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Collection Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress

1847 to 1859


  1. 1847

    Returns from overseas tour; moves to Rochester, New York.

    With money raised by English and Irish friends, buys printing press and begins publishing the abolitionist weekly North Star. He continues publishing it until 1851.

    John Brown. Biographical File. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-2472
  2. 1848

    Participant in first women's rights convention, Seneca Falls, New York.

    Meets and becomes acquaintance of abolitionist John Brown.

    Begins sheltering escaped slaves fleeing north on the "underground railroad."

    Daughter Rosetta is asked to leave school in Rochester because she is African-American; Douglass begins struggle to end segregation in Rochester public schools.

    March 22

    Daughter Annie is born.

    Hires a tutor to teach his wife, Anna, to read, but the effort is unsuccessful.

    North Star, June 2, 1848. Edited by Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany. Newspaper. Serial and Government Publications Division. (2-10)
  3. 1851

    Merges North Star with Gerrit Smith's Liberty Party Paper to form Frederick Douglass' Paper (printed until 1860). Agrees with Smith that the Constitution is an antislavery document, reversing his earlier statements that it was proslavery, an opinion he had shared with William Lloyd Garrison. This change of opinion, as well as some political differences, create a rift between Douglass and Garrison. Douglass begins to assert his independence in the antislavery movement.

  4. 1852

    Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, an antislavery novel. It sells three hundred thousand copies its first year in print and helps galvanize opinions on both sides of the slavery issue.

  5. 1855

    Publication of his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.

  6. 1856

    Becomes friends with Ottilia Assing, a German journalist living in New Jersey. She eventually translates My Bondage and My Freedom into German.

  7. 1857

    In the Dred Scott case, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that African Americans are not U.S. citizens and that Congress has no authority to restrict slavery in U.S. territories.

    Dred Scott. Biographical File. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-5092
  8. 1859

    John Brown and other abolitionist followers raid the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, then in Virginia. He plans to start a slave insurrection and provide refuge for fleeing slaves. Federal troops capture him, and he is eventually tried and hanged. Authorities find a letter from Douglass to Brown. Douglass flees to Canada and then to a planned lecture tour of England to escape arrest on charges of being an accomplice in Brown's raid.

  9. 1859-63

    Begins publishing Douglass' Monthly, first as a supplement to Frederick Douglass' Paper. It becomes an independent publication the following year and is distributed until 1863.