Home » Frederick (Augustus Washington Bailey) Douglass

Frederick (Augustus Washington Bailey) Douglass

February 1818– February 20, 1895

 A former slave and great public speaker wrote the best known first-hand account of American slavery: “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” (1845). While the backbone of the abolitionist movement was black, the leadership was largely white. Douglass gave it a black voice and a black leader. He talked Lincoln out of sending blacks back to Africa. Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his experiences in slavery in his 1845 autobiography. Narrative the Life of Frederick Douglass on American Slave which became influential in its support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War.

After the Civil War, He remained active in the United States struggle to reach its potential as a land of the free.  He actively supported women’s suffrage…


He was a firm believer in the equality of all, whether black, male, female, Native American or recent immigrant, he was known famously quoted as saying,

“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”




1863 began for the new president during that time Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists argued that because the aim of the Civil War was to end slavery, African Americans should be allowed to engage in the fight for their freedom. He publicized this view in his newspapers and several speeches. He conferred with the then President Abraham Lincoln on the treatment of black soldiers, and with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage.

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which took effect on January 1, 1863, declared the freedom of all slaves in Confederate-held territory. African Slaves in Union-held areas and Northern states would become freed with the adoption of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865. Frederick Douglass described the spirit of those awaiting the proclamation:

“We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky … we were watching … by the dim light of the stars for the dawn of a new day … we were longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries.”

During the Presidential election in 1864 Frederick Douglass supported John C. Fremont. Douglass was disappointed that President Lincoln did not publicly endorse suffrage for black freedmen. Douglass believed that since black men were fighting in the Civil War they deserved the right to vote.

With the North no longer obliged to return slaves to their owners in the South, He fought for equality for his people. He made plans with Lincoln to move the liberated slaves out of the South. During the war, Douglass helped the Union by serving as a recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. His son Frederick Douglass Jr. also served as a recruiter and his other son, Lewis Douglass, fought for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment at the Battle of Fort Wagner…

Slavery everywhere in the United States was outlawed by the post-war (1865) ratification of the 13th Amendment. The 14th Amendment provided for citizenship and equal protection under the law. The 15th Amendment protected all citizens from being discriminated against in voting because of race.

The Death of President Abraham Lincoln was a shock to him and everyone. The Emancipation Memorial at the unveiling of the in Washington’s Lincoln Park, Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker for the dedication service on April 14, 1876. In his speech, Douglass spoke frankly about Lincoln, noting:

What he perceived as both the positive and negative attributes of the late President. He called Lincoln “the white man’s president” and cited his tardiness in joining the cause of emancipation. He noted that Lincoln initially opposed the expansion of slavery but did not support its elimination.

But Douglass also asked:

“Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed  the first day of January 1863when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?”

At this speech he also said:

“Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery….”

The crowd, roused by his speech, gave him a standing ovation. A long-told anecdote claims that the widow Mrs. Mary Lincoln gave Abraham Lincoln’s favorite Walking Stick to Frederick Douglass in appreciation.

President Abraham Lincoln’s walking stick still rests in Douglass’ house known as Cedar Hill.

In his last autobiography, The Life & Times of Frederick Douglass, Douglass referred to Abraham Lincoln as America’s “greatest President.”

After the Civil War, Frederick Douglass was appointed to several political positions. He served as president of the Reconstruction -era Freedman’s Savings Bank; and as chargé d’affaires for the Dominican Republic. After two years, he resigned from his ambassadorship because of disagreements with U.S. government policy. In 1872, he moved to Washington, D.C., after his house on South Avenue in Rochester, New York, burned down; arson was suspected. Also lost was a complete issue of The North Star.

In 1872 without his approval, he became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the impracticable and small Equal rights Party ticket.  He held multiple public offices in the government.

After reconstruction the white Democrats regained power in the state legislatures of the South, they began to impose new laws that disfranchised blacks and to create labor and criminal laws limiting their freedom.

Speaking in Baltimore in 1894, Frederick Douglass said:

“I hope and trust all will come out right in the end, but the immediate future looks dark and troubled. I cannot shut my eyes to the ugly facts before me.”

Many African Americans wanted out and to moved to large northern cities and to places like Kansas. This was to form all-black towns where it was felt they could have a greater level of freedom and autonomy. Frederick Douglass spoke out against the movement, urging blacks to stick it out. He had become out of step with his audiences, who condemned and booed him for this position.

In 1877, Douglass was appointed a United States Marshall.

In 1881, he was appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia.

In 1888, Douglass spoke at Claflin College. a black college in Orangeburg, South Carolina. and the oldest such institution in the state.

At the 1888 Republican National Convention.

Mr. Federick  Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party’s roll call vote.

He was appointed minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (1889–1891). In 1892, the Haitian government appointed Douglass as its commissioner to the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition .  He spoke for Irish Home Rule and the efforts of leader

Charles Steward Parnell in Ireland. He briefly revisited Ireland in 1886.

Also in 1892, Douglass constructed rental housing for blacks, now known as Douglass Place.  In the Fells Point. area of Baltimore.

He was the  first  black citizen to hold high rank (as U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti) in the U.S. government

On February 20, 1895, Mr. Frederick Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. . . .

During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and given a standing ovation by the audience.

Shortly after he returned home,

Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke in Washington, D.C.

His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church where thousands passed by his coffin paying tribute to the man who cared for the freedom of all no matter race or gender and full equality of women.

He was buried in the Douglass family plot of Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York where he had lived for 25 years, longer than anywhere else in his life.

His legacy will live on forever a man without any boundaries. He believed everyone is free and that we are not handicapped by our race or gender.

We are all free and to fight for justice and equality. A great leader and a vast amount of accomplishments and awards. His works and words shall live on for as long as we are on this planet.

Above Mrs. Anne Marie Douglass his wife for 44 years.


Frederick Douglass with his second wife in 1884, Douglass married, to Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York sitting with him.







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