Frederick Douglass / Joseph Robertson, ed.
1st edition: 4 November 2008
Frederick Douglass is one of the great figures of mid-19th century American letters, culture and politics. Born a slave, he was able to learn to read and eventually escaped to freedom, north of the Mason-Dixon line. His story, his demeanor, his learning and his moral authority inspired popular adhesion to the abolitionist movement, and his autobiography became the leading reference for understanding the struggles of southern slaves against a form of oppression mostly unknown in the northern states.
On 3 September 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped enslavement. Disguised in a sailor’s uniform and carrying papers lent to him by a free black sailor, he boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland. From there, he crossed the Susquehanna River by ferry, then went on by train to Wilmington, Delaware. A steamboat took him to Philadelphia, and eventually, this complicated journey landed him in New York City, less than 24 hours after fleeing.
He was one of the most prominent orators of his time and his ideas and relation of the horrors of being enslaved became influential throughout American society and culture. His rise to prominence in public life helped spread the abolitionist cause, and led to his being named the United States’ first ambassador to Haiti. [Read more...]