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BICENTENNIAL BIRTHDAY

This year the nation will celebrate the 200th birthday of Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass

Shonda McClain | 2/14/2018, 5:33 a.m.
Two hundred years after his birth in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass’ legacy will be celebrated with festivities across the ...
Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

-- Frederick Douglass

In his 1845 memoir, “A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” Frederick Douglass wrote: "I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it."

Douglass would eventually escape the horrors of slavery and become one of the greatest abolitionists, orators, writers and intellectuals of his time – advising presidents and fighting for the civil rights of African Americans and women. He would publish newspapers and write influential books and several autobiographies, eloquently detailing his life in bondage and railing against the scourge of slavery. In 1872, he would make history when he became the first African-American nominated for the office of vice president of the United States. His running mate was Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party Ticket.

Two hundred years after his birth in Maryland in 1818, Douglass’ legacy will be celebrated with festivities across the country, due in part to the passage of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act, which was signed into law in November 2017.

“Our nation rightly honors the life of Mr. Douglass, a former slave who became an outstanding orator and a leader of the abolitionist movement,” President Donald Trump said in a statement released by the White House after signing a bill to create a federal commission to carry out the bicentennial festivities.

The bill was introduced by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who co-sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives, along with Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Senate Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Ben Carden, who also hail from Maryland.

“Americans have much to learn from the life and writings of Mr. Douglass and I look forward to working with the commission to celebrate the achievements of this great man,” Norton told Politico.

Born into Slavery

In February 1818, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born into bondage to a slave woman, Harriet Bailey, and an unknown white man, believed by many to be his master, Aaron Anthony, on Holmes Hill Farm in Talbott County on Maryland’s eastern shore. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but later in his life, he chose to celebrate his birthday on Feb. 14.