Frederick Douglass Unisex T-Shirt
$ 24.99 – $ 28.99
Finally, a way to show your respect for some of the greatest icons, legends and pioneers that paved the way past and present. Rock this gear in style and bring back the moments that made you, memories they gave you and/or lessons they taught you. Scroll down for a history lesson with some of our favorite clips.
Welcome to the Respect Due family Frederick Douglass! We salute you.
- 4.2 oz., 100% airlume combed and ringspun cotton, 32 singles
- retail fit
- unisex sizing
- shoulder taping
- Life as a slave
- Slavery to freedom
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The Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, Maryland. The plantation was between Hillsboro and Cordova; his birthplace was likely his grandmother’s cabin east of Tappers Corner, (38.8845°N 75.958°W) and west of Tuckahoe Creek. The exact date of his birth is unknown, and he later chose to celebrate his birthday on February 14. In his first autobiography, Douglass stated: “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.”
Douglass was of mixed race, which likely included Native American and African on his mother’s side, as well as European. His father was “almost certainly white,” as shown by historian David W. Blight in his 2018 biography of Douglass. He said his mother Harriet Bailey gave him his grand name. After escaping to the North years later, he took the surname Douglass, having already dropped his two middle names.
He later wrote of his earliest times with his mother:
The opinion was … whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion I know nothing … My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant … It [was] common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. … I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.
After separation from his mother during infancy, young Frederick lived with his maternal grandmother Betsy Bailey, who was a slave, and his maternal grandfather Isaac, who was free. Frederick’s mother Harriet Bailey remained on the plantation about 12 miles away, and only visited Frederick a few times before she died when he was seven (his grandmother Betsy Bailey would live until 1849). At the age of six, Frederick was separated from his grandparents and moved to the Wye House plantation, where Aaron Anthony worked as overseer. After Anthony died in 1826, Douglass was given to Lucretia Auld, wife of Thomas Auld, who sent him to serve Thomas’ brother Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Lucretia Auld was essential in creating who Douglass was as she shaped his experiences. She had a special interest in Douglass from the time he was a child and wanted to give him a better life. Douglass felt that he was lucky to be in the city, where he said slaves were almost freemen, compared to those on plantations.
Douglass continued, secretly, to teach himself how to read and write. He later often said, “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” As Douglass began to read newspapers, pamphlets, political materials, and books of every description, this new realm of thought led him to question and condemn the institution of slavery. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator, an anthology that he discovered at about age twelve, with clarifying and defining his views on freedom and human rights. The book, first published in 1797, is a classroom reader, containing essays, speeches and dialogues, to assist students in learning reading and grammar.When Douglass was about twelve, Hugh Auld’s wife Sophia started teaching him the alphabet. From the day he arrived, she saw to it that Douglass was properly fed and clothed, and that he slept in a bed with sheets and a blanket. Douglass described her as a kind and tender-hearted woman, who treated him “as she supposed one human being ought to treat another”. Hugh Auld disapproved of the tutoring, feeling that literacy would encourage slaves to desire freedom; Douglass later referred to this as the “first decidedly antislavery lecture” he had ever heard. Under her husband’s influence, Sophia came to believe that education and slavery were incompatible and one day snatched a newspaper away from Douglass. She stopped teaching him altogether and hid all potential reading materials, including her Bible, from him. In his autobiography, Douglass related how he learned to read from white children in the neighborhood, and by observing the writings of the men with whom he worked.
When Douglass was hired out to William Freeland, he taught other slaves on the plantation to read the New Testament at a weekly Sunday school. As word spread, the interest among slaves in learning to read was so great that in any week, more than 40 slaves would attend lessons. For about six months, their study went relatively unnoticed. While Freeland remained complacent about their activities, other plantation owners became incensed about their slaves being educated. One Sunday they burst in on the gathering, armed with clubs and stones, to disperse the congregation permanently.
In 1833, Thomas Auld took Douglass back from Hugh (“[a]s a means of punishing Hugh,” Douglass later wrote). Thomas Auld sent Douglass to work for Edward Covey, a poor farmer who had a reputation as a “slave-breaker”. He whipped Douglass so regularly that his wounds had little time to heal. Douglass later said the frequent whippings broke his body, soul, and spirit. The sixteen-year-old Douglass finally rebelled against the beatings, however, and fought back. After Douglass won a physical confrontation, Covey never tried to beat him again. Recounting his beatings at Covey’s farm in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass described himself as “a man transformed into a brute!” But Douglass came to see his physical fight with Covey as life-transforming; he introduced the story in his autobiography with this sentence: “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”
Douglass first tried to escape from Freeland, who had hired him out from his owner Colonel Lloyd, but was unsuccessful. In 1836, he tried to escape from his new master Covey, but failed again. In 1837, Douglass met and fell in love with Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore about five years older than he. Her free status strengthened his belief in the possibility of gaining his own freedom. Murray encouraged him and supported his efforts by aid and money.
On September 3, 1838, Douglass successfully escaped by boarding a north-bound train of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. The area where he boarded was a short distance east of the train depot, in a recently developed neighborhood between the modern neighborhoods of Harbor East and Little Italy. The depot was located at President and Fleet streets, east of “The Basin” of the Baltimore harbor, on the northwest branch of the Patapsco River.
Young Douglass reached Havre de Grace, Maryland, in Harford County, in the northeast corner of the state, along the southwest shore of the Susquehanna River, which flowed into the Chesapeake Bay. Although this placed him only some 20 miles (32 km) from the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line, it was easier to continue by rail through Delaware, another slave state. Dressed in a sailor’s uniform provided to him by Murray, who also gave him part of her savings to cover his travel costs, he carried identification papers and protection papers that he had obtained from a free black seaman. Douglass crossed the wide Susquehanna River by the railroad’s steam-ferry at Havre de Grace to Perryville on the opposite shore, in Cecil County, then continued by train across the state line to Wilmington, Delaware, a large port at the head of the Delaware Bay. From there, because the rail line was not yet completed, he went by steamboat along the Delaware River further northeast to the “Quaker City” of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an anti-slavery stronghold. He continued to the safe house of noted abolitionist David Ruggles in New York City. His entire journey to freedom took less than 24 hours. Frederick Douglass later wrote of his arrival in New York City:
I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.
Once Douglass had arrived, he sent for Murray to follow him north to New York. She brought with her the necessary basics for them to set up a home. They were married on September 15, 1838, by a black Presbyterian minister, just eleven days after Douglass had reached New York. At first, they adopted Johnson as their married name, to divert attention.
UNISEX FIT & SIZE CHART
XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL, 5XL, Youth – S (6 – 8), Youth – M (10 – 12), Youth – L (14 – 16), Youth – XL (18 – 20)
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