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Frederick Douglass in Reconstruction

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.

In 1866, Douglass led a black delegation to the White House to meet with President Andrew Johnson and advocate for black suffrage. The president was opposed to such an idea, and the meeting ended in controversy. When black men did finally receive the vote with the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, Douglass's longtime support of female suffrage became subject to some controversy. Many women in the movement blamed him and other black leaders for sacrificing their female comrades for the sake of gaining the franchise themselves. In 1872, the Equal Rights Party convention nominated free love activist Victoria Woodhull and Douglass for president and vice president; Douglass declined the nomination. He remained active in the female suffrage movement for the remainder of his life.

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