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A Personal Independence Day

Frederick Douglass may have celebrated Independence Day on Sept. 3 as well as on July 4. Why?

On Sept. 3, 1838, the abolitionist, journalist, author and human rights advocate made his dramatic escape from slavery, traveling north by train and boat from Baltimore, through Delaware to Philadelphia. That same night he took a train to New York, where he arrived the following morning.

Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass House, Washington, D.C.

Douglass, born Frederick Bailey, the son of a black mother and a white father, was born into slavery on a plantation in Tuckahoe, Md., circa 1817. He never knew the date of his birth, but celebrated his birthday on Feb. 14 in memory of his mother, who had brought him a heart-shaped cake on the night that he last saw her.

The events are recounted in greater detail in the Sept. 3 entry of Today in History, a Web site featuring multimedia accounts of extraordinary events for every day of the year. If you want to know what extraordinary events happened on your birthday, for example, you can find out at the Archives page of the site.

The personal papers of Douglass, who died in 1895, are available from the Library's award-winning American Memory Web site of more than 8.5 million items in all media.

The legacy of Douglass can be seen in projects such as the current "Voices of Civil Rights," a joint project of the Library of Congress, AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Over the next year, the project will collect and preserve thousands of personal stories and artifacts of the civil rights movement in America.

A. Charles White, artist. "Frederick Douglass." Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-6167 DLC; Call No.: (unprocessed item)

B. Frederick Douglass House, Washington, D.C. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Call No.: HABS, DC, WASH, 166-