Social reformer, abolitionist, legendary orator, educator, writer, and statesman
After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, earning acclaim for his powerful speeches and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counterexample to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice-Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders,” criticized Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
‘Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.’
Fredrick Douglass was the epitome of the phrase actions speak louder than words, and his words shook the world.
Pay homage to the past with a Fredrick Douglass t-shirt
We are nothing without the struggles of our ancestors that have brought us to this place where our voices are heard. Artistry and Fortitude strives to recognize every name in history that played a crucial part in our journey for validation. Shop with the same confidence as these names and give them eternal life.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS: An American Biography