Historical facts about the life of Frederick Douglass


  • Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.
  • He was the first African American citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.
  • Through his escape he changed his last name from Bailey to Johnson to Douglass but he never changed his first name.



  • His mother was Harriet Bailey, a slave, his father was a white man believed to be his master Aaron Anthony. Read early life.
  • His mother was the only colored woman in Tuckahoe who could read.
  • Grandmother Betsy Bailey was held in high esteem as an old settler and a nurse.
  • He saw his mother 4 or 5 times in his life. She had to walk 12 miles back and forth to see him and could only do so at night.
  • Douglass was taught the alphabet by Sophia Auld. When she stopped teaching him he asked poor white neighbor children to teach him in exchange for bread. The names of these children were: Gustavus Dorgan, Joseph Bailey, Charles Farity and William Cosdry.
  • He continued learning to read and write with the Webster’s Spelling book which he carried everywhere he went. He practiced writing in a board fence, brick wall and pavement.
  • When he was about 12 years old Douglass bought the Columbian Orator which gave him a new concept of freedom. He bought the journal with the money he earned polishing boots.
  • Found out the meaning of Abolition by reading the Baltimore American.
  • When he was 17, he tried to escape but his plot was discovered. He was sent to jail.
  • Frederick’s first wife was a black free woman, Anna Douglass. His second wife was a white woman, Helen Pitts. She was 20 years younger and their families did not approve of the interracial marriage.
  • Frederick and Anna Douglass had five children, three sons and two daughters. Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick, Charles Remond and Annie. Their younger daughter, Annie, died when she was 10 years old.
  • Despite efforts, Anna Douglass never succeeded in learning to read and write.
  • During the winter of 1855-56 he covered five thousand miles and gave 70 speeches.
  • Douglass’ sons, Charles and Lewis, were the first two colored recruits to join the 54th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War. Son Frederick worked as a recruiter.
  • He was a Republican.
  • His salary in the American Antislavery Society was $450 a year. When slavery was abolished he was paid from $50 to $100 per speech.
  • Douglass lived in Rochester, NY for 25 years, longer than anywhere else he had lived in his life.
  • Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack at his Cedar Hill house in Anacostia, Washington D.C. at age 77.
  • He is buried at Section “A” of the Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.


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