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Collection Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

1836 to 1846

  • 1836

    Makes an escape plan but is discovered, jailed, and then released. He returns to work for Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore and is hired out to work as a caulker in a Baltimore shipyard. The knowledge he gains there helps him escape slavery two years later.

    A restored photograph of Anna Murray Douglass.
    Biographical File.
    Prints and Photographs Division,
    Library of Congress.
    Reproduction Number:
    LC-USZ62-83188
  • 1837

    Joins the East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society, a debating club of free black men. Through the society, he meets a free African-American housekeeper, Anna Murray.

    William Lloyd Garrison.
    Biographical File.
    Prints and Photographs Division,
    Library of Congress.
    Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-10320
  • 1838

    September 3

    Borrowing papers from a free black sailor, he escapes from slavery to New York and changes his last name to Johnson.

  • 1838

    September 15

    Marries Anna Murray. The ceremony is performed by minister James W. C. Pennington, who is also an escaped Maryland slave.

    The newlyweds move to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Frederick works as an unskilled laborer. They stay with caterers Mary and Nathan Johnson. Nathan suggests that Frederick take on the last name Douglas, from a character in Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lady of the Lake. He does so, spelling it Douglass.

    Tries to get job as a caulker, but white workers threaten to quit if he is hired.

  • 1839

    June 24

    Daughter Rosetta is born.

    Douglass subscribes to William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist weekly The Liberator. Hears Garrison speaking in April.

    Becomes a licensed preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

  • 1840

    October 9

    Son Lewis Henry is born.

  • 1841

    Speaks at an antislavery meeting in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Abolitionist William C. Coffin talks him into speaking about his life as a slave at a Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convention. William Lloyd Garrison follows his remarks with a speech of his own, encouraging Douglass. The Society is impressed and he is hired as a speaker. Douglass becomes closely allied with Garrison and his abolitionist views.

    Susan B. Anthony.
    Biographical File.
    Prints and Photographs Division,
    Library of Congress.
    Reproduction Number:
    LC-USZ62-46713
  • 1843

    At an antislavery meeting in Pendleton, Indiana, he is beaten by a mob. His right hand is broken in the scuffle and he never fully recovers the use of his hand.

  • 1844

    October 21

    Son Charles Remond is born.

  • 1845

    Publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In it, he reveals details that could lead to his arrest as a fugitive slave.

    He meets Susan B. Anthony while on a speaking tour. Later he becomes a champion of women's rights.

    Begins tour of Great Britain and Ireland, lecturing on slavery with abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. English friends raise money to "purchase" his freedom; Douglass is manumitted after Hugh Auld receives $711.66 in payment.

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