About the Frederick Douglass Papers


The Frederick Douglass Papers collects, edits, and publishes in books and online the speeches, letters, autobiographies, and other writings of Frederick Douglass.

The project's primary aim has been to make the surviving works by this iconic African American figure accessible to a broad audience, much as similar projects have done for the papers of notable white historical and literary figures. As such, the Frederick Douglass papers is one of the few major documentary editing projects (in progress) devoted to an African American figure. Other similar on-going projects include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, the  Freedman and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland, and the  Harriet Jacobs Papers at Pace University.

The original heart of the project is the publication by Yale University Press of fifteen volumes of the most historically significant of Douglass’s works; nine of these volumes have been published so far, as well as several ancillary paperback volumes. In recent years the project has also begun utilizing the internet to make both its electronic texts of Douglass’s works, as well as research tools related to Douglass, accessible to an even broader audience.

Digital Edition Purpose

The Frederick Douglass Papers documents the life and work of the most influential and best-known African American of the 19th century. This online resource will ultimately contain all of the content of the multi-volume Yale University Press print edition of Douglass’s speeches, autobiographies, correspondence, and other writings and adds to this a powerful XML-based search functionality, linked cross-references, and the ability to navigate topically, chronologically, or by series volume. Additional resources by and about Douglass will be added to this website in years to come to assist both the experienced scholar and the general reader to learn more about Douglass’s many accomplishments.


All events are free and open to the public.


Frederick Douglass at 200: A Life in Documents
October 25-26, 2018


4th Annual Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Symposium ("Frederick Douglass and the Role of Oratory in African American Leadership")
October 20-21, 2016

2nd Annual Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Symposium ("Frederick Douglass's Heroic Slave and the American Revolutionary Tradition")
October 9-10, 2014


IUPUI Staff:

John R. McKivigan, Editor: Mary O'Brien Gibson Professor of United States History, Indiana University School of Liberal Arts. McKivigan specializes in antebellum America, Civil War studies, American ethnic history, and American working class history. He has been a member of the staff of the Frederick Douglass Papers Edition almost since its inception at Yale University in 1973. His publications include The War against Proslavery Religion: Abolitionism and the Northern Churches (1984); On Strike for Respect (1985) coeditor, The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series I, Vols. II-V, Series II, Vols. I, II (1982-2003); editor, The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series II, Vol. III (2012) and Series III, Vol. I (2009); editor, James Redpath, The Roving Editor; or, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States (1996); coeditor, The Historical Moment: Biographical Essays on American Character and Regional Identity (1994); Antislavery Violence: Slavery, Racial, and Cultural Conflict in Antebellum America (2000); Encyclopedia of Antislavery and Abolition (2006); Forgotten Firebrand: James Redpath and the Making of Nineteenth-Century America (2008); In the Words of Frederick Douglass (2012) and numerous articles. His research has been supported by fellowships and grants from many sources, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Jeffery A. Duvall, Associate Editor: Duvall has a Ph.D. in history from Purdue University. He is a specialist in 19th and early 20th century social history with a focus on rural life, tobacco farming and the Ohio River valley, gender, and class. He is a Research Associate in the Institute for American Thought at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), and teaches in the IUPUI History Department. Duvall’s publications include articles in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Indiana Libraries, and The Virginia Genealogist, as well book chapters and book reviews. He is the 2010 recipient of the Kentucky Historical Society’s Richard H. Collins Award, for his article, “Knowing about the Tobacco: Women, Burley, and Farming in the Central Ohio River Valley” (Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Fall 2010). Duvall is also the associate editor of the forthcoming (2018) second volume of Frederick Douglass’s Correspondence: 1853-1865, as well as the forthcoming first volume of Frederick Douglass’s Journalistic and Other Writings’ series, Journalistic and Miscellaneous Writings. He also assists the project’s editor with writing grant applications and is actively engaged with developing and maintaining this website. Duvall has been with the Frederick Douglass Papers since 2013.

Heather L. Kaufman, Research Associate: Kaufman received her M.A. in Sociology in 2007 from IUPUI with training in qualitative methods. Her research interests have focused on the intersection of sociology and history with particular attention to political speech and themes of inequality and social justice in her work. She is the coeditor of several volumes on Douglass, including In the Words of Frederick Douglass: Quotations from Liberty’s Champion (2012); Critical Edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (2016); and the Selected Speeches of Frederick Douglass (forthcoming 2017). Her professional presentations include: “Competing Frames – Social Constructions of the War on Terror in Campaign Rhetoric” in 2007 at the Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Conference; “The War at Home: How Local Communities are impacted by the War on Terror,”in 2006 at the North Central Sociological Association Annual Conference; “Propaganda the Information War: Media, Power, and Politics in Democracy” in 2005 at the American Sociological Association Annual Conference; and “Constructing the Worth of Human Beings during the War on Terrorism in the United States from the National Addresses of George W. Bush and John Kerry” in 2005 at the Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Conference.

Claire Christoff, Graduate Research Assistant:

Additional Project Staff:

L. Diane Barnes, Consulting Associate Editor
Angela White, Consulting Assistant Editor
Norman Dann, Consulting Research Associate
Mark Furnish, Consulting Research Associate
Rebecca Pattillo, Consulting Research Associate
Lauren Zachary, Consulting Research Associate

Editorial Advisory Board:

Mary F. Berry, University of Pennsylvania
Richard J. M. Blackett, Vanderbilt University
David W. Blight, Yale University
Robert Hall, Northeastern University
Stanley Harrold, South Carolina State University
Nancy A. Hewitt, Rutgers University
Howard R. Lamar, Yale University
Robert S. Levine, University of Maryland
John Stauffer, Harvard University

Project History

The Frederick Douglass Papers Edition originated in 1973 at Yale University, as a result of consultations among the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and John W. Blassingame, Professor of History at Yale. With Blassingame serving as editor, the project began work in 1973. For almost twenty years the project was housed at Yale University, staffed by scholars at that institution.

In 1993 Blassingame turned over direction of the Douglass Papers to John R. McKivigan, a member of the project staff since 1979. Since then the Papers have moved twice with McKivigan. From 1992-98, West Virginia University housed the project, and since 1998 the Frederick Douglass Papers has resided at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) as a unit of that campus’ Institute for American Thought.

Project Publication Record

Blassingame, McKivigan, and numerous editorial collaborators have published the following volumes with Yale University Press:
Series One. Speeches, Debates, and Interviews: Volume 1: 1841-1846 (1979); Volume 2: 1847-1854 (1982); Volume 3: 1855-1863 (1985); Volume 4: 1864-1880 (1991; Volume 5: 1881-1895 (1992).
Series Two. Autobiographical Writings: Volume 1: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1999) also abridged paperback edition (2001); Volume 2: My Bondage and My Freedom (2003); Volume 3: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (2011).
Series Three. Correspondence: Volume 1: 1842-1852 (2009); Volume 2: 1853-1865 (2018); Volume 3: 1866-1880 (forthcoming @2019). Volume 4: 1881-1888 (forthcoming @2021); Volume 5; 1889-1895 (forthcoming @2023).
Series Four. Journalism and Other Writings: Volume 1: Journalistic and Miscellaneous Writings (forthcoming @2019); Volume 2: Editorial Writing (forthcoming @2022).
Paperback Volumes: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (2001); The Heroic Slave: A Critical Edition (2015); A Critical Edition of Frederick Douglass’s Oratory (forthcoming @2018).