An accomplished author, U.S. official and a diplomat, Frederick Douglass was born enslaved in the state of Maryland.
Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass!— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) February 14, 2023
Born enslaved in Maryland, the exact birthdate of renowned orator, author, and abolitionist (ca. 1818-1895) is unknown, however he chose to celebrate on Feb. 14. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/xHnYj4pm7v
While he estimated his birthdate to be in February 1818, the exact date was never certain.
Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he went by Frederick Douglass in his professional life and chose to celebrate his birthday on February 14 each year.
He wrote three autobiographies which are considered some of the best sources of information on his life.
Douglass was owned by the superintendent of a wealthy landowner and slaveholder in Maryland named Edward Lloyd. He was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, at a very young age, like many enslaved children.
His mother worked on a plantation not far from Douglass, but had to walk 12 miles just to visit her son.
After Douglass escaped from slavery his life took him to various parts of the United States and the world. In 1845 he published his first autobiography entitled "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and American Slave."
He would later make it into powerful political circles and advocated for the inclusion of Black soldiers into the Union Army during the Civil War, urging those in power to offer better pay and conditions for soldiers and was an advocate for the Fourteenth Amendment to grant Black people citizenship.
Douglass was the first Black U.S. marshal in 1877. He served as the recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia and the U.S. minister resident and consul general to the Republic of Haiti.
He spent his last 17 years at his home in the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C. where his wife Anna Murray Douglass died in the home in 1882 after suffering a stroke.
According to Britannica's official historical record, the former diplomat went on to marry Helen Pitts, his white secretary who was about 20 years younger than Douglass, in 1884.
The union was considered controversial at the time and made headlines in national newspapers.