Frederick Douglass, Father of Civil Rights

In a speech on November 15, 1867, Douglass said: “A man’s rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, jury box and the cartridge box.  Let no man be kept from the ballot box because of his color. Let no woman be kept from the ballot box because of her sex.”

Douglass was a very accomplished man.  He wrote several autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845; My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855 and  Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in 1881.  In 1872 Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the Equal Rights Party ticket.  He did not approve, campaign for or acknowledge the nomination.  At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party vote.  In 1877, Douglass was appointed a United States Marshal.  In 1881, he was appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia.  He and his wife, Anna Murray, had five children.  Frederick and Anna Douglass had five children: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Redmond, and Annie.  Annie died at the age of 10.  After Anna Murray’s death, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white feminist from Honeoye, New York.  Helen Pitts worked on a radical feminist publication and shared many of Douglass’ moral principles.  They were married until his death 11 years later.

On February 20, 1895, Frederick Douglass died of a massive heart attack or stroke in Washington, D.C. His funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church where thousands passed by his coffin paying tribute. He was buried in the Douglass family plot of Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York where he had lived for 25 years, longer than anywhere else in his life.  Prior to his death, Douglass made amends with Auld family.

Douglass dedicated his life to achieving justice for all Americans, in particular African-Americans, women, and minority groups.  He was quoted as saying, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Onyx Contributor:  R.L. Knight

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