Frederick Douglass

Artist: Simmie Knox (b. 1935) )
Title: Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Date: 2014
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 81 1/4 x 60 1/8"
MSA SC 1545-3471

Commissioned by the Friends of the Maryland State Archives through the support of Eddie and Sylvia Brown.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1818, near Wye Plantation.  On September 3, 1838, he escaped from slavery by boarding a train in Baltimore dressed as a sailor, ultimately settling in Rochester, New York. There he began his career as an advocate for abolition, assisting other runaway slaves to find freedom, and becoming an internationally known orator on the brutality of slavery.   

The immense popularity of his auto biography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, (published in 1845) forced him to leave the country in order to avoid arrest and being returned to his former owner.  After living in Ireland and England for two years he returned to the United States in 1847 and became a staunch advocate of the Union cause and published the abolitionist newspapers The North Star and Frederick Douglass' Paper. He helped recruit African-American troops for the Union Army, and two of his own sons served in the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment.  He developed a personal relationship with President Abraham Lincoln that helped to make emancipation a cause of the Civil War.

In 1872, Douglass moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as publisher of the New National Era, a newspaper advocating African-American improvement.  Douglass also served briefly as President of the Freedmen's National Bank, and subsequently in various national service positions such as U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, and diplomatic positions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.