Frederick Douglass was born a slave who had little to no time with his mother as a child, and was removed from the love of his grandmother at around age six. His first experience on his new planation at age six, was to witness a house slave being whipped to near death as he hid in the recesses of an adjoining store room. He never forgot that experience and often spoke about it. Douglass taught himself to read by watching the white children and the books they used as they learned to read.
Born in approximately 1818, Douglass spent about twenty years working on a Maryland plantation before his escape in around 1838. He had headed north with the help of his soon to be wife, Anna Murray. Anna was a freedman. He boarded a Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore train to meet her. His first stop was in New York City, but it was short as bounties filled the city looking for runaway slaves. The couple stayed in New York City for about a week and a half. They eventually settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts and then later back in New York State.
Douglass befriended William Lloyd Garrison the owner of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator. While with Garrison one time, he was asked to give an extemporaneous speech to a group of fellow anti-slavery supporters. Many in the group, had never seen a slave and certainly never heard one speak of the atrocities he had endured.
After that impromptu speech, Douglass became a regular speaker at abolitionist events. He was a feature presenter at the American Anti-Slavery Society’s Hundred Convention project. In 1845, his autobiography, Narrative of Frederick Douglass was published. In his life, he eventually published three different versions of his autobiography. He belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which also had Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth as members.
During the Civil War, Douglass was a valued advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. He was able to convince President Lincoln to allow freedman from the North to fight for the Union side. Douglass was also a strong supported for Women’s Rights. During his lifetime, this former slave was also able to travel to Ireland and to Britain to speak about his various causes. In 1951, he debuted the newspaper Frederick Douglass Paper, which ran until 1860. He later formed another newspaper called The New Era.
When Anna Murray Frederickson died in 1882, Douglass soon married an abolitionist named Helen Pitts. Pitt was white and about 20 years younger than Douglass. This marriage cause quite a stir and more than one attempt on Douglass’ life. In 1877, Frederick Douglass and Helen moved to a sprawling home in Washington, D.C.
While living in Washington, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him as a United States Marshal for The District of Columbia. On February 20, 1895 shortly after Douglass had spoken at the Washington, DC National Council of Women, he died of a massive heart attack. His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Episcopal Church and he is buried in the same cemetery as Susan B. Anthony, Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.