FREDERICK DOUGLASS Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


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Frederick Douglass was born in a slave cabin, in February, 1818, near             
the town of Easton, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Separated from his           
mother when only a few weeks old he was raised by his grandparents. At about       
the age of six, his grandmother took him to the plantation of his master and       
left him there. Not being told by her that she was going to leave him,             
Douglass never recovered from the betrayal of the abandonment. When he was         
about eight he was sent to Baltimore to live as a houseboy with Hugh and           
Sophia Auld, relatives of his master. It was shortly after his arrival that       
his new mistress taught him the alphabet. When her husband forbade her to         
continue her instruction, because it was unlawful to teach slaves how to read,     
Frederick took it upon himself to learn. He made the neighborhood boys his         
teachers, by giving away his food in exchange for lessons in reading and           
writing. At about the age of twelve or thirteen Douglass purchased a copy of       
The Columbian Orator, a popular schoolbook of the time, which helped him to       
gain an understanding and appreciation of the power of the spoken and the         
written word, as two of the most effective means by which to bring about           
permanent, positive change.                                                       
        Returning to the Eastern Shore, at approximately the age of fifteen,     
Douglass became a field hand, and experienced most of the horrifying               
conditions that plagued slaves during the 270 years of legalized slavery in       
America. But it was during this time that he had an encounter with the             
slavebreaker Edward Covey. Their fight ended in a draw, but the victory was       
Douglass', as his challenge to the slavebreaker restored his sense of             
self-worth. After an aborted escape attempt when he was about eighteen, he was     
sent back to Baltimore to live with the Auld family, and in early September,       
1838, at the age of twenty, Douglass succeeded in escaping from slavery by         
impersonating a sailor.                                                           
        He went first to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he and his new         
wife Anna Murray began to raise a family. Whenever he could he attended           
abolitionist meetings, and, in October, 1841, after attending an anti-slavery     
convention on Nantucket Island, Douglass became a lecturer for the                 
Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and a colleague of William Lloyd Garrison.     
This work led him into public speaking and writing. He published his own           
newspaper, The North Star, participated in the first women's rights convention     
at Seneca Falls, in 1848, and wrote three autobiographies. He was                 
internationally recognized as an uncompromising abolitionist, indefatigable       
worker for justice and equal opportunity, and an unyielding defender of           
women's rights. He became a trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln, United States     
Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C.,     
and Minister-General to the Republic of Haiti.