Frederick Douglass

Feb. 14,1818? - Feb. 20,1895

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Maryland. His birth name was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, but he later changed his name to Frederick Douglass.

slavery images

In his autobiography The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, he states that his father was a white man, possibly the master of the plantation. He was separated from his mother when he was an infant. He only saw her four or five times in his life, and she died when he was about seven years old.

He tells of witnessing the beating of slaves by unmerciful masters.

Slaves received a monthly allowance of food and a yearly allowance of clothing. Children too young to work only received two coarse linen shirts a year. If the shirts wore out, they had to go without clothes until time for the next allowance. Some of them were without clothing during the coldest months.

Their beds, if you could call them beds, consisted of only one coarse blanket. Once when he was young he stole a bag used for carrying corn and crawled into it each night to try to keep warm.

Frederick lived on the plantation of Colonel Lloyd. The Colonel had a large fine garden. In order to keep the slaves from stealing the fruit, he built a fence around it and put black sticky tar on it. If a slave was found with tar on him, he was whipped by the chief gardener.

Some of the overseers were extremely cruel to the slaves in their charge. They could murder a slave and there would be no consequences. It was not considered a crime either by the courts or the community.

Cornmeal was boiled to make a mush then put into troughs* and set down on the ground. The feeding of the slave children was similar to the feeding of pigs. Those who ate the fastest got the most.

When he was seven or eight years old Frederick went to Baltimore to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Auld to care for their young son. There for the first time he found kindness. It was Mrs. Auld who taught him his ABCs and how to read. She changed over time however, and at the insistence of her husband she quit teaching him. It was against the law for anyone to teach a slave to read.

He was so eager to learn he befriended the white boys who knew how to read. He would take bread from his master's house and use it to bribe the poor white boys to teach him how to read.

For the first time in his life he had enough to eat at the the Auld's house.

When he began reading the book The Columbian Orator* he began to be able to formulate his ideas about slavery. The more he read, the more he began to detest the enslavers. As he describes it he felt like "a man in a pit with no ladder to get out".

He began to hear about the "abolitionists"* and determined to learn more about them.

He knew that some day he would run away and be free, but first he had to learn how to write. He began by copying letters from Webster's Spelling Book .

He was hired out to a Mr. Covey to "break him" of his obstinance. The man was very cruel, but one day when Frederick fought back, things changed. Covey never whipped him again. This was the turning point. He knew that one day he must be a free man.

He was sixteen years old at the time. He remained a slave for four more years. He had several fights but was never whipped again.

He began a Sabbath school to teach the other slaves how to read and write. At one time he had over 40 students, mostly men and women.

Frederick and four other slaves made plans to run away, but they were betrayed and ended up in prison for a time.

Next he was apprenticed to a ship builder and learned the trade. Sometimes he made as much as $1.50 a day, but was compelled to turn the money over to his master when he got home. Once when he turned over $6 to the master, six cents was returned to him. He said it would have hurt him less if nothing had been returned because he knew rightfully he should have been able to keep the whole amount.

He finally escaped and made his way to New York where a kindly man, Mr. David Ruggles, took him in. He sent for Anna, his intended wife, and they were married. He was able to find a job and worked joyfully in his new found freedom.

After his book was published, he left the country for a time fearing his old master would try to get him back. He went to Ireland and spent two years in Great Britain. Friends in England raised money to purchase his freedom from Mr. Auld.

After returning to America he began to publish an abolitionist newspaper The North Star . Within eight years he had 3,000 subscribers. He became a great orator, speaking out against slavery. His words and his writing were so effective that some people doubted they had been written by a former slave.

When the Civil War started, Abraham Lincoln's aim was to preserve the union. Douglass urged the President to make emancipation* of the slaves the goal of the conflict. On January 1, 1863 his dream was realized with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Douglass had been instrumental in the formation of two black regiments during the war. Previously blacks were prevented from participating in the conflict.

Douglass home in Washington D.C.

He and his wife Anna had five children, and they built a fine home in Washintgon D.C. After her death he married Helen Pitts, the daughter of a white abolitionist leader. She was twenty years younger than he, and the marriage faced a storm of criticism because of the race difference.

