GXB15198 Frederick Douglass by Chris Calle © Wind River Studios

Frederick Douglass was the first black American to play a major national leadership role in emancipation. Born of a white father and a slave mother, young Douglass soon showed signs of independence: he fought with one of his overseers, and was sold off to a Baltimore family whose members recognized his abilities and taught him to read and write. With their connivance, he escaped to New England. There, he attracted the attention of anti-slavery leaders by his eloquence, nobility of character and even by his physical presence, for he stood six feet tall. In 1845, he published his autobiography — Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. This attracted nationwide attention, and started Douglass on a long career of editing anti-slavery journals which proclaimed the rights of women as well as blacks. Two visits to England brought him international fame. During the war, his newspaper, The North Star, ardently supported the use of Negro troops in the Union army, and he recruited soldiers for the famous 54th Massachusetts — the first all black regiment to fight in the war. Douglass’ first wife was a black woman; in his old age, he married a white woman. As he said, his first wife was his mother’s color and his second, his father’s color. It was to this goal of complete equality that he alluded in one of his last statements: “The real question is whether American justice, liberty, civilization, law, and Christianity can be made to include and protect all Americans.”

Image and Text © Wind River Studios