About Frederick Douglass


Born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, Frederick Douglass (1818-95) became one of the most influential human rights activist of the nineteenth century, as well as an internationally acclaimed statesmen, orator, editor, and author. The most famous African American opponent of slavery, Frederick Douglass's life spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century. He lectured on issues of civil rights, gender, and race, with a power that continues to resonate into the twenty-first century. He began his public speaking career aligned with the Garrisonian abolitionists, narrating his experiences as a slave. The popularity of his speaking engagements led to the publication of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, American Slave (1845), the first of his three autobiographies, in which he told the harrowing tale of his childhood as a slave, and for the first time revealed actual names and locations. Following a two-year (1845-46) lecture tour of Great Britain, Douglass returned to the United States, settled in Rochester, New York, and began publication of what would be the first of four newspapers: The North Star (1847-51), Frederick Douglass' Paper (1851-60), Douglass' Monthly (1859-63), and the New National Era (1870-74). Having shifted his tactics from the non-political and non-violent methods of the abolitionist followers of Boston newspaper editor William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass came to endorse political abolitionist agitation. He also supported the violent antislavery tactics of John Brown and had to flee again to Great Britain briefly following the failure of the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. Douglass gave his endorsement to the Republican Party only after Abraham Lincoln had made emancipation a Union goal in the Civil War. He took an active role in the recruitment of African American soldiers for the Union Army, including two of his own sons (Charles and Lewis Douglass). After Emancipation, and the subsequent disbandment of abolition societies, Douglass's public role changed dramatically. He continued to struggle for African American equality, but within established channels rather than outside them. He also campaigned actively for the Woman Suffrage movement, whose first public a meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, he had famously attended. After moving to Washington D.C. in the early 1870s, Douglass held a variety of positions in the federal government (under several different Republican administrations), including Minister-Resident and Consul-General to Haiti from 1889 to 1891. Other posts included serving as president of the Freedman's Bank, and U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia. Throughout the latter period of his life, he continued to maintain a very active speaking schedule, and remained a leading human rights advocate until his death. Indeed, he spent the morning of the day he died (February 20, 1895), speaking at a women's rights rally in Washington, D.C.


Abolition and Slavery

Hypertexts by the American Studies Group at the University of Virginia
Excerpts from Slave Narratives, edited by Stephen Mintz
"Been Here So Long", WPA slave narratives, New Deal Network.
American Abolition Project, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
Abolition Activism in Wisconsin
African American Experience in Ohio, Ohio Historical Society.
The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony Papers Project, Rutgers University
The Lucretia Coffin Mott Papers Project
Gerrit Smith Virtual Museum, New York History Net
Freedmen and Southern Society Project, University of Maryland
Harriet Jacobs Papers Project, Pace University
From the Schomburg African American Women Writers of the 19th Century collection, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library:
Biography of an American Bondman, by Josephine Brown
Memories of Childhood's Slavery Days, by Annie L. Burton
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet A. Jacobs
A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince
The Narrative of Bethany Veney
North American Slave Narratives, Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Narratives in this collection include those of the following persons (among many others): Charles Ball, Henry Bibb, Henry "Box" Brown, William Wells Brown, Lewis and Milton Clarke, William and Ellen Craft, Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, Solomon Northup, James W.C. Pennington, Sojourner Truth [1850] [1875] [1884], Nat Turner, Samuel R. Ward


American Memory (subject headings page), Library of Congress and affiliated institutions.
The Association for Documentary Editing (The ADE)
Association for the Study of African American Life and History
National Council on Public History (NCPH)
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

Anti-Slavery Manuscripts

The Boston Public Library holds the papers of many antislavery activists based in Boston, including letters by William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Weston Chapman.

New York:
Bird Library, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University
Gerrit Smith Papers
"My Escape from Slavery" by Frederick Douglass, Century Illustrated Magazine, Project Gutenberg. A transcription of Douglass's escape from slavery as he first publicly told the story in November 1881.
Rochester History. A journal dedicated to the history of Rochester, New York, with articles available online in PDF format.
The University of Rochester's River Campus Libraries system, houses the papers of antislavery activists based in Rochester, New York and includes some documents relevant to the Underground Railroad.
Frederick Douglass Project
Isaac and Amy Post Family Papers
Post Family Papers Project
Porter Family Papers

Washington, D.C.:
Library of Congress
Frederick Douglass Papers: The Library of Congress holds the bulk of Douglass's personal papers.


