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Frederick Douglass – A Self-Made Statesman


Frederick Douglass can be considered as one of the most influencing and prominent figures in the history of the United States of America. Kerry Gleason, in his article on the Black History Month Challenge published in the Associated Content news realizes that “It is safe to say that without Douglass, the United States’ flag might not fly today with 50 stars.” (Gleason). Frederick Douglass strongly believed in the equality of people. He claims that he will stand along anybody, be it white or black, male or female, American or non-American, to bring the equality of people. He is one of the greatest orators that America has seen. He had worked as an abolitionist and reformer in the US. With his life and deeds, Frederick Douglass became one of the most respected Americans of his times.

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Fredrick Douglass – A self-made statesman written by [customer inserts his name] examines the life of Frederick Douglass, how successful he was on self improvement and studies the actions which he took to improve himself and the people which he was working for.

The achievements of Douglass were not what he got simply on a day or by luck. A series of hard work and struggles led him to the great heights of success. The paper reveals how he worked hard for years and struggled for freedom which resulted in shaping the face of the modern United States of America.

The paper goes through the life of Douglass from his early ages to his life as a plantation slave and urban slave. The paper details how and what influenced Douglass to change himself to address the needs of thousands of black slaves in America.

Early life

Born as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born to a slave, Harriet Bailey in Maryland, and soon lost his mother. The actual birth date of Douglass was not established, though he mentions that his birthday was on February 14th 1817. The paternity of Douglass is still unknown, and he was raised by his grandmother. By the age of seven, Frederick was moved to the Wye House Plantation as a slave.

The Plantation Slave

The plantation was owned by white, and their discrimination of people based on the color of the skin was very prominent. The whites saw black as filthy creatures to work as slave for their plantations and the blacks were never treated as humans by the white. The blacks were treated brutally and often suffered from cruel and gruesome punishments from the white who claimed to be their masters. In his autobiography, Douglass has narrated a cruel incident which he witnessed as his aunt Hester being punished by his master. The account was that “No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to scream and whip her to make her hush and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cow skin.” (Douglass, 28). Douglass wrote that he would never forget the incident as it was so cruel.

Douglass realized at a young age that not only are the blacks considered as inferior, but they are also not given any rights or privileges as the citizens of the country. He also realized that it was not just the prejudice or discrimination that was the primary factor but the intense racism that the whites showed has caused the blacks to be treated as sub-humans. Douglass knew that information, even related to his own self was not provided to the blacks and this caused him immense irritation as a child. The blacks were considered more like animals or property, which can be shared or inherited, than us humans.

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After a few years when he reached teenage, Douglass was hired to Mr. Covey who trained young slaves and treated them like filth. This made Douglass examine more into his life and his fate. Douglass stresses in his biography that he did not want to be treated as a slave and he yearned for his status as a man. Douglass fought against Mr. Covey and this was a proof of beginning of a revolution against slavery.

The fight against his cruel master is considered as a remarkable point of his life, on which he attained his sense of being a human. Douglass accounts that he got his self confidence from that incident which gave him the determination to attain freedom. He also recalls that although he might exist in the form of a slave, his mind will never remain a slave. With the newly found self confidence and rebellious mind, Douglass tried to escape from slavery which ended up as an unsuccessful event. In 1835 he was returned to his master to serve as an urban slave in Baltimore.

Urban Slavery

The change in his life from a plantation slave to urban slave was more welcomed by Douglass as he saw this as an opportunity to escape from the cruel plantation life as an animal and also the possibilities of becoming a free man. He says in his biography that “From my earliest recollections of serious matters, I date the entertainment of something like an ineffaceable conviction, that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and this conviction, like a word of living faith, strengthens me through the darkest trials of my lot.” (Douglass, 139). It was his life as an urban slave that finally led him to prosperity.

Douglass received the most important part in his life, education, from his new mistress. With the newly attained education gave him the realization that he can no longer live as a slave. He worked hard by reading whatever came his way and this led him to the vast ocean of knowledge. He realized that all human beings deserved liberty and that education will prove to be the most important factor to improve the lives of the blacks.

After three years when Douglass was hired out to a rich shipbuilder, he started the fight for his freedom from slavery. He fought to defend self-esteem and was adamant to end the tyranny of the whites over the blacks. Although he earned money from his work, the laws forced him to give the money to his master. All these experiences combined with the education and knowledge he received made Douglass a restless man who craved for freedom for him as well as his race. Finally by 1838, Douglass ended his life as a slave by moving to New York. However, this new found freedom gave him a sense of insecurity and loneliness.

The freeman

With his newly attained freedom, he married Anna Murray and changed his name to Frederick Johnson. However, Frederick never denied his life as a slave and he realized that although he was free society still considers a Negro as inferior. The freeman now struggled for equality.

Douglass soon worked hard as an abolitionist by attending meetings and delivering speeches. His speeches on liberty and equality became very famous. Although he was a good orator, Douglass still carried a feel of inferiority which made it uneasy for him to speak in front of white men. As years passed, Douglass became a man with his own mission to elevate the backward class of the society. He made his own philosophies as an abolitionist, orator and reformer. To prove the equality of humans, he married a white woman. He fought for the social, economical and political equality of the blacks and the women. “In his solemn refusal to give up, he personally purchased his own freedom, life, and liberty. He learned to be a man by refusing to accept the life he was granted, and instead, changing it, himself, and many others to come after.” (Leigh).

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He wrote his biographies and published books that would enlighten the fallen class and also brings the realization of sufferings endured by the blacks as slaves. He continued to educate the oppressed class and believed that it could bring revolutionary changes. “I felt that the want of education, great as it was, could be overcome by study, and that wisdom would come by experience, and further (which was perhaps the most controlling consideration) I thought that an intelligent public, knowing my early history, would easily pardon the many deficiencies which I well knew that my paper must exhibit.” (Douglass, 260).


Frederick Douglass is a man who searched for his own identity to establish himself and the blacks in a country ruled by the white. It is his constant practice on self-improvement that made him a successful statesman and a highly successful reformer. Douglass has earned the title of the Sage of Anacostia and the Lion of Anacostia for his revolutionary activities to abolish slavery color and gender discrimination in the United States. This paper shows the self-made man Douglass’s rise to fame as the most successful abolitionist in the American history.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American slave. Ed. Benjamin Quarles. Harvard University Press, 1988.

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage My Freedom. Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855.

Douglass, Frederick. Life and Time of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His escape from Bondage, and his Complete History: Chapter 7: Triumphs and Trials. New York: Collier Book, 1962. Web.

Gleason, Kerry. Frederick Douglass Paved way for other African- American Heroes: Black History Month Challenge. AC: Associated Content. 2007. Web.

Leigh, Cynthia. Autobiography: The Life and Time of Frederick Douglass: Frederick Douglass and his Quest for Freedom. AC: Associated Content: Arts & Entertainment. 2006. Web.

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