Frederick Douglass (Chesnutt)

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Frederick Douglass  (1899) 
by Charles W. Chesnutt
A biography of Frederick Douglass originally published in 1899. Content copied from Project Gutenberg's Frederick Douglass eBook

Contents[edit]

Preface[edit]

Frederick Douglass lived so long, and played so conspicuous a part on the world's stage, that it would be impossible, in a work of the size of this, to do more than touch upon the salient features of his career, to suggest the respects in which he influenced the course of events in his lifetime, and to epitomize for the readers of another generation the judgment of his contemporaries as to his genius and his character.

Douglass's fame as an orator has long been secure. His position as the champion of an oppressed race, and at the same time an example of its possibilities, was, in his own generation, as picturesque as it was unique; and his life may serve for all time as an incentive to aspiring souls who would fight the battles and win the love of mankind. The average American of to-day who sees, when his attention is called to it, and deplores, if he be a thoughtful and just man, the deep undertow of race prejudice that retards the progress of the colored people of our own generation, cannot, except by reading the painful records of the past, conceive of the mental and spiritual darkness to which slavery, as the inexorable condition of its existence, condemned its victims and, in a less measure, their oppressors, or of the blank wall of proscription and scorn by which free people of color were shut up in a moral and social Ghetto, the gates of which have yet not been entirely torn down.

From this night of slavery Douglass emerged, passed through the limbo of prejudice which he encountered as a freeman, and took his place in history. "As few of the world's great men have ever had so checkered and diversified a career," says Henry Wilson, "so it may at least be plausibly claimed that no man represents in himself more conflicting ideas and interests. His life is, in itself, an epic which finds few to equal it in the realms of either romance or reality." It was, after all, no misfortune for humanity that Frederick Douglass felt the iron hand of slavery; for his genius changed the drawbacks of color and condition into levers by which he raised himself and his people.

The materials for this work have been near at hand, though there is a vast amount of which lack of space must prevent the use. Acknowledgment is here made to members of the Douglass family for aid in securing the photograph from which the frontispiece is reproduced.

The more the writer has studied the records of Douglass's life, the more it has appealed to his imagination and his heart. He can claim no special qualification for this task, unless perhaps it be a profound and in some degree a personal sympathy with every step of Douglass's upward career. Belonging to a later generation, he was only privileged to see the man and hear the orator after his life-work was substantially completed, but often enough then to appreciate something of the strength and eloquence by which he impressed his contemporaries. If by this brief sketch the writer can revive among the readers of another generation a tithe of the interest that Douglass created for himself when he led the forlorn hope of his race for freedom and opportunity, his labor will be amply repaid.

Charles W. Chesnutt

Cleveland, October, 1899

CHRONOLOGY[edit]

1817

Frederick Douglass was born at Tuckahoe, near Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.

1825

Was sent to Baltimore to live with a relative of his master.

1833

_March._ Was taken to St. Michaels, Maryland, to live again with his master.

1834

_January._ Was sent to live with Edward Covey, slave-breaker, with whom he spent the year.

1835-36

Hired to William Freeland. Made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from slavery, Was sent to Baltimore to learn the ship-calkers trade.

1838

_May_. Hired his own time and worked at his trade.

_September 3_. Escaped from slavery and went to New York City. Married Miss Anna Murray. Went to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Assumed the name of "Douglass."

1841

Attended anti-slavery convention at New Bedford and addressed the meeting. Was employed as agent of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society.

1842

Took part in Rhode Island campaign against the Dorr constitution. Lectured on slavery. Moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.

1843

Took part in the famous "One Hundred Conventions" of the New England Anti-slavery Society.

1844

Lectured with Pillsbury, Foster, and others.

1845

Published _Frederick Douglass's Narrative_.

1845-46

Visited Great Britain and Ireland. Remained in Europe two years, lecturing on slavery and other subjects. Was presented by English friends with money to purchase his freedom and to establish a newspaper.

1847

Returned to the United States. Moved with his family to Rochester, New York. Established the _North Star_, subsequently renamed _Frederick Douglass's Paper_. Visited John Brown at Springfield, Massachusetts.

1848

Lectured on slavery and woman suffrage.

1849

Edited newspaper. Lectured against slavery. Assisted the escape of fugitive slaves.

1850

_May 7._ Attended meeting of Anti-slavery Society at New York City. Running debate with Captain Rynders.

1852

Supported the Free Soil party. Elected delegate from Rochester to Free Soil convention at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Supported John P. Hale for the Presidency.

1853

Visited Harriet Beecher Stowe at Andover, Massachusetts, with reference to industrial school for colored youth.

1854

Opposed repeal of Missouri Compromise.

_June 12._ Delivered commencement address at Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio.

1855

Published _My Bondage and My Freedom_. _March_. Addressed the New York legislature.

1856

Supported Fremont, candidate of the Republican party.

1858

Established _Douglass's Monthly_. Entertained John Brown at Rochester.

1859

_August 20_. Visited John Brown at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

_May 12 [October]._ Went to Canada to avoid arrest for alleged complicity in the John Brown raid.

_November 12._ Sailed from Quebec for England.

Lectured and spoke in England and Scotland for six months.

1860

Returned to the United States. Supported Lincoln for the Presidency.

1862

Lectured and spoke in favor of the war and against slavery.

1863

Assisted in recruiting Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts colored regiments. Invited to visit President Lincoln.

1864

Supported Lincoln for re-election.

1866

Was active in procuring the franchise for the freedmen.

_September._ Elected delegate from Rochester to National Loyalists' Convention at Philadelphia.

1869 [1870]

Moved to Washington, District of Columbia. Established [Edited and then bought] the _New National Era_.

1870

Appointed secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission by President Grant.

1872

Appointed councillor of the District of Columbia. [Moved family there after a fire (probably arson) destroyed their Rochester home and Douglass's newspaper files.] Elected presidential elector of the State of New York, and chosen by the electoral college to take the vote to Washington.

1876

Delivered address at unveiling of Lincoln statue at Washington.

1877

Appointed Marshal of the District of Columbia by President Hayes.

1878

Visited his old home in Maryland and met his old master.

1879

Bust of Douglass placed in Sibley Hall, of Rochester University. Spoke against the proposed negro exodus from the South.

1881

Appointed recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia.

1882

_January._ Published _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_, the third and last of his autobiographies. _August 4._ Mrs. Frederick Douglass died.

1884

_February 6._ Attended funeral of Wendell Phillips. _February 9._ Attended memorial meeting and delivered eulogy on Phillips. Married Miss Helen Pitts.

1886

_May 20._ Lectured on John Brown at Music Hall, Boston.

_September 11._ Attended a dinner given in his honor by the Wendell Phillips Club, Boston.

_September._ Sailed for Europe.

Visited Great Britain, France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt, 1886-87.

1888

Made a tour of the Southern States.

1889

Appointed United States minister resident and consul-general to the Republic of Hayti and _chargé d'affaires_ to Santo Domingo.

1890

_September 22._ Addressed abolition reunion at Boston.

1891

Resigned the office of minister to Hayti.

1893

Acted as commissioner for Hayti at World's Columbian Exposition.

1895

_February 20._ Frederick Douglass died at his home on Anacostia Heights, near Washington, District of Columbia. </poem>


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1932, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.