Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, was born February 1818 and died February 20, 1895.
He was an American socially conscious fighter, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Many Northerners also found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies, eloquently describing his life as a slave, and his struggles to be free. His first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published in 1845 and was his best-known work, influential in gaining support for abolition. He wrote two more autobiographies, with his last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published in 1881 and covering events through and after the Civil War. After the Civil War, Douglass remained active in the United States’ struggle to reach its potential as a “land of the free”. Douglass actively supported women’s suffrage. Following the war, he worked on behalf of equal rights for freedmen, and held multiple public offices.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was fond of saying, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party’s roll call vote. He was appointed minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (1889–1891). In 1892 the Haitian government appointed Douglass as its commissioner to the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. He spoke for Irish Home Rule and the efforts of leader Charles Stewart Parnell in Ireland. He briefly revisited Ireland in 1886.
Also in 1892, Douglass constructed rental housing for blacks, now known as Douglass Place, in the Fells Point area of Baltimore. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. On February 20, 1895, Douglass attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and given a standing ovation by the audience. Shortly after he returned home, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke in Washington, D.C. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.