Why is this contest named for Frederick Douglass?
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Frederick Douglass fled to Massachusetts after he escaped from slavery. He lived in New Bedford and Nantucket. He became one of the most important Abolitionists and one of the most important figures in American history because he was an advocate and articulator of American freedom. Douglass’ 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, became a bestseller.
Douglass’ oratorical skills were so impressive that some doubted that he had been a slave, so he wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. During the Civil War he assisted in the recruiting of African-American men for the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiments and fought for the emancipation of slaves. After the war he worked to protect the rights of the freemen. He was secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, marshall and recorder of deeds of the District of Columbia, and United States Minister to Haiti. His other autobiographical works are My Bondage And My Freedom and Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass, published in 1855 and 1881, respectively. He died in 1895.
Nothing speaks to the dehumanizing impact of slavery and the accompanying deprivations than a human being not knowing their own birthday. His several autobiographies begin with this question about this basic fact of his life: “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.”
Frederick Douglass was one of America’s great articulators of the meaning of freedom, and the importance of understanding our past. That’s why our U.S. History essay contest is named in honor of him.