Frederick Douglass’ 199th Birthday

This day is not just a Valentine's Day, it's Frederick Douglass' 199th Birthday

Frederick Douglass was a former slave who escaped and became a powerful anti-slavery orator. Douglass wrote three autobiographies describing his experiences as a slave and then gaining his freedom. His writings and speeches became powerful testimonies to support the abolition of slavery. Douglass was the most influential Black leader of the Nineteenth Century, and exemplified great moral courage in opposing slavery and injustice.


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An abolitionist, writer and orator Frederick Douglass was the most important black American leader of the nineteenth century. Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he was the son of a slave woman and, probably, her white master. Upon his escape from slavery at age twenty, he adopted the name of the hero of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. Douglass immortalized his years as a slave in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). This and two subsequent autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), mark his greatest contributions to American culture. Written as antislavery propaganda and personal revelation, they are regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography.

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Brilliant, heroic, and complex, Douglass became a symbol of his age and a unique voice for humanism and social justice. His life and thought will always speak profoundly to the meaning of being black in America, as well as the human calling to resist oppression. Douglass died in 1895 after years of trying to preserve a black abolitionist’s meaning and memory of the great events he had witnessed and helped to shape.

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