About this Collection
The papers of nineteenth-century African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), who escaped from slavery and then risked his freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher, consist of approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images), most of which were digitized from 34 reels of previously produced microfilm. The collection spans the years 1841-1964, with the bulk of the material dating from 1862 to 1895. Many of Douglass’s earlier writings were destroyed when his house in Rochester, New York, burned in 1872.
For a fuller overview of the collection, please consult the Scope and Content Note in the collection finding aid to the Frederick Douglass Papers, which is available online (PDF and HTML) with links to the digital content on this site. Also see the essay on this site titled Provenance, Publication History, and Scope and Contents.
The collection is organized in the following series:
Brief History of the Papers
The Frederick Douglass Papers were originally in the library at Cedar Hill, Douglass’s home in Anacostia, Washington, D.C., from 1878 until his death in 1895. In 1900 Helen Pitts Douglass, Douglass’s second wife, established the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association so that the home and its contents might be maintained after her death. The association held the property from 1903 until 1916, when it joined forces with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. In 1962 Congress declared Cedar Hill a national historical site, and ownership of the home and its contents was transferred to the National Park Service.
The National Park Service transferred the Frederick Douglass Papers to the Library of Congress between 1972 and 1974 to ensure their proper custodial care and to make them more readily accessible to researchers. In 1975 additional Douglass materials were acquired by the Library of Congress and added to the Frederick Douglass Papers as the Addition I Series. The papers were microfilmed and made available to the public. The online Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress has been digitally scanned from a thirty-four-reel microfilm set. Since the microfilming was performed, additional materials have been received; they are currently contained in the Addition II and Addition III series. These new materials have not been microfilmed and are not included yet in this online collection. For more history of the collection, see the essay on this site titled Provenance, Publication History, and Scope and Contents.
Frederick Douglass documented many instances of racial prejudice and violence in his papers. Therefore, some of the materials in this online historical collection contain language or negative stereotypes that may be offensive to some readers.