Frederick Douglass, circa 1879
Frederick Douglass (c. 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American activist, speaker, and author who advocated for the abolition of slavery, for women’s rights, and for other causes.
Early Life, Enslavement & Escape
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore around 1818 and was raised primarily by his maternal grandmother. However, at age 6 he was separated from her and sent to Wye House Plantation and then to Baltimore. Around age 16, he was transferred as a fieldhand to a slaveowner who frequently whipped him. He was later sent back to Baltimore to labor in a shipyard.
In 1838, Frederick escaped Baltimore to seek freedom in New York, with assistance from his future wife Anna Murray. He married Murray not long after, and the couple settled in Massachusetts and changed their surname to Douglass. They would have 5 children together.
Activism & Autobiography
Around 1841, Douglass became active on the anti-slavery lecture circuit and quickly became one of its most famous orators.
He published his best-known work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. After the publication of this autobiography, he went to the United Kingdom and Ireland for two years, where he continued speaking out against slavery. After supporters purchased his legal freedom, Douglass returned to the United States in 1847.
From 1847 to 1860, he ran a newspaper called the North Star (later also called Frederick Douglass’s Paper). He would publish another paper, the New National Era, from 1870 to 1874.
During the Civil War, Douglass encouraged Black men to serve in the Union Army and advised President Abraham Lincoln on the issue.
Later Life & Death
After the abolition of slavery, Douglass continued advocating for equal rights. He also lent his voice to causes such as women’s suffrage, which he had supported since at least 1848, when he had attended the Seneca Falls Convention.
In his later life, Douglass served in official government positions, including as marshal for Washington DC (1877-1881) and minister resident and consul general to Haiti (1889-1891).
After his wife’s death in 1882, Douglass married Helen Pitts in 1884. He passed away from a heart attack on February 20, 1895, in Washington DC and was buried in Rochester, New York.
Learn more about Frederick Douglass through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about Frederick Douglass
Excerpt from a newspaper account about Frederick Douglass at an anti-slavery society meeting in 1841 15 Oct 1841, Fri The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass publishes his 1845 autobiography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" 20 Jun 1845, Fri Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio) Newspapers.comExcerpt from a 1845 letter describing Frederick Douglass' visit to Cork, Ireland 12 Dec 1845, Fri The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass receives and responds to an 1846 letter about the purchase of his freedom 19 Feb 1847, Fri Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, Ohio) Newspapers.comSummary of an anti-slavery speech given by Frederick Douglass in England in 1847 21 Jan 1847, Thu The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) Newspapers.comTimes of London prints Frederick Douglass' letter to the newspaper's editor in 1850 18 Jul 1850, Thu The Times (London, Greater London, England) Newspapers.comNewspaper mention of Frederick Douglass' Independence Day speech given July 5, 1852 23 Jul 1852, Fri The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.comExcerpt from an 1855 letter criticizing a speech given by Frederick Douglass in Philadelphia 09 Feb 1855, Fri The Liberator (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com1855 newspaper ad with reviews of "My Bondage and My Freedom" by Frederick Douglass 13 Sep 1855, Thu The National Era (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comExcerpt from Frederick Douglass' autobiography "My Bondage and My Freedom" describing his childhood 29 Aug 1855, Wed The Summit County Beacon (Akron, Ohio) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass asks Great Britain not to support the Confederacy during the American Civil War 26 Nov 1862, Wed Daily News (London, Greater London, England) Newspapers.com"Men of Color, To Arms! -- A Call by Frederick Douglas [sic]" 1863 11 Mar 1863, Wed The Evansville Daily Journal (Evansville, Indiana) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass describes visiting a community of formerly enslaved individuals in Virginia 23 Jan 1864, Sat The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Tayside, Scotland) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass writes about becoming editor-in-chief of the New National Era newspaper, 1870 08 Sep 1870, Thu New National Era (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comExcerpt from an 1875 editorial about Frederick Douglass' involvement with the Freedman's Bank 05 Jun 1875, Sat The Weekly Louisianian (New Orleans, Louisiana) Newspapers.comU.S. Senate confirms Frederick Douglass as Marshal for the District of Columbia in 1877 18 Mar 1877, Sun Lawrence Daily Journal (Lawrence, Kansas) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass is honored at Emancipation Proclamation 20th anniversary event in 1883 06 Jan 1883, Sat The Washington Bee (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comNewspaper editorials about Frederick Douglass' marriage to his second wife, Helen Pitts, in 1884 02 Feb 1884, Sat The Washington Bee (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comExcerpt from an 1885 letter with description of Frederick Douglass in his later life 25 Mar 1885, Wed Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass gives speech to New England Woman Suffrage Association in 1886 25 May 1886, Tue The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.comExcerpt from Frederick Douglass' description of meeting with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War 17 Jul 1886, Sat The Washington Bee (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comFrederick Douglass discusses being appointed Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti in 1889 02 Jul 1889, Tue The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) Newspapers.com1894 newspaper ad (with portrait) for lecture by Frederick Douglass in Virginia 05 May 1894, Sat Richmond Planet (Richmond, Virginia) Newspapers.comNewspaper obituary (with picture) for Frederick Douglass after his death on February 20, 1895 21 Feb 1895, Thu The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com1895 newspaper obituary with criticisms of Frederick Douglass 23 Feb 1895, Sat The Washington Bee (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comNewspaper picture of funeral services for Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York, in 1895 03 Mar 1895, Sun Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, New York) Newspapers.comSusan B. Anthony discusses Frederick Douglass and his first wife, Anna Murray 03 May 1895, Fri The Bystander (Des Moines, Iowa) Newspapers.com