Frederick Douglass was the most important black American leader of the 19th century. He was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, in Talbot County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore in [sic], the son of a slave woman, and in all likelihood, her white master.
Douglass immortalized his formative years as a slave in the first of three autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , published in Written both as antislavery propaganda and as personal revelation, they are universally regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography. Douglass's public life ranged from his work as an abolitionist in the early s to his attacks on Jim Crow segregation in the s.
Douglass lived the bulk of his career in Rochester, N. Douglass achieved international fame as an orator with few peers and as a writer of persuasive power. In thousands of speeches and editorials Douglass levied an irresistible indictment against slavery and racism, provided an indomitable voice of hope for his people, embraced antislavery politics, and preached his own brand of American ideals. Douglass welcomed the Civil War in as a moral crusade to eradicate the evil of slavery. During the war he labored as a fierce propagandist of the Union cause and emancipation, as a recruiter of black troops, and on two occasions as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln.
Douglass made a major contribution to the intellectual tradition of millennial nationalism, the outlook from which many Americans, North and South, interpreted the Civil War.
During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age Douglass's leadership became less activist and more emblematic. He traveled and lectured widely on racial issues, but his most popular topic was "Self-Made Men. Douglass had five children by his first wife Anna Murray, a free black woman from Baltimore who followed him out of slavery in Less than two years after Anna died in , the year-old Douglass married Helen Pitts, his white former secretary, an event of considerable controversy.
Douglass attempted to escape slavery at age 15 but was discovered before he could do so. At an antislavery convention, he was asked to recount his time in slavery and so moved his audience that he became an agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. His autobiography cemented his prominence as an abolitionist. Abraham Lincoln.
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Douglass played a crucial role in persuading Lincoln to arm slaves and prioritize abolition. During Reconstruction Douglass became the highest-ranking black official of his time and advocated for full civil rights for both freedmen and women. Frederick Douglass published three autobiographies. Frederick Douglass was a prolific writer and a masterful orator who captivated readers and listeners throughout the U. His talents contributed to the rise of antislavery sentiments in public consciousness.
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass - Wikipedia
Douglass also gave black slaves a commanding voice at the bargaining table that would help them navigate the unfamiliarity of freedom. Douglass was born in , though the month and day are uncertain; he later opted to celebrate his birthday on February Separated as an infant from his slave mother he never knew his white father , Frederick lived with his grandmother on a Maryland plantation until he was eight years old, when his owner sent him to Baltimore to live as a house servant with the family of Hugh Auld, whose wife defied state law by teaching the boy to read.
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Auld, however, declared that learning would make him unfit for slavery , and Frederick was forced to continue his education surreptitiously with the aid of schoolboys in the street. Upon the death of his master, he was returned to the plantation as a field hand at Later he was hired out in Baltimore as a ship caulker. Frederick tried to escape with three others in , but the plot was discovered before they could get away.
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Five years later, however, he fled to New York City and then to New Bedford , Massachusetts, where he worked as a labourer for three years, eluding slave hunters by changing his surname to Douglass. At a Nantucket , Massachusetts, antislavery convention in , Douglass was invited to describe his feelings and experiences under slavery. These extemporaneous remarks were so poignant and eloquent that he was unexpectedly catapulted into a new career as agent for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
From then on, despite heckling and mockery, insult, and violent personal attack, Douglass never flagged in his devotion to the abolitionist cause. To counter skeptics who doubted that such an articulate spokesman could ever have been a slave, Douglass felt impelled to write his autobiography in , revised and completed in as Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
To avoid recapture by his former owner, whose name and location he had given in the narrative, Douglass left on a two-year speaking tour of Great Britain and Ireland. Abroad, Douglass helped to win many new friends for the abolition movement and to cement the bonds of humanitarian reform between the continents. Thus, after Douglass allied himself with the faction of the movement led by James G.