The Legacy of Frederick Douglass

Christina Greer – Fordham University

Frederick Douglass, one of America’s most important historical figures, continues to inspire modern day human rights and civil rights activism. He was an educator, activist, abolitionist, and public speaker. Born into slavery in or around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, his owner’s wife taught him the alphabet; he subsequently taught himself to read and write. While still enslaved, Douglass taught others how to read and write. Douglass escaped his enslavement and fled to New York and then Massachusetts, where he became involved in the abolitionist movement.

Douglass traveled the U.S. advocating for the abolishment of slavery, as well as the UK and Ireland, and forged relationships with others fighting for freedom and equality. He was an advocate for women’s rights, and specifically the right of women to vote. Douglass was even asked by Victoria Woodhull to serve as her Vice President in 1872. In this class, we will discuss Douglass’ life and work as an advocate for electoral participation, gender inclusion, and racial equity. We will discuss the historical implications of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the subsequent amendments to the Constitution expanding the civil rights and civil liberties in the U.S. In this current political moment, it is important to contextualize the efforts of Douglass to change hearts and minds towards the institution of slavery across the U.S. and abroad.