Notes on Frederick Douglass and abolition

Frederick Douglass is one of the most inspiring and well-known abolitionists of his age. He was exceedingly intelligent, a moving and motivating speaker regarding self-freedom, and certainly most importantly, an ex-slave himself. In many ways he can be regarded as a traditional Transcendentalist in the likes of Thoreau and Emerson in his adamant beliefs in Self-Reliance, Reason, and the Oversoul. His own horrific and dignified biographical accounts are depicted in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,, 1845, later published as The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass., 1882.

As a slave born in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write through friendships he made via the young white children on the street where he lived and also with the help of his "benefactor's wife." His disconcerting account of his life as a slave gave the general populace a vivid and thorough account. The humanity and dignity with which Douglass therein expressed his devastating young life experience is in itself so moving and simultaneously repugnant to the modern reader who feels a bitter mix of utter impotence and frustrated sympathy. Although compelling, his account of slavery was mistakenly depicted as a sympathetic view towards John Brown's radical raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859. Douglass had no complicity in the violent act, but he was forced to flee to Canada and then to England. Eventually two friends bought his freedom, and Douglass lived a life devoted to public awareness regarding slavery issues.

Frederick Douglass Papers (with photograph) from Indiana University-Purdue University
"Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist-Editor," Sandra Thomas

Shannon Riley, VCU
Ideas & thought: