Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his life as a slave, and his struggles to be free. His first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published in 1845 and was his best-known work, influential in gaining support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, Douglass remained active in the United States' struggle to reach its potential as a "land of the free". Douglass actively supported women's suffrage. Following the war, he worked on behalf of equal rights for freedmen, and held multiple public offices.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was fond of saying, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.
A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845)
"The Heroic Slave". Autographs for Freedom. Ed. Julia Griffiths, Boston: Jewett and Company, 1853. pp. 174–239.
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, revised 1892)
Douglass also was editor of the abolitionist newspaper The North Star from 1847 to 1851. He merged The North Star with another paper to create the Frederick Douglass' Paper.
"The Church and Prejudice"
"Speech at National Hall, Philadelphia July 6, 1863 for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments"
"What to a slave is the 4th of July?"
The 1989 film Glory featured Frederick Douglass as a friend of Francis George Shaw. He was played by Raymond St. Jacques.
Douglass is the protagonist of the novel Riversmeet (Richard Bradbury, Muswell Press, 2007), a fictionalized account of his 1845 speaking tour of the British Isles.
The 2004 mockumentary film, an alternative history called C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, featured the figure of Douglass.
The 2008 documentary film called Frederick Douglass and the White Negro tells the story of Frederick Douglass in Ireland and the relationship between African Americans and Irish Americans during the American Civil War.
Frederick Douglass is a major character in the alternate history novel How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.
Frederick Douglass appears as a Great Humanitarian in the 2008 strategy video game Civilization Revolution.
Douglass, his wife, and his mistress, Ottilie Assing, are the main characters in Jewell Parker Rhodes' Douglass' Women, a novel (New York: Atria Books, 2002).
Legacy and honors
In 1921, members of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity designated Frederick Douglass as an honorary member. Theirs was the first African-American intercollegiate fraternity. Douglass was the only man to receive an honorary membership posthumously.
The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, sometimes referred to as the South Capitol Street Bridge, just south of the US Capitol in Washington DC, was built in 1950 and named in his honor.
1965, the U.S. Postal Service honored Douglass with a postage stamp in the Prominent Americans series.
1988, Cedar Hill in Anacostia was designated the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
1999, Yale University established the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for works in the history of slavery and abolition, in his honor. The annual $25,000 prize is administered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Frederick Douglass to his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
2003, Douglass Place, rental housing units built in Baltimore by Douglass in 1892 for blacks, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Douglass is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on February 20.
2007, The former Troup-Howell bridge which carried Interstate 490 over the Genesee River was redesigned and renamed the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge.
2010, A statue and memorial of Douglass were unveiled at Frederick Douglass Circle at the northwest corner of Central Park in New York City.
Numerous public schools have been named in his honor.