The Frederick Douglass Foundation is named after Frederick Douglass for a reason.
Our platform and tenets are to honor the legacy of the man and what he fought for. Our plans and
strategies are to help others fight “the man” and run away from the bondage of hopelessness and
the mental slavery in which we can find ourselves. We want to edify and help people believe and
understand that they can achieve all that which they are capable.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, conceived in rape, was born into slavery in eastern
Maryland in February of 1818. Like most slaves, Douglass did not know his exact birthday. He chose
February 14 because his mother, who died when Douglass was around eight years old, called him
her “little valentine.”
Douglass, the father of the civil rights movement, was born into slavery and crossed over to the
other side as a homeowner with savings of approximately $300,000, the equivalence of what would
be about $10 million today. He also had four presidential appointments under his belt, was a world
traveler, a champion abolitionist and for women’s rights, a writer and business owner and one of the
most prolific orators in history. He did not blame, accuse, wallow and envy. Instead, he rose up and
fought to learn to read. He self-educated in one of the saddest and most horrific and oppressive
times of American history. He became an ordained minister, and even wrote his first autobiography
while he was a fugitive slave. He traveled the world and championed the principles of God, the U.S
Constitution and the Republican Party.
Douglass said, “What is possible for me is possible for you.” By taking the keys to success and making them his own, Frederick Douglass created a life of honor, respect and success - one that he could never have dreamed of when still a boy on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Frederick Douglass believed in life, liberty, individual responsibility and limited government and, after
reading the U.S. Constitution for himself, he had a profound respect for it. This is why he was a
Republican, and in his words “a dyed in the wool Republican.”
A Brief Summary of Accomplishments by Frederick Douglass:
Finished learning to read while getting beat up by white children in the neighborhood, and by
1835: Rented to William Freeland, a plantation owner. There he organized a Sunday school and
taught other slaves to read, until other plantation owners interfered and stopped the educational
1836: Failed attempt at escape
September 3, 1838: Successful escape attempt with help of then girlfriend, Anna Murray and
abolitionist David Ruggles. Anna and Frederick married 9/15/1838, the year Frederick changed last
name to Douglass
1845: Published his first autobiography (a bestseller). Also befriended Susan B. Anthony, traveled
to Ireland and Britain lecturing on slavery along with the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison
1855: Published second autobiography
1847-1864: Published “North Star,” an antislavery weekly
1863: Advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. Without Douglass’s influence, Lincoln would probably
not have taken up the Emancipation Proclamation, as he thought it would create a civil war
Recruited black soldiers for the Union Army
1865: Lectures on reconstruction and women’s rights
1871: Appointed by President Grant to the commission for possible annexation of the Dominican
1872: Nominated VP running mate for Equal Rights Party candidate Victoria C. Woodhull
1877: Appointed by President Hayes as US Marshal
1881: Appointed by President Garfield as Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia;
publishes third autobiography
1889: Appointed by President Harrison as US Minister and Consul General, Republic of Haiti
February 20, 1895: Speaks at National Council of Women
Wives: Anna Murray (1838–1882) she died and re-remarried a white woman Helen Pitts Douglass
Children: Frederick Douglass, Jr., Rosetta Douglass, Charles Remond Douglass, Annie Douglass,
Lewis Henry Douglass
Frederick Augustus Washington
Proud Black, Republican & Champion
of Civil Rights
February 14, 1818 to February 20,
“Honoring the Father of the America’s
Civil Rights Movement”
From the outbreak of the Civil War until his death, Douglass was generally
recognized as the premier Black American leader and spokesman for his people.
Douglass’ writing was devoted primarily to the creation of a heroic image of
himself that would inspire in African Americans the belief that one’s color need
not be a permanent bar to their achievement of the American dream, while
reminding whites of their obligation as Americans to support free and equal
access to that dream for Americans of all races.
The man who became internationally famous as Frederick Douglass was born on
Maryland’s Eastern Shore in February 1818, the son of Harriet Bailey, a slave, and
an unknown white man. Although he recalls witnessing as a child the bloody
whipping of his Aunt Hester by his master, Douglass says in his autobiographies
that his early experience of slavery was characterized less by overt cruelty than
by deprivations of food, clothing, and emotional contact with his mother and
grandmother. Sent to Baltimore in 1826 by his master’s son-in-law, Thomas Auld,
Frederick spent five years as a servant in the home of Thomas Auld’s brother,
Hugh. At first, Hugh’s wife Sophia treated the slave boy with unusual kindness,
giving reading lessons to Frederick until her husband forbade them. Rather than
accept Hugh Auld’s dictates, Frederick took his first rebellious steps toward
freedom by teaching himself to read and write.
