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Frederick Douglass - A Legacy of Abolition in Newark: Home

Libguide in support of Dana Library's speech contest commemorating Frederick Douglass' speech in Newark, NJ

Who was Frederick Douglass?


Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.

Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women's suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was also a believer in dialog and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto "No Union with Slaveholders", criticized Douglass' willingness to engage in dialog with slave owners, he famously replied: "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."

For more on Douglass, go to Wikipedia.

The North Star

Frederick Douglass and M.R. Delaney established The North Star in 1847 as an anti-slavery publication. Underneath the title, there is a motto that reads: "Right id of no sex - Truth if of no color - God is the father of us all, and we are brethren." The North Star was published between 1847 and 1851. The Rutgers Libraries subscribes to the database Nineteenth U.S. Century Newspapers. Click here  or on the image at the botom to read Douglass' own writings! Rutgers NetID required for off-campus access.


Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, ca.1850. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Frederick Douglass

Title Page to Douglass' 1885 Autobiogpahy, My Bondage and My Freedom

Douglass published his second autobogrpahy, My Bondage and My Freedom, in 1885 which narrated his escape from slavery, his rise as a leader in the abolitionist movement, and prolific author and publisher. The text for this seminal work is freely available through  The University of Virginia and Project Gutemberg..


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