C. L. R. James and Creolization: Circles of Influence

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Frederick Douglass: From Slave to Presidential Advisor

He was then hired out to a professional slave breaker, a man who would beat and mistreat slaves until they gave up and did whatever they were told. After weeks of being whipped, Douglass finally fought back; after that the whippings stopped.

Frederick Douglass - Biographies - The Civil War in America | Exhibitions - Library of Congress

The Aulds then brought him back to Baltimore and put him to work in the shipyards. There in he borrowed the identification papers of an African American sailor. By passing himself off as the sailor, he was able to escape to New York. He adopted the name Douglass and married a free African American woman from the South. They settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where several of their children were born.

Douglass tried to make a living doing manual labor, and he quickly became involved in the antislavery movement that was gaining strength in the North. In , at an abolitionist meeting in Nantucket, Massachusetts, he delivered a moving speech about his experiences as a slave and was immediately hired by the Massachusetts Antislavery Society to give lectures. Douglass was an eloquent speaker; that is, his speeches were well thought out and forceful, and he was able to inspire those who heard him.

Some Harvard students who had heard him speak were so impressed that they persuaded him to write an autobiography the story of his life. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was published in Ten years later an enlarged autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, appeared.

His third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was published in and enlarged in Publishing Frederick Douglass. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

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Fearing capture, Douglass fled to Britain, staying from to to speak on behalf of abolition and to earn enough money to purchase his freedom once he returned to America. Upon his return Douglass settled in Rochester, New York, and started a newspaper, North Star, which called for an end to slavery. The paper would continue to be published under various names until In , as a result of his fame and position as the voice of African Americans, Douglass was sought out by abolitionist John Brown — Brown asked Douglass to help him in an attack on an arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which he thought would help the antislavery cause.

Douglass, however, could see no benefit from Brown's plan and refused to lend his support. With the beginning of the Civil War — , a war between Northern and Southern states in which the main issues were slavery and the Southern states' decision to leave the Union and form an independent nation, Douglass insisted that African Americans should be allowed to fight. After all, they would be fighting for their own freedom. In , as a result of Douglass's continued urging, President Abraham Lincoln — asked him to recruit African American soldiers for the Union Northern army.

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As the war proceeded, Douglass had several meetings with Lincoln to discuss the use and treatment of African American soldiers by the Union forces. As a result, the role of African American soldiers was upgraded each time, making them a more effective force in the fight. The end of the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves did not mean that Douglass was able to rest.


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The Reconstruction period, as the years after the Civil War came to be known, presented a new set of challenges for the country. While slavery had ended, the racism unequal treatment based on race that went along with slavery was still in place.


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Some Southerners even went to court to try to overturn the slaves' emancipation freedom. He used the newspaper to make statements on these issues.

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In Douglass was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes — to the post of U. From this time until approximately two years before his death Douglass held a succession of offices, including that of recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia and minister to the Republic of Haiti. He resigned his assignment in Haiti when he discovered that American businessmen were taking advantage of his position in their dealings with the Haitian government.

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Frederick Douglass died in Washington, D. He had played a major role in changing history. After reaching his goal of escaping slavery, he could have lived out his days as a free man. Instead he risked it all by speaking out in favor of freedom and improved treatment for all African Americans. Blight, David W. Douglass, Frederick. Escape From Slavery. Edited by Michael McCurdy. New York: Knopf, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Twenty years a slave, then almost nine years a fugitive; as Douglass himself described it in his autobiographies having adopted his new surname from a Sir Walter Scott poem , the first decades of his life were both thrilling and terrifying.

Until his abolitionist allies helped to purchase his freedom in , everything he did felt provisional; he lived with the incessant fear of someone who could be plunged back into captivity at any moment. Anna had five children with Douglass, managing the household and mending shoes for money until her husband was able to support the family.

She never learned how to read or write; Douglass barely mentioned her in his autobiographies either taking her for granted or else paying heed to the customary discretion of the era. Blight has to rely instead on the recorded observations of others, including the jaundiced — and, he makes clear, unreliable — sniping of Ottilie Assing, a German radical who befriended Douglass and would stay in the family home for months at a time.

Blight handles all of this as delicately as he can.