Frederick Douglass

Events

Birth

1818

Douglass was born sometime around this year although his exact birth date is unknown.

Grandmother (motherly figure) dies

1828

She died sometime that year Douglass was devastated.

Douglass is taught the alphabet

1830

Defying a ban on teaching slaves to read and write, Auld’s wife Sophia taught Douglass the alphabet when he was around 12.

Douglass was traded back to Thomas Auld

1833

Hugh's brother, Thomas, learned that Douglass had learned how to read and was furious. He took him back, selling him to Edward Covey, who was a man known to beat his slaves. Douglass rebelled against the beatings and won a physical confrontation. Covey never beat him again.

Douglass' first attempt at freedom

1836

Douglass tried to escape from Covey. He failed and waited a year before trying again.

Douglass met his wife

1837

Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore caught Douglass' eye. They met and fell in love. Her standing as a free black woman reinforced his belief in attaining freedom.

Douglass escaped

September 3, 1838

Douglass jumped on a train near the site that later became known as the famous Underground Railroad. Dressed in a sailor's uniform he was given from his wife and using some of her savings, he obtained identification papers from a black seaman. Douglas made it to New York and sent for his wife to join him.

Douglass and Murray were married

September 15, 1838

Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass were married on September 15th by a Presbyterian minister eleven days after they were settled in New York. They adopted the surname Johnson to divert attention.

Douglass became a preacher

1839

Disturbed by the Methodist segregation and haughtiness, Anna and Douglass joined an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and he became a licensed preacher where his oratorical skills flourished.

Friends encouraged Douglass to travel Ireland

1845

With his immediate popularity after his book was released, friends were worried that his attention would cause his former masters to try to regain their property and they encouraged Douglass to travel. He spent two years in Ireland and Britain.

Douglass published his first autobiography

1845

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published in 1845. Although skeptics were uncertain if a black person could be sophisticated enough to produce an eloquent piece of literature, the book instantly became a bestseller and generated positive reviews.

Douglass spoke with British abolitionists

1846

During his stay in Britain, Douglass encouraged Parliament to end slavery in the British colonies. Also, Douglass' freedom was official as British supporters raised the funds to buy his freedom from Thomas Auld.

Frederick Douglass conferred with President Abraham Lincoln on the treatment of black soldiers and with Andrew Johnson on black suffrage.

1863

The Emancipation Proclamation gave freedom to all slaves in the Confederate region after Douglass' views were revealed and he gave several speeches.

Douglass delivered the keynote speech at the Emancipation Memorial's inauguration

April 14, 1876

Douglass gave an inspiring speech and was given a standing ovation. Lincoln's widow gave Lincoln's favorite walking stick to Douglass, which still remains in Cedar Hill, Douglass' final dwelling which is now known as the Frederick Douglass National Historic site.

Death

February 20, 1895

During a National Council of Women in Washington, D.C. meeting, Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke. Thousands attended his funeral to show their respect. His coffin was taken back to Rochester, New York, where he lived for 25 years and was buried by his wife. Frederick Douglass' work and life affected many people. His speeches, autobiographies, and many organizations helped many people throughout his life and still inspire people today. His statue stands in the United States Capitol Visitor Center.