In 1833, a quarrel between the Auld brothers brought Frederick back to his home
in Saint Michaels, Maryland. Tensions between the recalcitrant black youth and
his owner convinced Thomas Auld to hire Frederick out as a farm worker under
the supervision of Edward Covey, a local slave breaker.
In the spring of 1836, after a failed attempt to escape from slavery, Frederick was
sent back to Baltimore to learn the caulking trade. With the aid of his future
spouse, Anna Murray, and masquerading as a free black merchant sailor, he
boarded a northbound train out of Baltimore on September 3, 1838 and arrived in
New York City the next day. Before a month had passed, Frederick and Anna were
reunited, married and living in New Bedford, Massachusetts as Mr. and Mrs.
Frederick Douglass, the new last name recommended by a friend in New
Bedford’s thriving Black American community. Less than three years later,
Douglass joined the radical Garrisonian wing of the abolitionist movement as a
full-time lecturer. After years of honing his rhetorical skills on the antislavery
platform, Douglass put his life’s story into print in 1845. The result, “Narrative of
the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” written by himself, sold more
than 30,000 copies in the first five years of its existence. After a triumphal 21-
month lecture tour in England, Ireland, and Scotland, Douglass returned to the
United States in the spring of 1847, and resolved against the advice of many of
his Garrisonian associates to launch his own newspaper, the North Star.
Authoring most of the articles and editorials himself, Douglass kept the North
Star and its successors, Frederick Douglass’ Paper and Frederick Douglass’
Monthly, in print from 1847 to 1863.
One of the literary highlights of the newspaper the novella “The Heroic Slave,”
which Douglass wrote in March 1853. Based on an actual slave mutiny, it is
regarded as the first work of long fiction in African American literature.
A rupture of the close relationship between Douglass and Garrison occasioned a
period of reflection and reassessment that culminated in Douglass’ second
autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855). Although he had
befriended and advised John Brown in the late 1850s, Douglass declined Brown’s
invitation to participate in the Harpers Ferry raid but was forced to flee his
Rochester, New York, home for Canada in October 1859 after he was publicly
linked to Brown. Applauding the election of Abraham Lincoln and welcoming the
Civil War as a final means of ending slavery, Douglass lobbied the new president
in favor of African American recruitment for the Union Army. When the war
ended, Douglass pleaded with President Andrew Johnson for a national voting
rights act that would give Black Americans the franchise in all the states.
Douglass’ loyalty to the Republican Party, whose candidates he supported
throughout his later years, won him appointments to the highest political offices
that any Black American from the North had ever achieved: federal marshal and
recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia, president of the Freedman’s
Bureau Bank, consul to Haiti, and chargé d’affaires for the Dominican Republic.
The income Douglass earned from these positions, coupled with the fees he
received for his popular lectures, most notably one entitled “Self-Made Men,” and
his investments in real estate, allowed Douglass and his family to live in comfort
in Uniontown, just outside Washington, D.C. during the last two decades of his
life. His final memoir, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” first published in
1881 and expanded in 1892, did not excite the admiration of reviewers or sell
widely, as had his first two autobiographies. But the Life and Times maintained
Douglass’ conviction that his had been a “life of victory, if not complete, at least
assured,” and showed Douglass was dedicated to the ideal of building a racially
integrated America, in which skin color would cease to determine an individual’s
social value and economic options.
In the last months of his life, Douglass decried the increasing incidence of
lynching in the South and disputed the notion that by disenfranchising the Black
American man a more peaceful social climate would prevail throughout the
nation. Yet Douglass never forsook his long-standing belief that the U.S.
Constitution, if strictly and equally enforced, remained the best safeguard for
Black American civil and human rights. In the history of Black American
literature, Douglass’ importance and influence are immeasurable.
Frederick Douglass Embodied Three Keys for Success in Life:
Believe in yourself.
Take advantage of every opportunity.
Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.