59. Frederick Douglass: From Slave to Emancipator

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Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland in 1818. His exact birth date was lost to history. Many African slaves did not have their birth dates recorded into official records during that time period because they did not have basic human rights. They were considered property owned by their white masters. It was a dark time in the country. Frederick Douglass helped change that.

It was illegal in the southern states to educate blacks at that time, but Douglass was fortunate enough to have been educated by the wife of his master, who began teaching Douglass the alphabet when he was 12 years old. He continued his education on his own after that. With his new reading skills, Douglass began teaching other black slaves the New Testament. He had a sympathetic owner, who did not see any harm in this activity, but his neighbors did not see eye to eye with him. It wasn't long before the lessons ended, after violent measures were taken by the white community members.

Douglass eventually escaped slavery, and settled in the state of Massachusetts, where he began his struggle to end slavery. Douglass became one of the most influential people of his generation. He made powerful friends in the U.S. government. During one of his lecture tours in 1843, Douglass was nearly beaten to death by an angry mob, who did not agree with his message of abolition. He fled the country on a couple of occasions to avoid being put into a state of slavery again. While in Europe, Douglass spoke to enthusiastic crowds on the evils of slavery.

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