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[Detail] North Star, June 2, 1848. Edited by Frederick Douglass.

Chronological Thinking: Interpreting Data in the Frederick Douglass Timeline and a Biography of Anna Douglass

Use the Frederick Douglass Timeline to examine the influences that shaped Douglass’ life. Identify five events that you believe were particularly important in shaping later events in his life. Link each to a later event in Douglass’ life that was influenced by the earlier event. For example, what events were influenced by the young Frederick’s learning to read?

The daughter of Frederick and Anna Douglass, Rosetta Douglas Sprague, wrote a biography of her mother in 1900; the biography, “My Mother as I Recall Her,” was republished by Rosetta’s daughter Fredericka in 1923. In her introduction to the biography, Fredericka writes, “Too often are the facts of the great sacrifices and heroic efforts of the wives of renowned men overshadowed by the achievements of the men and the wonderful and beautiful part she has played so well is overlooked.”

Using the timeline, make a hypothesis about events or occurrences in Frederick Douglass’ life that necessitated sacrifice by his wife, Anna. Test your hypothesis by reading the biography of Anna Douglass. How accurate were your hypotheses?  What hardships and sacrifices did Anna Douglass and her children experience because of the public life her husband led?  If you were to create a timeline of the Douglass family, how would it be different from and similar to the Frederick Douglass Timeline?

Chronological Thinking: Reading a Family Tree Chronologically

A family tree is a graphic used to show a person’s genealogy—his or her family history. But a family tree is also a timeline of family life. While it is not as linear as a timeline, a family tree, when read from top to bottom and left to right, does provide a sense of the events in a family’s history.

Reading from top to bottom and left to right, examine the Frederick Douglass Family Tree.

  • What important events in the life of Frederick Douglass are recorded on the timeline? Make a simple timeline showing those events. If you read from top to bottom and left to right, are the events in roughly chronological order?
  • What does the family tree tell you about Frederick Douglass’ first marriage? Note as many facts as you can.
  • What does the family tree tell you about Frederick Douglass’ second marriage? Again, note as many facts as you can.
  • Which marriage can you learn more about using the family tree? Why is that true? What does that suggest about the shortcomings of family trees for providing insights into family life?
  • What other shortcomings does the family tree have as a source of information about family history?