African Americans have played an important role in the history and culture of the United States since it’s founding. These individuals were doctors, writers, inventors, as well as many other notable professions. There have been hundreds of unacknowledged African Americans that have done great things over the years, and it is about time that these great men and women were recognized.
One of these remarkable people is Mr. Frederick Douglass, known for his courage and intelligence during the Civil War. Although Mr. Douglass never invented anything, he brought to our country many other great achievements.
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Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (Baly), after his mother Harriet Bailey, was born into slavery in Maryland in February of 1817. He was separated from his mother when he was very young, and he never met his father. Douglass’s childhood, though he thought of it, as expressed in his autobiography, as being no more cruel or unusual than that of many of others trapped in similar conditions.
The lack of domestic attachments, hard work, and inhumane treatment and conditions make up the text of his early remembrances of the main plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd. In 1852, Frederick was sold to a somewhat kinder master who lived in the North. While he was still young, the wife of one of his masters, Mrs. Auld, taught Frederick the rudiments of reading and writing. Although the tutoring was limited, this provided Frederick with a basic background to help him begin his self-education.
After numerous arguments with various masters, Frederick finally escaped to the North in 1838 by borrowing an African American sailor’s protection papers and impersonating the sailor. He married a free African American woman, and they settled in Bedford, Massachusetts, where they had all of their children.
Douglass quickly became involved with the anti-slavery movement. In 1841 he delivered a speech at an abolitionist meeting, and the listeners were so moved by his eloquent speaking techniques, they hired him as a lecturer and persuaded him to write his autobiography about his accounts as a slave.
The book raised many eyebrows and meant exile for Douglass, so he fled to England for safety. When he returned, he resettled in Rochester, New York, and started publishing his newspaper, The North Star. In 1858, as a consequence of his fame and as an unofficial spokesman for African Americans, Douglass was sought out by John Brown as a recruit for his planned attack at Harpers Ferry. But Douglass could see no benefit from what he thought was a useless and dangerous plan and refused to lend his support.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln asked Douglas to recruit African Americans to enlist in the Army. The treatment of blacks in the military was horrible back then, and because of Frederick’s persistence, the role of African American soldiers was upgraded, and therefore military effectiveness was increased. The Reconstruction period put serious responsibilities on Douglass. Politicians differed on the question of race and its related problems, and as governmental battles were fought to establish the constitutional integrity of the slaves’ emancipation, Douglass was the one African American with stature enough to make suggestions.
In 1872, Douglass moved to Washington, DC where he served as publisher of the New National Era. In 1877, he was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes as the U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia. Before his death on February 20, 1895, Douglass also served briefly as the President of the Freedmen’s National Bank, and in diplomatic positions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Frederick Douglass was an inspiration to not only African Americans but to all who know about his work. I think that without Douglass, life in the United States would be a lot different. He paved the way for African American writers and orators, and without his influence, African Americans might not be as far advanced in society as they are today.
I sincerely believe that Frederick Douglass made a huge impression on the United States. His life was a testament to courage and persistence that continues to serve as an encouragement to those who struggle in the cause of liberty and justice.
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