Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: A Voice Crying in the Wilderness of Christian Slaveholding America

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pp. 1-8

On 5 July 1852, in the stately Corinthian Hall of Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass shouldered a heavy burden as he ascended the speaker’s platform and looked out on his audience. The burden was by now a familiar one to Douglass. He had grown accustomed to feeling it acutely each July as Americans celebrated their national independence. Douglass had accepted an invitation from the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society to take part in their Fourth of July celebrations. On 5 July, well over 500 people gathered at Corinthian Hall to hear Douglass deliver the day’s keynote address. Although...

Part I: The Seeking Slave, 1818–1838

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1 God and Slavery on the Eastern Shore

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pp. 11-19

The woods of Talbot County, Maryland, echoed with songs of sadness. Frederick Bailey first heard them as a young slave at Wye House, the great home of the Lloyd family’s sprawling plantation on the Eastern Shore. The mysterious melodies captivated Bailey. He sensed the singers’ affliction, and yet as a child of six or seven years old he could not fully comprehend the anguished cries. The memory of these sorrow songs haunted Bailey the rest of his life. “Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains,” he remembered. The songs shaped young...

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2 Religious Awakenings in Baltimore

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pp. 20-31

The Sally Lloyd reached Baltimore early on a Sunday morning, docking at Smith’s Wharf in the city’s central shipping district. The eight-year-old Frederick onboard had never seen a city before. A deckhand on the Sally Lloyd showed Frederick the way to the Fells Point neighborhood, where Hugh and Sophia Auld lived. Walking along the city streets astounded Frederick. His “country eyes and ears were confused and bewildered.”1 The rows and rows of houses, the streets full of people freely bustling about and wearing shoes, astonished him. An entirely new world had opened up to Frederick....

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3 From the Valley of Shadows to Freedom

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pp. 32-46

During the three years Frederick spent on the Eastern Shore from 1833 to 1836, his new faith in Christ endured a great trial. In light of the evil reality of his enslavement, he could not help but question again God’s goodness and the truth of the Christian gospel. Frederick’s teenage years on the Eastern Shore were the most demanding and demoralizing of his life as a slave—years that left him physically exhausted and tested his deepest moral and spiritual convictions. Yet after passing through this dark valley, Frederick discovered that the joy and assurance he found in his faith had only deepened. Frederick...

Part II: The Zealous Orator, 1839–1852

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4 The Young Abolitionist Orator

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pp. 49-62

Douglass never forgot the day, soon after arriving in New Bedford, when he earned two silver half-dollars. He had failed to find work at the wharves one morning, and on his way home he noticed a pile of coal outside a Unitarian minister’s home. Douglass asked the minister’s wife if he could carry the coal inside. She accepted his offer. Not long after he began she placed into his hands two silver half-dollars as payment for his labor. Anyone who had not been a slave could not understand “the emotion which swelled in my heart as I clasped this money,” Douglass wrote.1 He would not have to give the wage to...

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5 Bearing Witness in Great Britain

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pp. 63-74

Even after a long passage across the Atlantic Ocean, Douglass could not quite escape the proslavery Christianity of his native land. For eighteen months, Douglass journeyed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and England, speaking tirelessly on behalf of the American slave. He appealed to British Christians to abandon every form of fellowship with slaveholding Christians of the American South. Association of any kind with slaveholders made Britons complicit in the sin of slavery, Douglass argued, and compromised the integrity of their Christian witness. Douglass hammered home this message while...

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6 An Antislavery Constitution and a Righteous Violence

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pp. 75-90

Douglass returned to America an emboldened crusader for the antislavery cause. With encouragement (and financial support) from friends in England, Douglass established his own newspaper, the North Star, which published its first issue in early December 1847. Douglass’s ambitions had grown larger than the opportunities afforded by the American Anti-Slavery Society. To his surprise, William Lloyd Garrison and several other society leaders strongly opposed his newspaper plan. They much preferred to keep Douglass tightly within the American Anti-Slavery Society fold, under their close watch,...

Part III: The Hopeful Prophet, 1853–1895

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7 The Crisis of the Union

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pp. 93-108

When the American Anti-Slavery Society gathered for its annual meeting in 1853 in New York City, the abolitionist movement was passing through a season of frustrating setbacks and bitter internal divisions. Slavery’s defenders appeared to grow more powerful each year, while tensions among abolitionist factions grew fiercer. Despite the prickly treatment he had received at the previous year’s convention, Douglass decided to attend the 1853 meeting anyway. “There are many societies, but there is but one cause,” he wrote in his newspaper, explaining the decision.1 Douglass spoke briefly during the first day of...

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8 Reconstruction Battles over Racial and Gender Equality

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pp. 109-123

In May 1866, less than a year removed from the Civil War, a small group of women’s rights activists met in New York City and established the American Equal Rights Association. Not even six months earlier, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery in America. The new association’s stated purpose was “to secure Equal Rights to all American citizens, especially the right of suffrage, irrespective of race, color or sex.” The Civil War had unleashed all sorts of revolutionary consequences in America. Not surprisingly, as soon as the war ended, many women’s rights advocates...

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9 At the Dark Dawn of Jim Crow

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pp. 124-139

Douglass did not quite feel like celebrating in 1889 as he had in years past. The Bethel Literary and Historical Association—an elite hub of black intellectual life in the nation’s capital—had invited him to deliver an address on the twenty-seventh anniversary of emancipation in Washington, D.C. At least 1,500 people filled the historic Metropolitan AME Church to commemorate the great day of liberation. They prayed and sang hymns together, and then listened in rapt attention as the seventy-one-year-old Douglass spoke for two hours.

It did not take Douglass long to announce his true feelings: “I declare to...

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10 Unraveling the Mysteries of God’s Providence and Progress

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pp. 140-156

Frederick Douglass wrote three autobiographies during his long life, and he never quite told his story in precisely the same way. His autobiographies grew longer and more detailed over time, which make all the more fascinating the omissions in the later ones. Certain passages included in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) and My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) are missing entirely from the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892). One of the more striking examples is how Douglass altered his account of his removal from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Baltimore at age eight. In Narrative...

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Conclusion: Frederick Douglass Is Not Dead!

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pp. 157-164

Douglass spent the final day of his life as he had spent so many days, in the company of like-minded activists devoted to making America a land of true liberty and equality. On the morning of 20 February 1895, Douglass traveled from Anacostia to Metzerott Hall, in the heart of Washington, D.C., to attend the triennial meeting of the National Council of Women. Veterans of the women’s rights movement had formed the council in 1888. Its diverse membership had many goals, but according to the preamble of the council’s first constitution it remained chiefly dedicated “to the overthrow of all forms of...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 165-166

It is an honor now to express my sincerest gratitude:

To my former students, for the days we spent together learning from Douglass.

To many colleagues, for helping me better understand Douglass’s life and times.

To two anonymous readers of my manuscript, for their generous assistance in improving this book.

To Mark Simpson-Vos and the University of North Carolina Press staff,...

Notes

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pp. 167-180

Bibliography

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pp. 181-188

Index

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pp. 189-191