Photograph by Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images
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Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery, then spoke and wrote about his experiences to inspire people to end the practice.
Photograph by Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Frederick Douglass

How this former slave inspired people to fight for freedom

Frederick Douglass was born a slave in February 1818. When he was about eight, his owner sent him to work in Baltimore, Maryland. Although most people didn’t want slaves to learn to read, the wife of the man Douglass worked for taught him anyway.

When he was about 20, Douglass disguised himself as a sailor and escaped to New York, a free state with no slaves. He continued to read as much as he could, which helped him become a great storyteller. While living in Massachusetts, he spoke at a meeting of abolitionists, people who wanted to end slavery. He told them about his life as a slave. He was such an amazing speaker that he started traveling all over the northern states, trying to convince large groups of people to end slavery.

Douglass was free in the North, but he was still a slave in the South. Soon he was so famous that he had to move to England so that his former owner couldn’t capture him. In 1847, Douglass’s friends raised money to buy his freedom from his owner, and he returned to the United States. But no matter where he was, Douglass continued to give powerful speeches urging the end of slavery until he died on February 20, 1895. His words still inspire people today.