Born into slavery in February 1818, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) became one of the most outspoken advocates of abolition and women’s rights in the 19th century. Believing that “Right is of no sex, truth is of no color,” Douglass urged an immediate end to slavery and supported Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other women’s rights activists in their crusade for woman suffrage.
In his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845, Douglass recounted his childhood as a slave in Maryland, detailing all the cruel treatment to which he and other slaves were subjected. In 1838 Douglass escaped from bondage and fled to New York City. His autobiography described the joy he felt upon his arrival in the North:
Douglass joined the abolitionist movement in 1841 and put his considerable oratorical skills to work as a speaker for the American Anti-Slavery Society. By 1847 he had moved to Rochester, NY, where he published the North Star, a weekly abolitionist newspaper.
Douglass was also active with the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, and it was through this organization that he met Elizabeth M’Clintock. In July of 1848, M’Clintock invited Douglass to attend the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Douglass readily accepted, and his participation at the convention revealed his commitment to woman suffrage. In an issue of the North Star published shortly after the convention, Douglass wrote,
Douglass continued to support the cause of women after the 1848 convention. In 1866 Douglass, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, founded the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that demanded universal suffrage. Though the group disbanded just three years later due to growing tension between women’s rights activists and Africa-American rights activists, Douglass remained influential in both movements, championing the cause of equal rights until his death in 1895.
Last updated: February 13, 2018