Frederick Douglass was originally born as Frederick Bailey in Maryland during 1818. He was born of a slave mother and an anonymous, white father. At the age of 10, Douglass was sent from the plantation to work as a servant in Baltimore.
He was afforded the opportunity to learn to read while in the city; however, he was subject to ongoing exploitation as a slave, which defined his life.
With the help of a free, black woman, namely Anna Murray who later became his wife, Douglass escaped slavery during 1838 and traveled to New York and then Massachusetts.
After delivering a powerful speech in 1841 at the Nantucket Anti-Slavery Convention, he began a long acquaintanceship with the abolitionist white journalist, William Lloyd Garrison. As a result of this networking, Douglas delivered speeches for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society for approximately four years.
Douglass published his autobiography in 1845. Afterward, he became concerned that widespread reading of his narrative may cause people to focus on him as a fugitive slave.
Therefore, he distanced himself from America by traveling to England and, in 1846, friends raised money to purchase his freedom legally.
In 1847, Douglass returned to the United States. This marked a break from Garrison and his distinctive abolitionist strategies; particularly, his belief that northern states should secede from the union and his rejection of the Constitution.
Douglass later settled in Rochester, New York and founded the North Star newspaper. That publication served until 1860 as a forum for Douglass and other melanated, activists speeches. He delivered a vigilant abolitionism perspective, through initially arguing against John Brown's assault on the Harpers Ferry arsenal.
Douglass also campaigned with Sojourner Truth, during the Civil War, for the inclusion of melanated soldiers in the Union Ranks.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ultimately acquiesced. Douglass and Truth then actively recruited for the two Massachusetts melanated regiments.
Following the war, President Ulysses Grant appointed Douglass as the U.S. marshall for the District of Columbia. Later, under President Chester Alan Arthur, Douglas assumed the responsibility of the minister to Haiti.
He later aligned himself with the growing women's rights movement. Early feminists were inspired by various reform movements and abolitionism; they regularly acquainted sexism with the oppressive elements of slavery.
However, Douglass took much flack by women suffragist for his support of the 15th amendment because it specifically granted voting rights to black men only, which continued to disenfranchise women.
Douglass delivered numerous speeches of the his life course and is well known for his autobiography but he also wrote other notable pieces such as:
The following speech is entitled, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?". It demonstrates his powerful use of language and thematic focus. Douglass delivered this speech on July 5, 1852 in Rochester, New York (i.e., the day after independence day). It underscores national hypocrisy, in terms of America's ability to celebrate its own independence whilst sanctioning the institution of slavery:
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York during 1797; her original name was Isabella Baumfree.
By adolescence, she had already been sold three times. Her second master raped her, then she was given to an older slave in marriage. Truth bore five children from that marriage, most of whom were sold to other slave owners.
In 1827, she was emancipated by state law and obtained domestic work given she could not read nor right.
Truth soon joined a religious group in New York City; however, she later became involved in a scandal that implicated her in the murder of a fellow member. After suing for libel, she was exonerated and left the order.
The self-proclaimed vision and voice recipient found a new name and undertook a mission of vagabond preaching for God and human rights. She explained,
"I went to the Lord and I asked him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner because I was to travel up an' down the land showin' the people their sins and being a sign unto them… And the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people."
Truth was a passionate speaker who pursued her mission throughout New England and New York. She lectured against slavery and for women's rights.
Truth supported herself via sales of her autobiography, which she had dictated to a white friend; she also sustained herself with the generous financial assistance of other friends.
In Ohio, during 1851, she spoke at the Women's Rights Convention where she delivered her now famous, Ain't I a Woman, speech.
During 1863, Truth was given a position by the National Freedmen's Relief Association to be counselor to the Freedpersons of Arlington, Virginia.
This commitment to freed slaves inspired her request to Congress that they help provide public land in a western state for melanated people to initiate new, independent lives.
She continued to advocate for this cause until she fell ill in 1875. She settled in Battle Creek, Michigan during her final years and died in 1883.
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