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The abolitionist movement, which struggled to snuff out slavery in the United States in the years prior to the Civil War, boasted Frederick Douglass as one of its star proponents.
A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), his memoir which recounts his birth as a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland, to his escape to Massachusetts in 1838, and acted as a treatise on abolition. It assured him worldwide recognition with its publication. Other works include The Heroic Slave (1853) and My Bondage and My Freedom (1855).
An articulate orator with striking features, Douglass accepted an invitation by the American Anti-Slavery Society to embark on a tour of speaking engagements, thus becoming noted as one of the country's original, outstanding African American speakers. He also lectured for two years in Britain.
Douglass returned to the United States, bought his freedom, and began to publish an abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, in 1847.
Following the Mexican-American War, Frederick Douglass was one of those who opposed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. His position was that the United States should not obtain any territory from Mexico. Speaking through the pages of his newspaper, the North Star, he observed:
In our judgment, those who have all along been loudly in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and heralding its bloody triumphs with apparent rapture, and in glorifying the atrocious deeds of barbarous heroism on the part of wicked men engaged in it, have no sincere love of peace, and are not now rejoicing over peace, but plunder. They have succeeded in robbing Mexico of her territory, and are rejoicing over their success under the hypocritical pretence of a regard for peace.
President Lincoln accepted Douglass as an advisor during the Civil War. In that capacity, he advocated new constitutional amendments to ensure the vote and other civil rights for black people. Also during the war, he organized two black regiments in Massachusetts.
After the war, Douglass served as a government official for the District of Columbia and was U.S. consul-general to Haiti from 1889 to 1891.
Douglass contributed an assertive voice for civil rights during this era of American history and is respected to this day for his struggle against racial inequities.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Frederick Douglass.
I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.
Speech in Syracuse NY 1847
Regarding Civil Rights before the Civil War
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.
Speech in 1857
Regarding Harriet Tubman
Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day — you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt " God bless you " has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism.
Letter to Tubman, 1868
Quotes regarding Frederick Douglass.
By Booker T. Washington
At one time Mr. Douglass was traveling in the state of Pennsylvania, and was forced, on account of his color, to ride in the baggage-car, in spite of the fact that he had paid the same price for his passage that the other passengers had paid. When some of the white passengers went into the baggage-car to console Mr. Douglass, and one of them said to him: "I am sorry, Mr. Douglass, that you have been degraded in this manner," Mr. Douglass straightened himself up on the box upon which he was sitting, and replied: "They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me..."
Up from Slavery, 1901