navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History: Early Years
Biographies Unit Biographies

Frederick Douglass 1817–1895

Frederick Douglass knew from experience that slavery was wrong. Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland. He began rebelling against slavery as a boy. He secretly taught himself to read and write. He formed a secret school for other enslaved African-Americans. When he was twenty, Douglass dressed himself as a sailor and escaped to New York. He lived in New York as a free man.

Douglass later moved to Massachusetts. He met other abolitionists (a boh LISH uhn ists). Abolitionists were people who wanted to end slavery. Douglass gave speeches about the cruelty of slavery. He wrote a book about his early life as an enslaved person. Douglass started a newspaper, the North Star. He wrote about the work abolitionists were doing. He also helped hide enslaved people who had escaped to the North.

Douglass asked President Lincoln to end slavery. He argued that African Americans should be allowed to fight in the Civil War. Even after slavery was outlawed, Douglass kept working for change. “The work of abolitionists is not done,” Douglass said. He saw that all African-Americans were not yet treated equally. Douglass kept fighting for equal rights for the rest of his life.

Comprehension Check

Why was Frederick Douglass an abolitionist?

Critical Thinking

Why do you think Frederick Douglass worked to end slavery even after he escaped from slavery?