African American Abolitionist, 1818-1895

Douglass was born a slave in Maryland, in approximately 1818. As a boy, his quick mind was recognized by the wife of his slave master--who taught him to read. Douglass's master eventually forbade these lessons on the grounds that an educated slave could easily escape. Douglass, realizing that education was his path to freedom, secretly taught himself to read and even started teaching other slaves to read. Using forged papers, he escaped to freedom in New York City on September 4, 1838.

Douglass was a skilled writer and eloquent speaker. He committed his life to achieving justice for all Americans. His influential "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave, Written By Himself" was published in 1845. Because of his efforts, he has been called the father of the civil rights movement. He served as advisor to American presidents; Abraham Lincoln singled him out as the most meritorious man of the 1800s. He encouraged 200,000 blacks to fight for the North in the Civil War. He also worked for women's rights and spoke at the Seneca Falls, NY conference on Women's Emancipation.