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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Born: February 7, 1817 - Tuckahoe, Maryland
Died: February 20, 1895 - Washington, D.C.

The son of a slave mother (from whom he was early separated) and a white father he never knew, he lived with his grandmother on a Maryland plantation until the age of 8. He worked as a house servant (during which time he learned to read and write), field hand,
Watch the video
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
C-SPAN's Video Library: Frederick Douglass
and ship's caulker before managing to flee in 1838 to New York and then New Bedford, Mass., where he worked as a laborer for three years, eluding slave hunters by changing his name to Douglass.

At an antislavery convention in 1841, he was asked to speak extemporaneously about his own experiences; his remarks were so poignant and naturally eloquent that he was catapulted into a new career as an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. To counter skeptics who doubted he could ever have been a slave, he wrote his autobiography in 1845, revised and completed in 1882 as Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. It became a classic of American literature as well as a primary source about slavery from the bondsman's viewpoint. After a two-year speaking tour of Britain and Ireland, he returned with funds to purchase his freedom and to start his own antislavery newspaper, The North Star (later Frederick Douglass's Paper), which he published from 1847 to 1860 in Rochester, N.Y. He broke with William Lloyd Garrison over the need for a separate, black-oriented press and the need for political action in addition to moral suasion, and from 1851 he allied himself with James Birney's abolitionist faction.

Works by Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
My Bondage and My Freedom
Frederick Douglass's Paper
During the Civil War, Douglass was a consultant to Abraham Lincoln. Throughout Reconstruction he fought for full civil rights for freedmen and vigorously supported the women's-rights movement. He later held several government positions, including minister to Haiti (1889-91).

Web sites about Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass Comes to Life
American Visionaries: Frederick Douglass

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