Celebrating Frederick Douglass in the Month of His Birth and Death

Frederick Douglass c. 1855, image Public DomainFrederick Douglass was born 198 years ago, as nearly as could be determined, on an unknown day in February 1818, based on an entry in the slave ledger of his first master who may have also been his father; Douglass hears reports throughout his young life that his father was certainly a white man, but who exactly it was is left unsaid. Aaron Anthony’s slave Harriet Bailey was Douglass’s mother, and she died when little Frederick was only about seven years old. Anthony’s daughter Lucretia married Thomas Auld, and upon Anthony’s death, she inherited young Frederick.

From such inauspicious beginnings, a ragged orphan enslaved on a plantation with prospects of little but a life of hard work and enforced ignorance, Douglass becomes one of the world’s most famous and well-respected people. His strong native intelligence and courage allows him to take the fullest advantage of every opportunity that comes his way, to his own credit and to the benefit of us all. After a long and illustrious career as an activist, writer, intellectual, and statesman, he dies on February 20th 1895 and leaves behind a legacy rivaled by few in American history.

I salute your memory, Mr. Douglass; my series on your life and ideas is my little tribute to you. Thanks for all you’ve done for your own people and for the whole human race!

I chose this day to commemorate his life and his death here at Ordinary Philosophy in advance of upcoming events in DC: the National Park Service will host a 2-day birthday celebration for Frederick Douglass on February 12th and 13th, 2016 at his home Cedar Hill and nearby sites in Anacostia and DC. Please visit the NPS website for more information.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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