The Abolitionists: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

(1818 – 1895)

After escaping from slavery, Frederick Douglass became a well-respected leader in the abolitionist movement. He spoke widely about the evils of slavery and published The North Star, a weekly antislavery newspaper .

Telling of his experience as a slave, Douglass wrote about his master Edward Covey. He was a cruel master who, Douglass reported, “…tore off my clothes, lashed me till he had worn out the switches.” Douglass found little relief from Covey. “He was under every tree, in every bush, and at every window on the plantation.” Douglass began to think of what the rest of his life might be like. He said, “The thoughts of being a slave for life began to wear upon my heart.” He added, “…but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I would kill myself.”

Douglass escaped at the age of 20 and moved north. His house soon became a station – a safe house for runaway slaves - on the Underground Railroad. He became a powerful voice for abolition – the ending of a slavery. In a speech at Rochester, New York in 1852 he said:

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without rival.”

During his life, Douglass held several public offices. He supported women’s right to vote and was a firm believer in equality for all people. He said, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."