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Cedar Hill Cedar Hill, Home of Frederick Douglass
NPS Photo

North Star An edition of the North Star
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division

The famous abolitionist, writer, lecturer, statesman, and Underground Railroad conductor Frederick Douglass (1817--1895) resided in this house from 1877 until his death. At the request of his second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass, Congress chartered the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association, to whom Mrs. Douglass bequeathed the house. Joining with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, the association opened the house to visitors in 1916. The property was added to the National Park system on September 5, 1962 and was designated a National Historic Site in 1988.

Douglass was born a slave on Maryland's Eastern Shore and was given the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. At an early age, he learned to read and write, and escaped to freedom in the North, changing his name to Douglass to avoid recapture. Eventually he settled in Rochester, New York, and was active in the abolitionist cause. He was a leader of Rochester's Underground Railroad movement and became the editor and publisher of the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper. After the Civil War, Douglass came to Washington, DC, and served as the marshall of the District of Columbia and was appointed recorder of deeds for the city. In 1889, President Harrison appointed him minister-resident and consul general of the Republic of Haiti and charge d'affaires for the Dominican Republic. During all of this activity, Douglass remained an outspoken advocate for the rights of African Americans. Though not directly associated with Douglass' involvement in the Underground Railroad, this National Historic Site helps us to better understand the life of the man who is recognized as "the father of the civil rights movement."

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is located at 1411 W Street, SE in Washington, DC. It is open to the public.

Visit a virtual exhibit that features items owned by Frederick Douglass and highlights his achievements. The items are in the museum and archival collections at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
Go to the Exhibit

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