Name at birth: Frederick Augustus Washington BaileyFrederick Douglass was a former slave who became one of the great American anti-slavery leaders of the 1800s. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland, but in 1838, when he was 20, he escaped to freedom in New York. A few years later he went to work for abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, traveling and speaking on behalf of Garrison's paper The Liberator. Frederick Douglass published his memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845. Eloquent, smart and determined, Douglass gained fame as a speaker, began his own anti-slavery publications, and then (like Harriet Tubman) became a 'conductor' on the Underground Railroad that helped lead slaves to freedom. In later years he became a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln and helped persuade Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. He also was a strong supporter of women's rights. For all these reasons, Frederick Douglass is often described as the founder of the American civil rights movement.
After his escape from slavery, Frederick Douglass chose his new last name from a character in the Sir Walter Scott book The Lady of the Lake… Frederick Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman, shortly after his escape from slavery in 1838. They had four children: Rosetta (b. 1839), Lewis (b. 1840), Frederick Jr. (b. 1842) and Charles (b. 1844). Anna Douglass died in 1882, and two years later Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white woman who had been his secretary… Frederick Douglass was back in the news on February 1, 2017, when President Donald Trump appeared not to know who Douglass was during a Black History Month celebration at the White House. Speaking off the cuff, Trump said, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed.”
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