Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland. On September 3, 1838 he boarded a train in Maryland on his way to freedom from slavery dressed in a sailor's uniform and carrying identification papers provided by a free Black seaman. He later became the most prominent African-American in the United States of his time and a leader of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, an influential lecturer, author, and publisher of a series of newspapers: the North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass' Paper, Douglass' Monthly and the New National Era.
His work spanned the years prior to and during the Civil War. He knew John Brown but did not approve of Brown's plan to start an armed slave revolt. He conferred with President Abraham Lincoln on the treatment of black soldiers in 1863 and with President Andrew Johnson on the subject of black suffrage. His closest collaborators were white abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips.
Douglass' most lasting work is his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was published in 1845. Critics frequently attacked the book as inauthentic, not believing that a black man could possibly have written so eloquent a work. It was an immediate bestseller and received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. Within three years of publication, it was reprinted 9 times with 11,000 copies circulating in the United States and translated into French and Dutch.
The book's success had an unfortunate side effect when his friends and mentors became afraid that the publicity would draw attention of his ex-owner who could try to get their "property" back. They encouraged him to go on a tour in Ireland, as many other ex-slaves had done in the past. He set sail for Liverpool in August 16 1845 and arrived in Ireland where the Irish famine was just starting.
Douglass spent two years in British Isles and gave several lectures - 50 of them in Ireland - mainly in protestant churches. He met and befriended Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell. When Douglass visited Scotland, the members of Free Church of Scotland who he had criticized for accepting money from US slave-owners, demonstrated against him with placards with "Send back the nigger"
Douglas was only able to return to USA when two Englishwomen, Ellen and Anna Richardson, purchased his freedom from his former master, Hugh Auld, for 700 dollars.
In later years, he served as President of the failed Reconstruction era Freedman's Savings Bank, marshal of the District of Columbia, minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti and chargé d'affaires for Santo Domingo. In 1892 the Haitian government appointed him has its commissioner to the Chicago World Columbian Exposition. He spoke for Irish Home Rule and efforts of Charles Stewart Parnell and briefly revisited Ireland in 1886.
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