Frederick Douglass served in several government posts and and in 1889 was appointed consul* general to the Republic of Haiti.

He died of heart failure after a speaking engagement to the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C.

Many of the facts in this story were taken from Frederick Douglass' autobiography.
(See first link below. You may want to "View - Text size" and enlarge the print twice.)

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2007.

A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography
and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.

Work a Jigsaw Puzzle

Online Crossword Puzzle

Online Word Search

Online Word Scramble

Color Picture Online

Take the Test Online

Online Jeopardy

Online Biography "Who Am I?"


Alphabetical Order

Frederick Douglass Word Search

Frederick Douglass Crossword Puzzle

Frederick Douglass - Word Scramble

Frederick Douglass - Word Match *

Frederick Douglass Study Sheet


Color a picture of Frederick Douglass

Print Frederick Douglass Test


Frederick Douglass
at Bio 4 Kids

Stories of Frederick Douglass
America's Story

My Own Books
personalize an online story about A Slave Family
by inserting your name in the story

Frederick Douglass Family Foundation

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Speech,"An Appeal to the British People"
recreated by actor Norman Matlock

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
biography with audio version

Frederick Douglass Lesson Plan
(You must register to use, a limited number of lessons free)

The Frederick Douglass Papers
from American Memory

Frederick Douglass
quotes from his autobiography

Frederick Douglass
American Visionaries, take a tour of his Washington D.C. home

Autobiography of Frederick Douglass
Revolution to Reconstruction

The Frederick Douglass Papers
Yale University Press

Timeline of Douglass' Life

At search for Frederick Douglass.
Scroll the panel for the "Video & Audio Results".

From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)

Pronunciation: 'trof
Function: noun
a long shallow container for the drinking water or feed of domestic animals

Pronunciation: ab-ə-'lish-(ə-)nəst
Function: noun
a person who is in favor of abolishing especially slavery

Pronunciation: ə-'bahl-ish
Function: verb
to do away with completely : put an end to

Pronunciation: i-'man(t)-sə-"pAt
Function: verb
to free from someone else's control or power; especially : to free from slavery

Pronunciation: 'or-ət-ər
Function: noun
a public speaker noted for skill and power in speaking

Pronunciation: 'kahn(t)-səl
Function: noun
an official appointed by a government to live in a foreign country to look after the
commercial interests of citizens of the appointing country

007051: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
By Frederick Douglass / Random House, Inc

This eloquent and dramatic autobiography of the early life of an American slave was first published in 1845, when its author was about twenty-eight years old and had just achieved his freedom. Although it was not uncommon during the era of American slavery for articulate Blacks who escaped to have their experiences published, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass is unique among these "slave narratives" because of Douglass's eloquent power of expression. The publication of the book also marked the beginning of a career in which the militant and uncompromising Douglass emerged as the first great leader of Afro-Americans in the United States. The powers that enabled him to reach this position are abundantly clear in his Narrative, which, incidentally, was an invaluable source for Harriet Beecher Stowe while she was writing Uncle Tom's Cabin.


Frederick Douglass: Abolitionist Hero
by George E. Stanley, Meryl Henderson (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass: Young Defender of Human Rights (Young Patriot Series)
by Elisabeth P. Myers, Cathy Morrison (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass: Writer, Speaker, and Opponent of Slavery
by Suzanne Slade(selected pages) Order here

Learning About Dedication from the Life of Frederick Douglass (Character Building Book)
by Sam Marlowe (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass, From Slavery to Statesman
by Henry Elliot (selected pages) Order here

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Autobiography (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass, First Biographies
by Cassie Mayer (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass, From Slavery to Statesman
by Alice Mulcahey Fleming (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass: for the great family of man
by Peter Burchard (selected pages) Order here

Frederick Douglass: Easyread Comfort Edition
by Charles Waddell Chesnutt (selected pages) Order here

My Bondage and My Freedom: Easyread Edition
by Frederick Douglass (public domain, full view ) Order here

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Easyread Large Edition
by Frederick Douglass (selected pages) Order here

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: SAT Words From Literature
by Frederick Douglass (selected pages) Order here

Preview these Amazon books using the links below.

