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Black History Month Bio: Frederick Douglass

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Frederick_Douglass_c1860sEveryone knows about Frederick Douglass and his movement to end slavery in the middle of the 19 century. Not only did he help bring an end to slavery as a member of the Abolitionist movement but he was also the leader. He was born a slave but he died as a freeman helping this very nation.

Frederick Douglas was born in 1818 though the very date of his birth is unknown. He was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey to a white man and a black woman. Frederick didn’t know his father but lived to know his mother, albeit intermittently, until the age of ten when his mother died. Since Frederick’s birth date is unknown, he, along with his maternal grandmother, decided to celebrate his birthday on the fourteenth of February. When Frederick’s master died, he was given to Lucretia Auld, whom then gave him to her brother-in-law, Hugh Auld.


Under the ownership of Hugh, Frederick was taught the alphabet; an act was against the law of the time. When Hugh would no longer teach Frederick, he would continue to learn from the white children in his neighborhood. Because of this, he began to form an opinion of the law of slavery; he opposed it. Frederick would round up other slaves and conduct a weekly sermon detailing his beliefs on the opposition of slavery. This was met with very unfavorable criticism from the slavers who dispersed the group permanently.


Following a dispute with his son, Thomas Auld took back Frederick from Hugh Auld and sent him to Edward Covey, whom was known as a slave-breaker. Despite being sixteen, Frederick was almost mentally broken due to Covey’s torments. However, after losing a confrontation, Covey never beat Frederick again.


Frederick tried to escape from slavery twice before he was successful. The woman whom helped him make his escape, Anna Murray, married Frederick in 1838. They adopted the married name Douglass to help disguise Frederick. Frederick was asked to tell his story at abolitionist meetings and was soon made the regular anti-slavery lecturer. Frederick wrote his first autobiography in 1845. Titled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, the book was well-received and would be rewrote and revised throughout his life.


After the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which freed slaves in Confederate states, Douglass would side with John C. Frémont for the 1864 election. The reason was due to Frémont’s stance on suffrage for the black population. Frederick was appointed to several political positions after the war including president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank. Frederick was also the first black man to receive a nomination for Vice President in 1872 for the Equal Rights party. In 1877, Frederick reconciled with his former slave master, Thomas Auld.


After Frederick’s wife died he soon married Helen Pitts, a white feminist whom was the daughter of Gideon Pitts, Jr., an abolitionist colleague. This marriage was met with controversy from the public and from Douglass’ own children. On February 20, 1895, Douglass died from a massive heart attack or stroke. 

Jonathan Silva is a graduate and current student at Full Sail University going for his Master's Degree in Journalism. When he isn't writing for film blogs like Get The Big Picture or listening to music, he's either watching movies or playing video games. His love for all things entertainment shine through in his writing.