By EEW MAGAZINE // PROFILES IN BLACK HISTORY SERIES 2017
Frederick Douglass, originally named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, 1818. His exact birthdate is unknown, but he later dedicated the 14th of February to the celebration of his birthday.
Douglass initially lived with his maternal grandmother, Betty Bailey, before Douglass was taken to live in the home of the plantation owners. His mother passed away when he was about ten-years-old.
Eventually, he was sent to the Baltimore home of Hugh Auld, where Auld’s wife Sophia illegally taught him the alphabet. When Auld discouraged his wife from giving Douglass further lessons, he secretly continued to learn to read from white children and others around the neighborhood.
It was through reading that Douglass discovered his opposition to slavery, and he was later made to work for Edward Covey, who was known as a “slave-breaker.” Covey’s constant, brutal mistreatment of Douglass nearly broke the sixteen-year-old psychologically, until Douglass ended the beatings by winning a physical confrontation with the man.
Douglass tried to escape from slavery twice to no avail, before he finally succeeded. He was assisted in his final attempt by Anna Murray, a free black woman whom he would later wed.
After he had obtained freedom by catching a train to Havre De Grace, Maryland, Frederick and Anna were married on September 15, 1838, and Frederick adopted Douglass as his last name.
Having attained freedom, Douglass became a prominent leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining recognition due to his eloquent speeches and antislavery writings. Douglass wrote several autobiographies, such as the 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller and greatly promoted the cause of abolition.
Aside from calling for an end to slavery, Douglass also supported women’s right to vote, as he was a firm believer in the equality of all people.
Frederick Douglass died February 20, 1895.
To honor him posthumously, many schools have been named after him. In 2010 a statue of Douglass was unveiled at Frederick Douglass Circle at the Northwest corner of Central Park in New York City
One of his greatest and truest quotes is, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”