Frederick Douglass Essay

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Frederick Douglass

Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1818, he was the son of a slave woman and, her white master. Upon his escape from slavery at age 20, he adopted the name of the hero of Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake. Douglass immortalized his years as a slave in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). This and two other autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), mark his greatest contributions to American culture. Written as antislavery propaganda and personal revelation, they are regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography.
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Moreover, for understanding prejudice, there are few better starting points than his timeless definition of racism as a "diseased imagination."
Douglass welcomed the Civil War in 1861 as a moral crusade against slavery. During the war he labored as a propagandist of the Union cause and emancipation, a recruiter of black troops, and, on two occasions, an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. He viewed the Union victory as an apocalyptic rebirth of America as a nation rooted in a rewritten Constitution and the ideal of racial equality. Some of his hopes were dashed during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, but he continued to travel widely and lecture on racial issues, national politics, and women's rights. In the 1870s Douglass moved to Washington, D.C., where he edited a newspaper and became president of the ill-fated Freedman's Bank. As a stalwart Republican, Douglass was appointed marshal (1877-1881) and recorder of deeds (1881-1886) for the District of Columbia, and chargé d'affaires for Santo Domingo and minister to Haiti (1889-1891).
Brilliant, heroic, and complex, Douglass became a symbol of his age and a unique voice for humanism and social justice. His life and thought will always speak profoundly to the meaning of
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