Frederick Douglass Timeline

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Frederick Douglass

Year Day & Month Event
1818  c. 14 February

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey born on Holme Hill farm in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Harriet Bailey, a slave. His father was rumored to be a white man, possibly his master, Captain Aaron Anthony.

1826   Aaron Anthony died. Frederick Bailey was inherited by Anthony's son-in-law, Thomas Auld. Auld then hired Bailey to his brother, Hugh Auld, in Baltimore, where Douglass worked in the shipyards. Hugh Auld's wife, Sophia, began to teach Bailey to read, but the lessons ceased at the insistence of her husband. Bailey continued his reading lessons among the white boys on the streets of Baltimore and using Caleb Bingham's The Columbian Orator
1834   Sent to the "slave breaker," Edward Covey. Bailey's resistance to Covey's violent methods became a defining moment in his life and his resolve to run away. 
1835   First attempted to escape with a group of slaves.  They were betrayed by one of their number and jailed.
1837-38   Met Anna Murray, a free black woman working in Baltimore, while attending the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society. She helps him plan his escape. 
1838 3 September Frederick Bailey escaped from slavery using the forged papers of a sailor. He traveled by railroad from Maryland to New York City. 
  15 September Bailey and Anna Murray married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. He adopted the name Frederick Douglass. 
1839 24 June Rosetta Douglass, first daughter, born.
1840 9 October Lewis Henry Douglass, first son, born.
1841 10-12 August Attended an antislavery meeting on Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he made an impromptu speech (although not his first) that captured the attention of William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison then hired Douglass as a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society.
1842 3 March Frederick Douglass, Jr., second son, born.
1844 21 October Charles Remond Douglass, third son, born.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave published in the United States.

1845-47   Tour of England, Scotland and Ireland
1846   Rumors that Douglass's former master plans to return him to slavery prompted Douglass's friends and supporters in Britain to raise money and buy his freedom.
1847   Returned to the United States and relocates to Rochester, New York, an industrial town on the shore of Lake Ontario.
    Began publication of the North Star with partners Martin R. Delaney and John K. Dick. 
1848   Attended the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.
1849 22 March Annie Douglass, second daughter, born.
1851   Ended publication of the North Star, began publication of Frederick Douglass' Paper.
1855   Second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, published. 
1859   Began publication of Douglass' Monthly, a supplement to Frederick Douglass's Paper.
    After assisting John Brown in planning a raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in order to incite a slave revolt, Douglass declined to join the expedition. When the plan failed, Douglass fled to England for six months to avoid prosecution
1860 March Annie, his younger daughter, died in Rochester while Douglass was still in England.
  April Douglass returned from England.
    Ended publication of Frederick Douglass's Paper, continued publication of its supplement, Douglass' Monthly.
1861   Civil War began.
1863 1 January Emancipation Proclamation effective.
    Douglass ended publication of Douglass' Monthly.
  February Recruited members for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, a black regiment in the Union Army.  Sons Charles and Lewis joined the regiment. Son Frederick Douglass, Jr., became a recruiter.
1865 18 December 13th Amendment ratified: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their Jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." 
1868 28 July 14th Amendment ratified: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
1870   Began publication of New National Era in Washington, D.C.
  30 March 15th Amendment ratified: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Congress shall have poser to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
1872   The Equal Rights Party, headed by it presidential nominee, Victoria Woodhull, nominated Douglass as its vice-presidential candidate.  Douglass does not publicly associate himself with this party, and did not meet Woodhull until his third trip to Europe over a decade later.
    Arsonists allegedly burned the Douglass home in Rochester, destroying many of Douglass's papers.  The family moved to Washington, D.C. 
1874 March Appointed head of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company.
    Ended publication of New National Era.
1877   Appointed U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia.
1878   Purchased Cedar Hill, an estate in Anacostia, District of Columbia.
1881   Appointed Douglass recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia.
1881   Third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, published.
1882 4 August Anna Murray Douglass died.
1884 24 January Frederick Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white woman and his secretary.
1886-87   Toured Europe and northern Africa
1888-91   Served as minister and consul to Haiti. Resigned amid charges that he was too sympathetic to the Haitian interests.
1891   Revised edition of Life and Times of Frederick Douglass published.
1892-93   Led Haitian legation to World's Columbian Exposition
1895 20 February Died at Cedar Hill.