A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass
by David A. Adler (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass
by Barbara Kiely Miller (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass, Voice for Freedom
by Kremena Spengler (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass, Compass Point Books
by Dana Meachen Rau (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass, History Maker Bios
by Catherine A. Welch (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass, Photo-illustrated Biographies
by Margo McLoone (selected pages)

Frederick Douglass: Rising Up From Slavery
by Frances E. Ruffin (selected pages)

Page Comments

Most Recent Comments   ( See more comments on this page )
We recently produced a documentary film telling the story of Frederick Douglass and the Irish:

Frederick Douglass and the White Negro
(Writer/Director John J Doherty)
Frederick Douglass and the White Negro is a documentary telling the story of ex-slave, abolitionist, writer and politician Frederick Douglass and his escape to Ireland from America in the 1840s. The film follows Douglass' life from slavery as a young man through to his time in Ireland where he befriended Daniel O'Connell, toured the country spreading the message of abolition and was treated as a human being for the first time by white people. His arrival in Ireland coincided with the Great Famine and he witnessed white people in what he considered to be a worse state than his fellow African Americans back in the US. The film follows Douglass back to America where he buys his freedom with funds raised in Ireland and Britain. Fellow passengers on his return journey include the Irish escaping the famine who arrive in their millions and would go on to play a major role in the New York Draft Riot of 1863 which Douglass could only despair over. The film examines the turbulent relationship between African Americans and Irish Americans during the American Civil War, what drew them together and what drove them apart and how this would shape the America of the twentieth century and beyond. The film includes contributions from Noel Ignatiev based on his book How the Irish Became White and has been broadcast on Irish national television prompting substantial press coverage often in relation to the rise of Barack Obama.
Camel Productions Press pack & DVD copies available at
online coloring pages are not there

Leave a Comment       View all Comments

Biographies in this Series

Reference citations information for these biographies

Presidents of
the United States
George Washington John Adams Thomas Jefferson James Madison James Monroe Andrew Jackson
  Martin Van Buren Abraham Lincoln Theodore Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower
  John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan Barack Obama Calvin Coolidge
American Patriots Benjamin Franklin Francis Scott Key Deborah Sampson Molly Pitcher
World Leaders Constantine Alexander the Great Winston Churchill Margaret Thatcher
Inventors Alexander Graham Bell Johann Gutenberg Cyrus McCormick The Wright Brothers Henry Ford Thomas A. Edison
  Sequoyah Nikola Tesla Michael Faraday Dean Kamen Jack Kilby Leonardo Da Vinci
  Donald O'Neal
Explorers Christopher Columbus Meriwether Lewis Robert Peary John Muir Matthew Henson Sir Edmund Hillary
  Kit Carson Johnny Appleseed Daniel Boone
Women who made
a difference
Clara Barton Helen Keller Florence Nightingale Joan of Arc Amelia Earhart Annie Oakley
  Susan B. Anthony Elizabeth Keckly Harriet Tubman Anne Frank Eleanor Roosevelt Madam C.J. Walker
  Sadako Sasaki Henrietta Lacks Malala Yousafzai      
Scientists George Washington Carver Sir Isaac Newton Marie Curie Louis Pasteur Albert Einstein Galileo
  Lise Meitner Norman Borlaug Benjamin Banneker
Educators Noah Webster Booker T. Washington Aristotle Mary McLeod Bethune
Physicians Hippocrates Walter Reed Albert Schweitzer
Religious Leaders George Muller Increase Mather
Athletes Lou Gehrig Wilma Rudolph Tiger Woods Michael Phelps
Civil Rights
Martin Luther King Rosa Parks Sojourner Truth Frederick Douglass Mary Ann Shadd Cary James Forten
  Gandhi César Chávez William Wilberforce Nelson Mandela
Composers Beethoven Mozart
Authors Laura Ingalls Wilder Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Ernest Hemingway Greg Mortenson Phillis Wheatley
Artists John James Audubon Gutzon Borglum Ansel Adams Dale Chihuly Van Gogh Michelangelo
  Rembrandt Grandma Moses Cassatt Renoir Cezanne Rockwell


Back to Famous Leaders

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
Songs of Praise and Armored Penguin

*Word Match Solution