For Black History Month, A More Perfect Blog will feature profiles of influential and heroic African-American leaders from our curriculum, Being An American: Exploring the Ideals That Unite Us. Use the profiles to start a class discussion on what makes a hero and how each of the people we describe is heroic.
Fredrick Douglass wrote and spoke about the injustices of slavery, and helped open the eyes of a nation. He was born a slave in Maryland, in 1817 or 1818. Although it was against the law to teach enslaved people to read, Douglass learned to read and also taught other slaves to do so. He knew that reading and learning would help people see that slavery was a great injustice. After two failed attempts, Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838.
Douglass settled in Massachusetts where he went to abolitionist meetings. He began giving speeches on his experiences, and soon he began traveling in America and Europe giving lectures. He also published his thoughts in a weekly newspaper. His most important work was his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave. It was very popular, and like his speeches, opened many peoples’ eyes to the horrors of slavery. Douglass advised two Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson about the treatment of African Americans. He spoke and wrote in favor of a constitutional amendment securing voting rights for former slaves.
Fredrick Douglass persevered in his work for equal rights for former slaves, and also for women, until he died.