Use these links to return to the page you got here from or to investigate other issues related to this topic. If the Civil Rights Movement is new to you, you can visit our dictionary page from any page in the entire web site by clicking here.
Frederick Douglass was born a slave in 1818 in Maryland. His mother was also a slave somewhere else in Maryland. He never got to meet or see his father. His grandmother looked after 12 children, including him. The other children were his brothers, sisters, and cousins. It was common for slaves to be separated from their families. Frederick Douglass didnít like slaves to be separated from their families because he was afraid it would happen to him.
Frederick Douglass started to become good friends with his master. They would go hunting together and Frederickís master was never unkind to him. Frederick was told that he would be going to Baltimore where he would have a new master. Frederick knew it would be a fancy city. His master lent him clothes for the trip. Frederick was separated from his family when he went to live with the Aulds.
Learning to Read and Write
Frederick took a ship to Baltimore. He was about to experience a lot more than just the plantation where he was raised, which seemed to be the world to him up until now. After a few days of sailing, they finally reached Baltimore. When he got to his new masterís home, the Aulds greeted him at the door. Soon they all knew each other well.
Mrs. Auld started to teach six-year-old Frederick and her own son the ABCís. Frederick learned the ABCís after one day. The next day Mr. Auld came into the room upset because Mrs. Auld taught a slave to read. Frederick never got any other lessons from Mrs. Auld. Slave owners didnít want their slaves to read because they feared that if they did learn, they would be able to write a free pass and escape to freedom.
When Frederick went outside for the first time, he saw some boys playing a game. Excited, he ran toward them. They did not like him and started to chase him. Frederick was scared and ran back to his house.
Frederick soon met some friends on the street. They were nice to him. They helped him learn to read some small words. On the way home from playing with his friends, he found a Websterís spelling book. He took it home and began reading by himself. He had to hide the book from his master.
Sometimes when Frederick was out, he made money shinning shoes. He saved his money to buy books. When Frederick was a teenager he started working at the shipyard, which was owned by Mr. Auld. Sometimes Mr. Auld would pay him for his work. Slaves were not usually paid, but it was up to the owner if they did or not. Frederick used the money to buy books and other thing he wanted to help him learn to read.
Teaching others to Read and Write
After a shower of falling stars, owners started letting their slaves go to church because the slave owners thought that it meant not to be so hard on their slaves. Slaves went to church with their owners. Frederick met a man named Wilson at church. They started their own Sunday school just for Blacks. Of course they had to hide their own Sunday church or they would get into trouble if they did. There they would teach the children how to read and write.
One Sunday the slave owners caught the Sunday school. Mr. Auld was furious at Frederick. He sent him to a slave breaker, a person that makes sure the slaves obey their masters by whipping them. The slave breakerís name was Covey. He lived back in the area where Frederick was born.
When Frederick arrived, he went to work right away. Frederick didnít like it there. He tried to escape once, but he was caught. He was whipped and beaten. Finally, Frederick decided to fight back. When Frederick got into a fight with Covey, Frederick wasnít scared at all. He just fought back. Frederick won the fight and Covey never beat him again.
Escaping to Freedom
The next year Frederick was sent to William Greelin. He was a gentleman. He allowed Frederick to attend church, read, and write. Frederick got a group of people to help him escape to freedom, but he was caught and arrested for trying to escape from his owner because one of the group members betrayed him.
Frederick was sent back to Baltimore where he was given the opportunity to work in a shipyard and learn a trade. Then he met a friend named Benny who got him involved in the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, a group of free black people. There he met Anna Murray, the woman he fell in love with.
With the help of his friend, Benny, and Bennyís seaman protection papers, Frederick finally escaped to New York. This was a long hard escape. There he met David Ruggles, a free black man who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a path that led slaves to freedom.
Fighting to End Slavery
David Ruggles helped Frederick find a job. This allowed him to send for Anna Murray who he later married. Because it was unsafe in New York due to all the slave breakers and owners, they moved to New Bedford where it was safe. It was at this time that he changed his name to Frederick Douglass from Frederick Bailey. In New Bedford he met William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist. Frederick read a lot and could write well. It was in New Bedford at a lecture of Garrisonís that Frederick Douglass was recognized as an intelligent black man in an antislavery newspaper.
Several years later, Frederick met up with Garrison again and Garrison asked Frederick to give a speech on slavery. From that time on, Frederick Douglass went from town to town telling the story of his life and how he was a slave at one point, too.
Frederick Douglass was such a good speaker that people didnít believe he was a slave. In order to prove that he was actually a slave, he wrote a book called the Narrative of Frederick Douglass. Because of the book, his previous owner went to court to try to get him back. Frederick escaped to England.
A few months later he returned to Boston where he became famous. He was very popular in England because of his speeches, also. Because he was so well liked in England, the British antislavery groups raised money so that Frederick could obtain the papers necessary for freedom.
Frederick Douglas started his own newspaper called the North Star and it was based on freedom for slaves. President Abraham Lincoln recognized Frederick Douglas and invited him to the White House to talk to him about slavery. Frederick urged President Lincoln to use Negro soldiers in the Army of the North in the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass continued to travel around the country giving speeches to bigger and bigger crowds. His speeches were about how he was a slave and what it was like for him growing up. He tried to convince his listeners to fight against the evils of slavery. His fame increased and he continued to publish his paper. He did not stop publishing until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
Frederick was asked to give a speech at the dedication of the First Lincoln Monument. Frederick was appointed Marshall of the District of Columbia by President Hayes in 1877. In 1881 President Garfield appointed him Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia. In 1889 President Harrison appointed Frederick to the post of Minister of Haiti.
Frederick Douglass died in 1895. He was important in black history because he helped end slavery. It was his brave fight for the freedom of slaves that he will be remembered for. Frederick was born a slave and ended up helping end slavery through his speeches and leadership.
Frederick Douglass Timeline
If you want to be absolutely certain you've looked at every page on our website, check out our site map.
This website is designed to be viewed using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.