Happy Birthday Frederick Douglass!

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” ~Frederick Douglass

RG 79 “Fred. Douglass, lawyer, ca. 1865” Washington, DC SP Douglass, Frederick, National Historic Site (NAID 117692087).

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born enslaved circa February 14, 1817 or 1818, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to an enslaved mother and a slave owning father. He was an abolitionist, social reformer, spokesperson, and writer. At a young age, Douglass was sent to Baltimore, Maryland to work as a servant. He was able to use this opportunity to learn how to read and write. However, as a teenager, Douglass was sent back to a plantation on the Eastern Shore to toil under the harsh conditions of slavery, where he was beaten regularly. Disgusted with this treatment and the whole institution of slavery, Douglass managed to escape. In 1845, Frederick Douglass published Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself, describing how he did it.

RG 79 “Frederick Douglass Summer House” Maryland SP Douglass Summer House (NAID 106776116)

Frederick Douglass is one of the great leaders of the nineteenth century. As a fugitive, or freedom seeker, he spoke out publicly against slavery, and frequently gave lectures on the topic in the US and across Europe. Douglass joined with Martin Delany to co-edit the abolitionist The North Star newspaper, attended the Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights, and during the American Civil War, he helped recruit Black soldiers for the Union Army.  After emancipation, Douglass served as the President of the Freedman’s Bank, US Marshall for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, DC, Consul-General to Haiti, and in 1921, he became an honorary member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

RG 79 “Frederick Douglass and Grandson” Washington, DC SP Douglass, Frederick, National Historic Site (NAID 117692087)

The National Archives holds several textual documents, moving images, and sound recordings related to the life and federal career of Frederick Douglass. RG 79 Washington, DC SP Douglass, Frederick, National Historic Site (NAID 117692087) is the application for Douglass’ home in southeast DC to be added to the National Register of Historic Places; and RG 79 Maryland SP Douglass Summer House (NAID 106776116) is an application for Douglass’ summer home at Highland Beach in Anne Arundel County, Maryland to also be added to the National Register. Records relating to Douglass’ work with the federal government are found in RG 59 Despatches from Diplomatic Officers, Haiti (NAID 117856926) and RG 94 Consolidated File for Frederick Douglass (NAID 167247084). Other related file units include RG 79 Frederick Douglass: Fighter for Freedom (NAID 40978565) and RG 306 Profiles in Courage: Frederick Douglass (NAID 106851).

RG 79 “Frederick Douglas Home” Washington, DC SP Douglass, Frederick, National Historic Site (NAID 117692087)

Additional information about Frederick Douglass can be found on the Rediscovering Black History Blog. Below are a few selections:

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