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Who was Frederick Douglass?

Born into slavery in the early 1800s, Frederick Douglass became a prominent abolitionist and suffrage campaigner.

Frederick Douglass

"Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognised more and more, I notice," President Donald Trump said of the former slave and abolitionist at a Black History Month event on Wednesday.

So who was Frederick Douglass?

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 organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

Born into slavery in February 1818, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was the son of an enslaved woman and an unknown white father.

He spent his early life on a plantation, but at the age of eight was sent to Baltimore. There, he learned how to read and developed a love for learning.

But at the age of 15, when his "owner" died, he was forced to return to plantation life, where he endured years of hunger and beatings. 

After two unsuccessful attempts, he managed to escape from slavery in 1838, at the age of 20. He changed his name to Frederick Douglass.

Douglass became a prominent abolitionist and suffrage campaigner. For 16 years he was the editor of an influential black newspaper and achieved international recognition as an inspiring speaker and writer.

He immortalised his years as a slave in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In this and his two subsequent autobiographies -  My Bondage and My Freedom and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass - he gave an insight into his experiences as a slave as well as a record of his escape and eventual freedom. 

As well as fighting for African-American rights, Douglass also fought for women's rights. He held several public offices, and in 1872 became the first African American nominated for the vice presidency of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for presidency of the US.


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