Frederick Douglass Organization
Talbot Historical Society (Talbot County, Maryland)
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Boston Public Library

Washington, D.C.:
Library of Congress


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, University of North Carolina. A complete facsimile of the 1845 version of Douglass's Narrative from the Documenting the American South project, with bibliography to related reading.

My Bondage and My Freedom, University of North Carolina. A complete facsimile of the 1855 version of Douglass's My Bondage and My Freedom from the Documenting the American South project, with bibliography to related reading.

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass [1881] [1892], University of North Carolina. A complete facsimile of each version of Douglass's Life and Times from the Documenting the American South project, with bibliography to related reading.


"An Act to Authorize the Frederick Douglass Gardens, Inc., to Establish a Memorial and Gardens on Department of the Interior Lands in the District of Columbia or Its Environs in Honor and Commemoration of Frederick Douglass." Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.P: Supt. of Docs., 2000.
Baxter, Geneva Hampton. "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Its Context, Rhetoric and Reception." Master's thesis, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Ga., 2001.
Blassingame, John W. and John R. McKivigan, eds. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass Papers: Autobiographical Writings, vol. 1. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. Original edition, 1845.
Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln: A Relationship in Language, Politics, and Memory. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2001.
Blight, David W. Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
Chesnutt, Charles Waddell. Frederick Douglass. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002. Original edition, 1899. The earliest biography of Douglass, by a contemporary African American, it also available from the Documenting the South Project.
Conference. Frederick Douglass Conference: The Public Life and Work of Frederick Douglass. At University of Rochester, New York, 2003.
Diedrich, Maria. Love Across the Color Lines: Ottilie Assing and Frederick Douglass. New York: Hill and Wang, 2000.
Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time. Scituate, Mass.: Digital Scanning, 2001. Original edition, 1882.
--------. Narracion de la Vida de Frederick Douglass, Un Esclavo Americano, Escrita Por El Mismo: Texto Bilinue. Translated by J. B. A. M. Manzanas. Leon: Universidad de Leon, 2000.
--------. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave .Austin, Tex,: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2000. Original edition, 1845.
--------. "'Your Late Lamented Husband': An Unpublished Letter of Frederick Douglass to Mary Todd Lincoln." New York, 2000.
Foner, Philip S. Frederick Douglass. New York: Citadel Press, 1950.
Foner, Philip S., ed. Frederick Douglass on Slavery and the Civil War: Selections from His Writings. New York: Dover Publications, 2003. Original edition, 1945.
--------, ed. Frederick Douglass on Women's Rights. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976.
Gregory, James M. Frederick Douglass, the Orator. New York: Apollo Editions, 1971. Original edition, 1893.
Harris, Nikka L. "Mastering the Master's Discourse: Gender, Race, and Language in the Slave Narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass." Master's thesis, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD, 2001.
Heine, David. "Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: Joined in a "'Sacred Effort'". Master's Thesis, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla, 2001.
Historical Society of Talbot County. "Frederick Douglass Driving Tour of Talbot County, Maryland." Easton, Md.: Historical Society of Talbot County, 2002.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.
Lutz, Norma Jean. Frederick Douglass. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001.
Mackey, William Jr., ed. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2002. Original edition, 1845.
Martin, Waldo E. The Mind of Frederick Douglass. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.
McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W Norton &Company, 1991.
McKivigan, John R. Frederick Douglass. San Diego, Ca.: Greenhaven Press, 2004.
Mieder, Wolfgang. "No Struggle, No Progress": Frederick Douglass and His Proverbial Rhetoric for Civil Rights. New York: P. Lang, 2001.
Miller, Douglas T. Frederick Douglass and the Fight for Freedom.Bridgewater, NJ: Replica Books, 2001. Original edition, 1993.
Moses, Wilson Jeremiah. Creative Conflict in African American Thought: Frederick Douglass, Alexander Crummell, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Nusloch, David. "Literateness and Critical Thinking in Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, William Dodd's Narrative of the Experience and Sufferings of William Dodd, a Factory Cripple, Written by Himself, and Edmund Gosse's Father and Son." Master's thesis, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, La., 2002.
Phillips, Rachael. Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist and Reformer. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub, 2000.
Pickens, Ernestine Williams, ed. Frederick Douglass, by Charles Waddell Chesnutt. Atlanta, Ga.: Clark Atlanta University Press, 2001. Original edition, 1899.
Preston, Dickson J., Young Frederick Douglass: The Maryland Years. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.
Prioleau, Rachelle C. "Combining Abolitionism and Women's Suffrage: The Agenda Building Process and Discursive Strategies of Frederick Douglass." PhD Dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., 2000.
Quarles, Benjamin. Frederick Douglass. New York: Atheneum, 1968.
Reed-Morton, LaDonna. "Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany: the Politics of Emigration." Master's thesis, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., 2002.
Taylor, Trachell R. "Redefiing Selfhood: Examining the Self in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Master's Thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., 2003.
Voss, Frederick S. Majestic in His Wrath: A Pictorial Life of Frederick Douglass. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995.
Washington, Booker T. Frederick Douglass. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Company, 1906.
Waters, Carver Wendell. Voice in the Slave Narratives of Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, and Solomon Northrup. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.
Williams, Roderick. "Invisible Place: A Spatial Exploration of the 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass'". Master's thesis, University of Cinncinnatti, Cinncinnatti, Ohio, 2000.
Williamson, Scott C. The Narrative Life: The Moral and Religious Thought of Frederick Douglass. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2002.
Wu, Jin-Ping. Frederick Douglass and the Black Liberation Movement: The North Star of American Blacks. Garland: New York, 2000.

