Frederick (Bailey) Douglass
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Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass (abt. 1818 - 1895)

Frederick Augustus Washington Douglass formerly Bailey
Born about in Talbot, Maryland, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Son of [father unknown] and
Brother of [half]
Husband of — married 15 Sep 1838 in New York, United Statesmap
Husband of — married 24 Jan 1884 in District of Columbia, United Statesmap
Descendants descendants
Died at about age 77 in Washington, District of Columbia, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 24 Jul 2014 | Last significant change: 6 Sep 2022
05:31: Albert Taylor edited the Biography for Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass (abt.1818-1895). (Formatting. ) [Thank Albert for this]
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Frederick (Bailey) Douglass was a part of the Abolitionist Movement.

Frederick Douglass, the renowned African-American social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman, was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey before escaping to become a leader in the abolitionist movement. His best-known work is his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published in 1845.[1]

He was born into slavery circa 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, and separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, when he was an infant. She died when Frederick was seven. Frederick stated that he was told his father was a white man, perhaps his owner, Aaron Anthony. He said he knew nothing of his father's identity. Frederick lived with his maternal grandmother, Betsy Bailey, until he was six, when he was sent to the Wye House plantation. When his first owner died in 1826, Frederick was given to Lucretia and Thomas Auld, and sent to serve Thomas' brother Hugh in Baltimore.[2] It would be a briefly positive move for Frederick, as it would connect him with Sophia Auld, Thomas' sister-in-law, who, despite the disapproval of her husband, taught Frederick how to read and write. Once Sophia discontinued his lessons, Frederick would barter with people on the streets to learn more and continue his education.[1]

At fifteen, he was taken away from Baltimore to work for the "slave-breaker" Edward Covey. Frederick eventually fought back, and Covey never tried to beat him again.[2] After failed escape attempts in the backwoods, Auld returned to take Frederick back to Baltimore, and promised to free him after seven years. Late in Auld's life, Frederick visited his bedside to make sure Auld knew he was forgiven and that it was slavery he abhorred, not the man himself.[1]

Frederick boarded a train in Baltimore in 1838 and escaped north to freedom dressed in a sailor’s uniform stitched by his fiancée, a free Black woman, Anna Murray. His escape route on the Underground Railroad would take him to New York, to Newport, Rhode Island, and finally to New Bedford, Massachusetts. He received the help of Nathan and Polly Johnson, well-known African American abolitionists in Massachusetts.[3]

Once in Massachusetts, Frederick changed his surname to Douglass in honor of a Walter Scott poem, and along with his bride Anna, began their life together in freedom. They had five children together, including three sons who served in the Civil War. [1][3]

Frederick quickly became a favorite abolitionist and anti-slavery speaker, traveling throughout the country and around the world to reveal the horrors of slavery, that “peculiar institution.” He used his personal experience to give a human face to the sufferings of slavery. His celebrity made him one of the most photographed men of the nineteenth century.[3][1]

Later, when he moved to Rochester, New York, his print shop was a depot on the Underground Railroad.

Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, was the largest abolitionist publication of its time—and Frederick Douglass just so happened to be a loyal reader. When Douglass heard that Garrison was going to give a speech at an antislavery convention in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1841, he decided to attend. But while he was there, a friend coaxed the shy Douglass to give a speech on his life story as a runaway slave in front of the attendees, which he reluctantly agreed to. Garrison, deeply moved by the unexpected speech, realized that Douglass not only had an incredible story—but a talent for speaking, as well.

Douglass's unlikely speech turned into another one two days later at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s convention in Nantucket, and Garrison took it upon himself to land Douglass a gig as a lecturer at the Society. He soon became Douglass’s mentor, introducing him to other influential abolitionists and later helping him to get his book published. Although the pair eventually became estranged due to differing interpretations of the Constitution, their early partnership helped Douglass ascend to national recognition, eventually leading to his fateful meeting with Abraham Lincoln in the White House. Not an honor often afforded to former slaves, Douglass spoke with the president about the unfair treatment of black soldiers fighting in the Civil War, leading to a sometimes strained but always respectful relationship between the two until Lincoln's death.

Frederick was outspoken for women's rights, and in 1848 at Seneca Falls when Elizabeth Cady Stanton launched the women's movement, his speech was instrumental in the passage of a resolution asking for women's suffrage. He was often at odds with the movement, though, as he viewed women as a minority, whereas Stanton believed them an ignored majority.[3][4][1] Put another way, his differences with the Stanton faction were about strategy; while he never argued against the vote for women, she refused to support the 15th Amendment because it would not provide universal suffrage.[2]

Anna died in 1882, and in 1884 Douglass married again, to Helen Pitts, a white suffragist and abolitionist nearly twenty years his junior.[2][5]

