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Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895)

The Most Prominent Human Rights Leader in the 19th Century

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 200-FL-22 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 113

Frederick Douglass was one of the most influential figures in the American history, playing an important role in the the Emancipation Proclamation by US President Abraham Lincoln, and was among the first activists who realized it was just the beginning of the journey toward racial justice for black people.

Douglass’ direct experiences as a slave made him an authoritative voice when he wrote an autobiography which revealed why systemic slavery was evil and must be abolished. The bestselling book was written after he escaped cruelty from his master. It invoked so much public outcry and debate over the issue that he had to escape to Ireland and Great Britain.

After two years, he returned to America with the help from his supporters. Instead of keeping a low profile, he founded The North Star newspapers to advocate an end to slavery and women’s rights. He became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States. The leading abolitionist died at 77 from massive heart attack.