Source: Institute for American Thought, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis

Recommended Reading: The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. Publishers Weekly: The perennial tension between principle and pragmatism in politics frames this engaging account of two Civil War Era icons. Historian Oakes (Slavery and Freedom) charts the course by which Douglass and Lincoln, initially far apart on the antislavery spectrum, gravitated toward each other. Lincoln began as a moderate who advocated banning slavery in the territories while tolerating it in the South, rejected social equality for blacks and wanted to send freedmen overseas—and wound up abolishing slavery outright and increasingly supporting black voting rights. Conversely, the abolitionist firebrand Douglass moved from an impatient, self-marginalizing moral rectitude to a recognition of compromise, coalition building and incremental goals as necessary steps forward in a democracy. Continued below...

Douglass's views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln. Oakes lucidly explores how political realities and military necessity influenced Lincoln's tortuous path to emancipation, and asks whether his often bigoted pronouncements represented real conviction or strategic concessions to white racism. As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln's foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. AWARDED FIVE STARS by

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Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Barnes & Noble Classics Series). Description: No book except perhaps Uncle Tom’s Cabin had as powerful an impact on the abolitionist movement as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. But while Stowe wrote about imaginary characters, Douglass’s book is a record of his own remarkable life. Born a slave in 1818 on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published Narrative, the first of three autobiographies. Continued below...

This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years—the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape. An astonishing orator and a skillful writer, Douglass became a newspaper editor, a political activist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the civil rights of African Americans. He lived through the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the beginning of segregation. He was celebrated internationally as the leading black intellectual of his day...and his story still resonates. Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, by Frederick Douglass, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars; Biographies of the authors; Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events; Footnotes and endnotes; Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work; Comments by other famous authors; Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations; Bibliographies for further reading; Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate. All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. AWARDED 5 STARS by


Recommended Reading: Frederick Douglass : Autobiographies : Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave / My Bondage and My Freedom / Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Library of America) (Hardcover: 1100 pages). Review From Library Journal: Douglass (1818-95), a former slave, rose to become an abolitionist, writer, and orator. In this collection of his autobiographical writings, edited by Gates (humanities, Harvard Univ.), he gives an extensive overview of his life. The work includes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881). Continued below...

In Narrative, Douglass comments on his birth, his parentage, his two masters, and the brutality of slavery he witnessed. In Bondage, he reflects on his childhood, life on the plantation, and his runaway plot. Life and Times concludes the trilogy: it covers his early life as a slave, his escape from bondage, and his connection with the antislavery movement. This massive volume containing Douglass's seminal works is highly recommended for black history collections.


Recommended Reading: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Dover Value Editions). Description: Raised as a plantation slave, Douglass went on to become a writer, orator, and major participant in the struggle for African-American freedom and equality. In this engrossing narrative he recounts early years of abuse; his dramatic escape to the North and eventual freedom, abolitionist campaigns, and his crusade for full civil rights for former slaves.


Recommended Reading: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself (Enriched Classics) (Mass Market Paperback). Description: Frederick Douglass's powerful autobiographical account of life in bondage and his triumphant escape to freedom. EACH ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES: A concise introduction that gives readers important background information; A chronology of the author's life and work; A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context; An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations; Detailed explanatory notes; Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work; Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction; A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience. Continued below…

Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.

Our Frederick Douglass Homepage includes the following research: Abolitionist Frederick Douglass Details, Frederick Douglass and Antislavery Results, Slave Frederick Douglass Timeline, Abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Anti-slavery Timeline.

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