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Frederick Douglass (c.1817-1895), born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, was a runaway slave, a supporter of women's rights, and probably the most prominent abolitionist and human rights leader of the nineteenth century. A renowned orator, Douglass favored the use of political tactics to work for abolition. During the Civil War, he advised President Lincoln to let former slaves fight for the North, and helped organize two black regiments in Massachusetts. Douglass worked zealously to make the war a direct confrontation with slavery.

The Fugitive Slave Law transformed the attitudes of many abolitionists, including Douglass. Though he had previously condemned radical calls for rebellion against proslavery advocates and masters, by 1850, Douglass was espousing new views. He now suggested that attacking slave catchers was the only means of preventing the inhumane yet legally-sanctioned practice of slavery.

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