Frederick Douglass was born into American slavery in the early 19th century; however, he gained his freedom by escaping to New York in 1838. He went on to become a great orator, writer and abolitionist.
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born in Talbot County, Washington, circa 1818. Historical evidence suggests that one of the men who owned Douglass' family was his father. From an early age, Douglass lived in the home of the plantation owners, in close contact with his maternal grandmother, Betty Bailey. His mother died when he was about 8.
Shortly thereafter, Douglass went to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld of Baltimore. Sophia Auld taught Douglass the alphabet at his request. Douglass acquired additional learning from local children, eventually mastering the art of reading and growing in oratorical endeavors.
When Hugh Auld hired Douglass out to William Freeland, Douglass taught other slaves to read the New Testament at a weekly church gathering. Meanwhile, Douglass clarified and defined his ideas about human rights with the help of political literature and writing.
Douglass was only 20 years old when he escaped slavery. He and his wife, Anna Murray, became immediately active in their local abolitionist community, and Douglass often recounted his life story at small assemblies. In 1845, at the age of 27, he wrote his autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave."
Douglass spent the rest of his life championing human rights. He died in 1895.