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Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass portrait.jpg
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Agustus Washington Bailey

(1818-02-14)February 14, 1818
Talbot County, Maryland
Died February 20, 1895(1895-02-20) (aged 77)
Cause of death heart attack or stroke
Other names Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Hellen Pitt
Children 5

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist (someone who wanted to end slavery), orator, writer, and statesman.

After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his speaches and antislavery writings.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies, describing his experiences as a slave in his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855).

Following the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. The book covers events both during and after the Civil War.

Douglass also actively supported women's suffrage, and held several public offices.

Without his approval, Douglass became the first African-American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants.


Frederick Douglass gravestone
Gravestone of Frederick Douglass located in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York

On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and received a standing ovation. Shortly after he returned home, Douglass died of a massive heart attack. He was 77.

His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Thousands of people passed by his coffin to show their respect. Although Douglass had attended several churches in the nation's capital, he had a pew here and donated two standing candelabras when this church had moved to a new building in 1886. He also gave many lectures there, including his last major speech, "The Lesson of the Hour."

Douglass' coffin was transported back to Rochester, New York, where he had lived for 25 years, longer than anywhere else in his life. He was buried next to Anna in the Douglass family plot of Mount Hope Cemetery, and Helen joined them in 1903.

Legacy and honors

Poster from Office of War Information. Domestic Operations Branch. News Bureau, 1943
1965 U.S. Postage Stamp, published during the upsurge of the civil rights movement
America the Beautiful quarter honoring Frederick Douglass
  • In 1899, a statue of Frederick Douglass was unveiled in Rochester, New York, making Douglass the first African-American to be so memorialized in the country.
  • In 1921, members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity (the first African-American intercollegiate fraternity) designated Frederick Douglass as an honorary member. Douglass thus became the only man to receive an honorary membership posthumously.
  • The Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, sometimes referred to as the South Capitol Street Bridge, just south of the US Capitol in Washington DC, was built in 1950 and named in his honor.
  • In 1962, his home in Anacostia (Washington, DC) became part of the National Park System, and in 1988 was designated the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
  • In 1965, the U.S. Postal Service honored Douglass with a stamp in the Prominent Americans series.
  • In 1999, Yale University established the Frederick Douglass Book Prize for works in the history of slavery and abolition, in his honor. The annual $25,000 prize is administered by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.
  • In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Frederick Douglass to his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
  • In 2003, Douglass Place, the rental housing units that Douglass built in Baltimore in 1892 for blacks, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In 2007, the former Troup–Howell bridge, which carried Interstate 490 over the Genesee River in Rochester, was redesigned and renamed the Frederick Douglass – Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge.
  • In 2010, the Frederick Douglass Memorial was unveiled at Frederick Douglass Circle at the northwest corner of Central Park in New York City.
  • Also in 2010, the New York Writers Hall of Fame inducted Douglass in its inaugural class.
  • On June 12, 2011, Talbot County, Maryland, honored Douglass by installing a seven-foot bronze statue of Douglass on the lawn of the county courthouse in Easton, Maryland.
  • On June 19, 2013, a statue of Douglass by Maryland artist Steven Weitzman was unveiled in the United States Capitol Visitor Center as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, the first statue representing the District of Columbia.
  • On September 15, 2014, under the leadership of Governor Martin O'Malley a portrait of Frederick Douglass was unveiled at his official residence in Annapolis, MD. This painting, by artist Simmie Knox, is the first African-American portrait to grace the walls of Government House. Commissioned by Eddie C. Brown, founder of Brown Capital Management, LLC, the painting was presented at a reception by the Governor.
  • On January 7, 2015, as a parting gift in honor of Governor Martin O'Malley's last Board of Public Works a portrait of Frederick Douglass was gifted to him by Peter Franchot. Two editions of this artwork, by artist Benjamin Jancewicz, were purchased from Galerie Myrtis by Peter Franchot and his wife Ann both as a gift for the Governor as well as to add to their own collection. The Governor's edition now hangs in his office.
  • In November 2015, the University of Maryland dedicated Frederick Douglass Plaza, an outdoor space where visitors can read quotes and see a bronze statue of Douglass.
  • On February 1, 2016, Google celebrated him with a Google Doodle.
  • On October 18, 2016, the Council of the District of Columbia voted that the city's new name as a State is to be "Washington, D.C.", and that "D.C." is to stand for "Douglass Commonwealth."
  • On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Mint began issuing quarters with an image of Frederick Douglass on the reverse, with the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the background. The coin is part of the America the Beautiful Quarters series.
  • On May 20, 2018, Douglass was awarded an honorary law degree from the University of Rochester. The degree, which was accepted by Douglass' great-great-great-grandson, was the first posthumous honorary degree that the university had granted.
  • His final public lecture took place on February 1, 1895 at West Chester University. This was only 19 days before his death. Today, there is a statue of him on the universities campus commemorating this event. The Frederick Douglass Institute has a West Chester University program for advancing multicultural studies across the curriculum and for deepening the intellectual heritage of Douglass.
  • In New York State there is the "Let's Have Tea" sculpture of Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.
  • On September 30, 2019, Newcastle University opened the 'Frederick Douglass Centre', a key teaching component for their School of Computing and Business School. Frederick Douglass stayed in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1846 on a street adjacent to the new University campus.
  • A statue of Douglass located in Rochester, New York's Maplewood Park was vandalized and torn down over the weekend of July 4, 2020.
  • In 2020, Douglas Park in Chicago, which was named for U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, was renamed to Douglass Park, in honor of Frederick and Anna Douglass. In the 1850s the senator was a proponent of letting each state decide whether or not to allow slavery. The name change was the result of a multi-year student-led campaign to rename the park.

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