Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and became a leading abolitionist, as well as an orator, writer, editor, and public servant. The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress includes many of Douglass’ speeches and letters, along with articles from two abolitionist papers that he edited and published—The North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper. In addition, the collection contains books presented to Douglass on various issues relating to African Americans in the post-Civil War era and congressional reports on civil rights. The books and manuscripts in the collection reveal Frederick Douglass’ interest in women’s suffrage and the plight of individuals and groups facing prejudice and discrimination. The collection also documents Douglass’ worldview through letters, papers, and diary entries relating to his tour of Ireland and Great Britain (1845), his tour of Europe and Africa (1886-87), and his service as U.S. minister to Haiti (1889-91). Drafts of Douglass’ autobiography are also included, with links to complete online texts of all three Douglass autobiographies—The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1849 edition); My Bondage and My Freedom (1857 edition); and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, the final autobiography published in 1881.
Although the papers span the years 1841-1964 (scrapbooks, books, and articles were added by Douglass’ descendants after his death in 1895), the bulk of the papers cover the period from 1862 to1895. The Frederick Douglass Papers and the complete online autobiographies enhance the study of pivotal periods in U.S. history from the antebellum era through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the post-Reconstruction era.
Readers should be aware that Frederick Douglass documented many instances of racial prejudice and violence in his papers and that some of the materials in this online historical collection contain language or negative stereotypes that may be offensive. Teachers should prepare students for their encounters with this material.