Author: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, c. 1879

Frederick Douglass (circa 181895) was born into slavery and suffered its cruelties at the hands of an especially malicious overseer, Edward Covey. He escaped from slavery in September 1838, and soon became a leader in the national abolitionist movement. In 1845, he published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; ten years later, his memoir My Bondage and My Freedom was published, followed by Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881. 

Address at the Monument of the Unknown Dead

Frederick Douglass

Not everyone after the Civil War was a patron of reconciliation, especially if it meant forgetting or overlooking what the war was all about. Frederick Douglass (circa 1818–95), who rose from slavery to become one of America’s great orators, writers, reformers, and statesmen, was by both sorrowful experience and firm principle committed to celebrating the superior moral position of the Union.

Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass (c.1818–95), a prominent African-American abolitionist, social reformer, and statesman, delivered his “Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln” at the unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, DC on April 14, 1876.

The Civil Rights Cases

Frederick Douglass

In a major setback for racial equality, the US Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Cases (1883) declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had guaranteed—to all people under the jurisdiction of the United States, regardless of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude—equal access to and enjoyment of all public accommodations, facilities, and services. On October 22, 1863, at a mass rally at Lincoln Hall in Washington, DC protesting the court’s decision, the great orator and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass (1818–95) made an eloquent speech (excerpted here) against the decision.

The Last Flogging

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (circa 1818–95) was born into slavery and suffered its cruelties at the hands of an especially malicious overseer, Edward Covey. This selection is excerpted from his 1855 memoir, My Bondage and My Freedom, which recounts Douglass’s early life as a slave, his daring escape to freedom, and his distinguished career as an abolitionist orator and political activist.

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

Frederick Douglass

No American in our history has exposed our hypocrisy more powerfully than did Frederick Douglass (circa 1818–1895), a one-time slave who became a great orator, statesman, and abolitionist. Douglass made the case best in his famous Fourth of July oration (here excerpted), delivered on July 5, 1852 before the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York. Yet as remarkable as his indictment is his vigorous defense of the Constitution and of the American experiment.

Why Should a Colored Man Enlist?

Frederick Douglass

How to lift people out of degradation and despair? Others may provide material aid and encouragement, but a case can be made that full success requires people to stand up for themselves. Few better understood this necessity than Frederick Douglass (circa 1818–95), who during the Civil War urged his fellow black Americans to overcome the degradation of slavery.