Charismatic Abolitionist

The best-known antislavery spokesperson of the prewar years was Frederick Douglass. He was the son of a Maryland plantation slave woman and her white master. During childhood, he was sent to live with a family in Baltimore. As a young man, he acquired forged papers, disguised himself as a seaman, and traveled north by railroad to freedom. After receiving an education, he became a forceful speaker on the abolitionist circuit and wrote a best-selling autobiography that described the heartbreak of slavery. When the Civil War ended, he won a post as a federal marshal in Washington, D.C., and continued campaigning for the rights of black Americans.

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