Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (February 14, 1817 - February 20, 1895)
American abolitionist, journalist, and orator, often referred to as the "father" of the modern civil rights movement.

Douglass was born a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland, and spent his adolescence as a houseboy in Baltimore. He escaped to New Bedford, Massachussetts in 1836. In 1841 he began a career as an abolitionist after giving a rousing, impromptu speech at an antislavery convention in Nantucket, Massachussetts.

He used his oratorical skills in the ensuing years to lecture in the northern states against slavery. He also helped slaves escape to the North while working with the Underground Railroad. He established the abolitionist paper The North Star on December 3, 1847, in Rochester, NY, and developed it into the most influential black antislavery paper published during the antebellum era. It was used to not only denounce slavery, but to fight for the emancipation of women and other oppressed groups. Its motto was "Right is of no Sex - Truth is of no Color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren." It was circulated to more than 4,000 readers in the United States, Europe, and the West Indies. In June 1851 the paper merged with the Liberty Party Paper of Syracuse, NY and was renamed Frederick Douglass' Paper. It circulated under this new name until 1860. Douglass devoted the next three years to publishing an abolitionist magazine called Douglass' Monthly. In 1870 he assumed control of the New Era, a weekly established in Washington, D.C. to serve former slaves. He renamed it The New National Era, and published it until it shut down in 1874.

Douglass also served as U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (1877-81), and U.S. minister of Haiti (1889-91). He died in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1895.


Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New York: Collier Books, 1962.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1960.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass: The Civil War 1861-1865. New York: International Publishers,1952.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass: Reconstruction and After. New York: International Publishers,1955.

Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.

Penn, I. Garland. The Afro-American Press and its Editors. Salem, New Hampshire: Ayer Company, Publishers, Inc., 1891.

Quarles, Benjamin. Frederick Douglass. Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1948.


Padgett, Chris, Finding His Voice: The Liberation of Frederick Douglass, 1818-1888. Proteus 1995 12 (1):10-1.

Perry, Patsy Brewington, Before The North Star: Frederick Douglass' Early Journalistic Career. Phylon 1974 35 (1): 96-107.