10 Major Accomplishments of Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass was an African American who escaped from slavery and went on to become one of the most prominent leaders in the fight to end slavery in 19th century America. He wrote three autobiographies, established the anti-slavery newspaper The North Star, was a brilliant orator famous for his fiery speeches and was appointed to several important posts in the government. Here are his 10 major accomplishments and achievements.


#1 Douglass was the an important leader in the Abolitionism movement

Abolitionism was a movement to end slavery. It gained prominence in US during the Civil War. Frederick Douglass was the most prominent African American abolitionist and an important leader in the movement. The efforts of the abolitionists bore fruit when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and finally by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery in US.

Emancipation Proclamation
Reproduction of the Emancipation Proclamation


#2 His memoir was influential in fuelling abolitionist movement in America

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Cover of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Published in 1845, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is the best known work by Douglass. It received positive reviews from critics and became an immediate bestseller selling 5,000 copies within four months of its publication. The memoir is the most famous among several narratives written by former slaves during the period. More importantly it played an important part in fueling the American abolitionist movement of the 19th century.

#3 His works are considered classics of American autobiography

Frederick Douglass published two more autobiographies My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855 and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in 1881. Each provided more details regarding his transition from bondage to liberty with the last one written after the emancipation of American slaves following the Civil War. His works were important in spreading the anti-slavery sentiment. They are regarded among the best written accounts of slave tradition and as classics of American autobiography.

#4 He established an influential antislavery newspaper

On December 3, 1847, Douglass established the antislavery newspaper The North Star. It developed into the most influential African American antislavery publication of the time. Published weekly, it was circulated to more than 4,000 readers in US, Europe, and the West Indies. In 1851, The North Star merged with Liberty Party Paper of abolitionist of Gerrit Smith and the resulting publication was named Frederick Douglass’ Paper. It circulated till 1860.

The North Star Front Page
Front Page of The North Star of June 2, 1848


#5 He was a famous orator and gave the remarkable 4th of July speech

Frederick Douglass in 1848
Frederick Douglass in 1848

Douglass was a brilliant orator and well known for his fiery speeches. He has said some of the most powerful words on equality of people, whether black, female or Native American. His most famous speech is “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” which he delivered at an event organized by the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society on July 5, 1852. It was later distributed as a pamphlet, is still studied in literature classes and some regard it as the greatest anti-slavery oration ever given.

#6 He advocated for women’s suffrage at Seneca Falls Convention

Seneca Falls Convention, which took place in New York in July 1848, was the first women’s rights convention. Douglass was the only African American to attend it. During the convention, a heated debate took place over women’s right to vote. Douglass argued eloquently in favor of inclusion of the women’s suffrage resolution stressing that world would be a better place with women involved in the political sphere. His powerful speech led to the suffrage resolution being passed.


#7 He played a part in African American’s being granted the right to vote

Frederick Douglass Statue in Harlem
Frederick Douglass Statue in Harlem, NY

During the American Civil War, Douglass was a consultant to President Abraham Lincoln. He pushed for slaves serving in the Union forces; and after the Emancipation Proclamation served as a recruiter encouraging African Americans to join the Union army. After the Civil War, he advocated that since African Americans had fought for the Union they deserved the right to vote. In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified which prohibited discrimination against a citizen’s right to vote based on his “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

#8 He furthered the advancement of several causes including women’s suffrage

Apart from his anti-slavery efforts, Douglass supported various other causes mostly related to equality in society. He achieved international fame as a writer and orator of great persuasive power. He used these skills to advocate, among other things, equal rights for women most prominently their right to vote. Also, apart from condemning slavery, his newspaper served as a medium to fight for emancipation of women and other oppressed groups.

#9 Frederick Douglass was the first African American to be appointed a U.S. Marshal

On April 21, 1877, Frederick Douglass was appointed US Marshal of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) by President Rutherford B. Hayes. This made him the first African American confirmed for a Presidential appointment by the U.S. Senate. As Marshal, Douglass strengthened the hold of black civil servants on minor government positions and was instrumental in the development of Howard University.

Frederick Douglas Memorial Hall at Howard University
Frederick Douglas Memorial Hall at Howard University


#10 He was appointed US Minister to Haiti in 1889

In 1881, Douglass was appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, a government office to maintain public records and documents. In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed him US Minister to Haiti. Douglass held the post till 1891. His appointment to such positions in the government was remarkable as these were the highest posts an African American was appointed to in 19th century America.

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