On this day in 1818, African-American writer, statesman, and anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass was born in Talbot County, Maryland. He became a leader of the abolitionist movement after escaping slavery in 1838, and went on to become such an excellent lecturer and writer that white Northerners did not believe he could have formerly been a slave.
Part of his activism, however, specifically involved recounting his life as a slave. It also entailed his participation in the American Anti-Slavery Society’s “Hundred Conventions” project in 1843, in which speakers toured the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. over a period of six months.
He wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was published in 1845.
After the death of Abraham Lincoln, Douglass was present for the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington’s Lincoln Park, where he was the keynote speaker for the dedication service. There his speech earned a standing ovation, and received Lincoln’s own walking stick as a token of appreciation from Mary Lincoln.
He died on February 20, 1895, but is still remembered today: many schools were named in his honor, as was the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, located just south of the U.S. Capitol, when it was built in 1950.