On an unknown date in 1817, on a slave plantation in Tuckahoe Maryland, Frederick August Washington Bailey was born. Frederick was raised in a house on the plantation with all the other slave children. At the age of seven, like many other slaves, Frederick was put to work in the fields. As a young child he would wonder why he was a slave, and why everyone can’t be equal.
His thoughts frequently came back to him, leaving him with a great hatred for slavery.In 1836, Frederick had finally had enough of his imprisonment, and attempted an escape with many other slaves. The escape was not successful, Frederick and the other slaves were sent to work in a shipyard hauling crates. Frederick worked the shipyard for two years until he had another great escape idea, this time it worked. The sailing papers of a sailor had been borrowed, and disguised as a sailor, Frederick Douglass made his escape to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Upon his arrival, Frederick took up his new assumed last name Douglass, to escape being captured.
In 1841, Frederick attended an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket Massachusetts. Here, his impromptu speech he gave showed him to be a great speaker. The opponents of Frederick believed that he was never a slave, because of his great speaking skills and knowledge. In response to this, Frederick wrote his life story in his book Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
Frederick made a fatal mistake though, he had used the name of his old master on the slave plantation.Upon learning of this, his old master sent slave catchers to New England to bring him back. Fearing a life of slavery again, Frederick fled to England. Here in England, he gave many lectures on the abolitionists movement, and earned sufficient funds to buy his freedom in America.In 1847, Frederick became the “station master” of the Underground Railroad in Rochester, New York. Here he also began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star. During these publishing years, Frederick became good friends with John Brown.
John had a vision of training groups of men to help slaves escape via the Underground Railroad.However, in 1859, Douglass learned it was Brown’s intention to raid the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He was sure this would bring disastrous results, and took no part in the raid. Following the raid, Douglass fled to Europe, fearing the government would hold him responsible for what had happened.
He stayed for six months, until finally returning to America to campaign for Abraham Lincoln during the Presidential election of 1860.At the outbreak of the Civil War, Frederick helped raise the regiment of the Massachusetts 54th. This group of soldiers fought hard, and Douglass was respected as a leader of ex-slaves. Frederick soon fought for the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments for the U.S.
Constitution, which gave rights to everyone. He became U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877-81), recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia (1881-86) and U.S. minister to the Republic of Haiti (1889-91).
After his death in 1895, people mourned the loss of one of the great freedom fighters of the 1800’s.Bibliography: