of the year. He planned an escape. But early in April he was jailed after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass.

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  • He was internationally recognized as an uncompromising abolitionist, indefatigable worker for justice and equal opportunity, and an unyielding defender of women's rights
  • Douglass taught other slaves, specifically he taught them to read the New Testament at a weekly church service. Many slave owners did not approve, and used clubs and stones to stop them.
    • By the time of the war, Douglass was one of the most famous Black men.
    • In 1863 he talked with Abraham Lincoln regarding the treatment of black soldiers and with Andrew Jackson regarding black suffrage.
    • Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was put into effect on January 1, 1864 freeing all slaves in the confederate territory.
    • After the war he fought for women’s suffrage.
    • Despite apprehensions that the information might endanger his freedom, Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. The year was 1845.

James Earl Jones Reads Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass believed in three ways to achieve success in life:
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity.
  • Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.
Frederick Douglass gave many speeches regarding slavery and gave slaves a voice.
Not only did he fight against slavery but other issues of inequality, like women’s rights.


In conclusion Frederick Douglass fought for what he believed in. He never gave up and continued to help others throughout his life. Frederick Douglas was able to change the lives of slaves and women in America.