Douglass, Frederick (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A very influential African American leader of the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass used his exceptional skills as an orator, writer, journalist, and politician to fight for the ABOLITION of SLAVERY and for an end to RACIAL DISCRIMINATION. He helped to shape the climate of public opinion that led to the ratification of the THIRTEENTH, FOURTEENTH, and FIFTEENTH AMENDMENTS to the U.S. Constitution, which were created in large measure to protect, respectively, the freedom, citizenship, and VOTING RIGHTS of ex-slaves. His Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) is a classic account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery for slave and slaveholder alike.
According to his own calculations, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in February 1817, on a plantation west of the Tuckahoe River in Talbot County, Maryland. (As an adult, he celebrated his birthday on February 14.) His mother was a black slave, and his father most likely her white owner. Douglass was separated from his mother at an early age, and at age 7 he was sent to Baltimore to work for a family. He later regarded this change from the plantation to the city as a great stroke of fortune because in Baltimore he was able to begin educating himself. His master's wife taught him the alphabet, and Douglass, under the tutelage of young boys on the streets and docks,...
(The entire section is 1355 words.)
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