In 1895, Frederick attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., where he was brought to a platform and given a standing ovation by the audience. Upon his return home, Frederick Douglass died, on February 20, 1895, of a massive heart attack in his adopted hometown of Washington, D.C. His funeral was held at the historic Metropolitan A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church in downtown Washington, D.C. He is buried beside both wives in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.[6]

Slave Holders

Aaron Anthony Anthony-18

Lucretia Planner Anthony Auld Anthony-4015

Thomas Auld Auld-1204

Hugh Auld Auld-942


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 The Prophetic Pragmatism of Frederick Douglass (The New Yorker, 10/15/18)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Wikipedia contributors, "Frederick Douglass," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 11, 2020).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Frederick Douglass", New Bedford Historical Society, accessed 11 Feb 2020
  4. National Geographic, Vol. 166, No.1 July 1984
  5. "District of Columbia Marriages, 1811-1950," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 February 2018), Frederick Douglass and Helen Pitts, 24 Jan 1884; citing p. 7145, Records Office, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 2,025,890.
  6. "Later Years and Death," in Frederick Douglass Heritage, Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved September 21, 2017. Cited by Wikipedia.

See also:

  • Birth: Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), Frederick Douglass (b. 1818 - d. 1895), MSA SC 5496-138000. Fled from slavery, Baltimore City, Maryland, 1838. Anthony Ledger A page 1.SPECIAL COLLECTIONS (Mary A. Dodge Collection), Anthony Ledger A, MSA SC 564. This entry for Frederick Douglass is the earliest known record of the month and year of his birth: Frederick Augustus, son of Harriott, born February 1818.
  • "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 April 2016), Frederick Douglass, Rochester, ward 7, Monroe, New York, United States; citing family 70, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  • "United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 April 2016), Frederick Douglass, New York, United States; citing p. 15, family 106, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,469.
  • "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 August 2017), F W Douglass, Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district ED 7, sheet 143C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0121; FHL microfilm 1,254,121.
  • "SIlver plated Frederick Douglass commemorative spoon." BORN 1817 MARYLAND" on a banner below. along the stem of the spoon there is a chainlink design and inside each link is a date, from bowl to tip: "ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY 1838 / NANTUCKET MASS 1841 / 54-5 MASS REGIMENT 1863 / ELEOTOH AT LARGE 1872 / U.S. MARSHALL 1877 / U.S. MINISTER TO HAYTI 1889 / DIED WASHINGTON 1895, Special Collections of the New Bedford Public Library,
  • [Go to and search on Frederick Douglass to find The Works of Frederick Douglass on Project Gutenberg]

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Comments: 10

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Login to post a comment. and the tradition of The Watch Night Service that Frederick Douglas, The Lion of Anacostia, began, should also be mentioned prominently on this profile: Watch Night services
This a very inspiring and informative biography. Frederick Douglas is an American Hero!
posted by Kathryn (Burner) Hamm
Congratulations to all the WikiTree contributors who crafted this enlightening profile!
posted by C Ryder
His mother has a profile: Bailey-7481
posted by Jessica Key
He wrote his story down so as to be able to pass on his knowledge and the facts that made him who he was. This was an amazing thing for those who have come after because we now have the chance to learn from our past from someone who lived it.

His book source:

Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave, Signet classics, Published by Penguin Group, 375 Hudson street, New York, New York, 10014. 1997

posted by Lisa (Kelsey) Murphy
He was born into slavery and decided to arm himself with something far more dangerous that guns, knives or bombs like most would. He was whipped for his beliefs with a hickory stick. He was starved until he collapsed, but he did not get persuaded to stop believing. He knew the ability to read and the bravery to share your story was much more powerful. He started illegally teaching other slaves to read and write when he was 16. By 20 he had a much bigger group to teach as he had escaped to New York. He is quoted "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Meltzer, Brad, Heroes for my son, pgs 94-95 Harper Collins Publishing

posted by Lisa (Kelsey) Murphy
In the Wikipedia article he is said to have named his mother in his autobiography: Harriet Bailey. He also is a notable.
posted by Isara (Chellis) Argent
After frederick's escape from slavery in 1838 he married Anna Murray a free black woman. They had four children who were Rosetta in 1839, Lewis in 1840, Frederick Jr. in 1842 and Charles in 1844. Anna Douglass died in 1882, and two years later Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white woman who had been his secretary.
posted by [Living sandoval]

A Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Different websites for information.

posted by [Living sandoval]
(Quote) "I do not go back to America to sit still, remain quiet, and enjoy ease and comfort. . . . I glory in the conflict, that I may hereafter exult in the victory. I know that victory is certain. I go, turning my back upon the ease, comfort, and respectability which I might maintain even here. . . Still, I will go back, for the sake of my brethren. I go to suffer with them; to toil with them; to endure insult with them; to undergo outrage with them; to lift up my voice in their behalf; to speak and write in their vindication; and struggle in their ranks for the emancipation which shall yet be achieved."
posted by [Living sandoval]