Narrator: In the midst of the reform movement, many citizens formed groups that supported the immediate emancipation of slaves. They came to be known as Abolitionists. Among them were several African-American former slaves. The most prominent was Frederick Douglass.
He was born a slave in 1818 in Maryland. As a boy, he secretly learned to read and write. Brutally beaten by a slave-breaker, Douglass rebelled and escaped bondage when he was twenty.
As a free man in the north, he joined the abolitionist movement and embarked on a speaking tour, giving speeches about his life as a slave.
Douglass also published his own anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star. His crowning literary achievement was the publication of his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. White critics at the time refused to believe a black person could write so eloquently. It became a best seller and was translated into several languages.
While Douglass toured England and Ireland to promote the book, and the cause, British sympathizers bought his freedom from the slaveholder who still legally owned him.
During the Civil War, Douglass conferred with President Lincoln on the treatment of black soldiers and the issue of emancipation. After the war, Douglass held several important positions including a bank presidency and ambassadorships to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He died in 1895 at age 77. The Abolitionist, Orator, Author and Reformer remains one of the most prominent figures in African-American history.
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