Who is Frederick Douglass in African American history?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass is best known as the most famous African American abolitionist.  He was also active in the push for women’s rights.  After the Civil War, he turned his efforts to the cause of political rights for African Americans.  He is perhaps the best-known African American of the 19th century.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818.  He lived in slavery (most often in cities) until 1838.  In that year, he escaped from slavery by posing as a free black sailor.  Once in the north, Douglass sent for his wife (a free black woman).  He soon became involved in abolitionist activities.  This was how he became famous.  He soon found that he was a very effective orator and he came to dedicate his life to speaking against slavery.  In 1845, he wrote his autobiography, which continues to be a classic today.  Douglass also fought for women’s rights.  He attended the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and spoke in favor of women’s suffrage at a time when the convention was divided on whether to pursue that goal.  After the Civil War, Douglass worked in various capacities, keeping his focus on African American rights.

Douglass is most important because he was the first major black figure in American society.  He was the first African American to really make a name for himself through his intellect and his speaking ability.  These were things that African Americans supposedly did not possess and so Douglass was a living testimony to the falseness of the racist ideas of the time.