February marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of history’s great abolitionists. At Free the Slaves, we’re proud to follow his footsteps and finish the work he helped start generations ago.
Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland – the exact date isn’t known. After successfully escaping on his third try, Douglass rose to prominence and influence as an eloquent author, intellectual and human rights leader. He was the first African-American to hold high U.S. government ranks, as a diplomat in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the first to be nominated for vice president.
His 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, became a best-seller. His powerful speeches at abolitionist churches were widely quoted in newspapers and are credited with helping bring an end to legalized slavery in the U.S.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe,” he said.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” he said. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Douglass remains an inspirational figure to this day. See how a teacher in Maryland shared the writings of Douglass with his students, and what they chose to do about it, in the Free the Slaves video: Why I Free Slaves.
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