Famous Marylanders – Frederick Douglass

Introduction

Frederick DouglassFrederick Douglass was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland sometime in 1818. Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he was the child of a slave woman and a white man. Perhaps best known for his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, his accomplishments in the anti-slavery movement leading up to and through the Civil War period are extraordinary. Douglass’s example offers a glimpse into plantation life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as the realities of life under slavery and the challenges and risks of escape. In Douglass we have direct evidence of slave codes, the elaborate networking of the Underground Railroad, the power of literacy, and, through him, a personification of the moral, ethical, legal and spiritual struggles of slavery that are often times lost in the more abstract conceptions of slavery over a century later.

In addition, Douglass’s beginning in rural Maryland during the state’s history as a slave state, and his eventual escape to New York and a life in the abolitionist movement during the war and national government following, reflects the changes that transpired both during the Civil War divide and in the decades since. As Douglass changed and evolved, so too did Maryland and the union as a whole.

The life of Frederick Douglass encompasses much more than his famous biography (which in reality was a series of three written over the course of his life) and his legend as an orator. He is intricately linked to the historic developments of the period - all shaped by a life born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

SOURCES: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; Library of Congress; Frederick Douglass Papers Project

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12.

Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)

Standard 4: The sources and character of cultural, religious, and social reform movements in the antebellum period

Standard 4A: The student understands the abolitionist movement.
7-12: Analyze changing ideas about race and assess the reception of proslavery and antislavery ideologies in the North and South.
9-12: Compare the positions of African American and white abolitionists on the issue of the African American's place in society.

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Frederick Douglass as he appeared on the original of his autobiography
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1845
    SOURCE:  Documenting the American South
    REPOSITORY: University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  2. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Frederick Douglass to William A. White
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: July 30, 1846
    SOURCE: Philip Foner (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 181 available online at The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolution

  3. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Frederick Douglass, to Thurlow Weed.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: December 1, 1845
    SOURCE: Philip Foner (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 123 available online at The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolution

  4. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Frederick Douglass, Brown's Temperance Hotel, Liverpool (England) to the Editor of the London Times.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: April 3, 1847
    SOURCE: Philip Foner (ed). Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950. Vol. I, p. 233 available online at The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolution

  5. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Frederick Douglass’s House
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1963
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE: Built in America
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  6. DESCRIPTION:  Newspaper, North Star (Rochester)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: April 7, 1849
    NOTES: Newspaper was founded by Frederick Douglass in 1847
    SOURCE:  American Treasures of the Library of Congress
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  7. DESCRIPTION: Electronic edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1845
    SOURCE: “Documenting the American South” 
    REPOSITORY: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  8. DESCRIPTION: Bill of Sale selling Douglass as a slave in Maryland
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:
    November 30, 1846
    SOURCE: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
    REPOSITORY: National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior

  9. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Douglass in his study
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: Unknown
    SOURCE: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
    REPOSITORY: National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior

  10. DESCRIPTION: My Bondage and My Freedom
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:1857
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:The Nineteenth Century in Print: Books
    REPOSITORY:Library of Congress

  11. DESCRIPTION: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1892
    SOURCE:  Documenting the American South
    REPOSITORY: University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  12. DESCRIPTION: The Emancipation Proclamation
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: January 1, 1863
    REPOSITORY: National Archives

  13. DESCRIPTION: Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution banning slavery
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1864
    REPOSITORY: National Archives

See also:

Additional Media Resources

Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad – Frederick Douglass

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

The Frederick Douglass Papers Project.

National Park Service: American Visionaries Frederick Douglass

Three Speeches from Frederick Douglass: Examples of his Passion, Logic and Power.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolution

The Douglass Institute: 210 East Lexington. Description of May 1870 Douglass speech in Baltimore and history of the institute.

Additional Instructional Resources

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress. From the Library of Congress Learning Page

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
1411 W St., SE
Washington, DC

 

Secondary Resources

Andrews, William L. ed. Critical Essays on Frederick Douglass. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991.

Blassingame, John et al., eds. The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series One – Speeches, Debates and Interviews, vol 1. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Thompson, John W. An Authentic History of the Douglass Monument: Biographical Facts and Incidents in the Life of Frederick Douglass. Rochester, NY: Rochester Herald Press, 1903.

Teaching Resources

Hall, James C. ed. Approaches to Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1999.

Kass, Amy A. American Lives: Cultural Differences, Individual Distinction, an Anthology of American Autobiography. Amawalk, NY: Golden Owl Publishing Company, 1995.

Monroe, Lorraine. Nothing’s Impossible: Leadership Lessons From Inside and Outside the Classroom. New York: Times Books, 1997.

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Bill Vincent.

 

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