Especially for Youth

Becker, Helaine. Frederick Douglass. Woodbridge, Conn.: Blackbirch Press, 2001.
Bennett, Evelyn. Frederick Douglass and the War against Slavery. Brookfield,Conn.: The Millbrook Press, 1993.
Burchard, Peter. Frederick Douglass: For the Great Family of Man. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003.
Byrd, Adler David A. and Samuel. A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Original edition, 1993.
Collier, James Lincoln and Greg Copeland. The Frederick Douglass You Never Knew. New York: Children's Press, 2003.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: With Related Readings. New York: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2002.
Fleming, Alice Mulcahey. Frederick Douglass: From Slave to Statesman. New York: PowerKids Press, 2004.
Jackson, Dave; Neta Jackson and Anne Gavitt. Caught in the Rebel Camp: Frederick Douglass. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 2003.
Keenan, Sheila. Frederick Douglass: Portrait of a Freedom Fighter. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1995.
Kerby, Mona. Frederick Douglass: Samuel Morse. Lincoln, Neb.: IUniverse, 2001.
Lantier, Patricia. Frederick Douglass. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2003.
Lutz, Norma Jean. Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist and Author. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001.
McCurdy, Michael, ed. Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.
McKissack, Pat and Frederick McKissack. Frederick Douglass: Leader Against Slavery. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub., 2002.
--------. Frederick Douglass: The Black Lion. Chicago: Children's Press, 1987.
Milton Meltzer, ed. Frederick Douglass, in His Own Words. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1995.
Passaro, John. Frederick Douglass. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 2000.
Rau, Dana Meachen. Frederick Douglass. Mineapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2003.
Russell, Sharman Apt. Frederick Douglass. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.
Schaefer, Lola M. Frederick Douglass. Mankato, Minn: Peeble Books, 2002.
Schraff, Anne E. Frederick Douglass: Speaking Out Against Slavery. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2002.
Trumbauer, Lisa. Let's Meet Frederick Douglass. Philadelphia: Chelsea Clubhouse Books, 2004.
Weidt, Maryann N. and Jeni Reeves. Voice of Freedom: A Story About Frederick Douglass. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2001.
Welch, Catherine A. Frederick Douglass. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co., 2003.
Yancey, Diane. Frederick Douglass. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2003.

Landmarks and Historic Sites

Frederick Douglass House, Highland Beach, Maryland.
Frederick Douglass Memorial in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Frederick Douglass Museum and & Caring Hall of Fame, 320 A Street N.E., Site of Douglass's first home in Washington, D.C., before his purchase of Cedar Hill.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, National Parks Service, Anacostia, Washington, D.C. Frederick Douglass's final home, Cedar Hill, now a museum in the nation's capitol.
Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York, burial site of Frederick Douglass, Anna Murray Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass, Rosetta Douglass Sprague, and Sprague Family.
Photos of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Home, circa 1938, New Deal Network.
William Lloyd Garrison House, National Parks Service.