The new U.S. Constitution declared enslaved people to be three-fifths of a free person and included a clause providing for the return of fugitive slaves to their masters. Why the weird three-fifths thing? It had to do with how much representation based on population each state was entitled to.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland and named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.
At 8 or 9 years old, Frederick Douglass was sent to Baltimore to live with the Auld family, relatives of his original owners, as a companion to their youngest child. Sophia Auld, mistress of the house, taught him to read until her husband stopped her. However, Douglass had already learned enough to continue teaching himself.
Sometime between learning to read and escaping from slavery, Douglass discovered The Columbian Orator, a 1797 textbook by Caleb Bingham that contains speeches and arguments against slavery.
The book was Douglass' introduction to the abolitionist movement, and it was so precious to him that it was among the few things he took with him when he escaped slavery.
Although he had tried and failed before, Douglass succeeded in escaping from Baltimore to New York in less than 24 hours by disguising himself as a sailor and using false papers. The money for the disguise and papers was provided by his fiancée, Anna Murray, a member of a free Black family in Baltimore.
While living in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Douglass subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper. The ideas expressed led him to become active in the abolitionist movement.
After speaking off the cuff at a meeting in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Douglass was asked to speak at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Nantucket a few days later. He was then hired as an anti-slavery lecturer.
Maintaining a rock star-level touring schedule, Douglass spoke to fellow abolitionists at meetings in New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
In response to haters who thought there was no way this great speaker could ever have been a slave, Douglass threw down his first autobiography.
Douglass took his mad oratory skills international, earning enough cash to finally buy his freedom and purchase a newspaper.
Douglass settled in Rochester, New York, where he published an abolitionist newspaper called The North Star. In 1851, The North Star merged with another paper to become Frederick Douglass' Paper. (Source)
Invited to speak at their Independence Day celebrations by the leading citizens of Rochester, New York, Douglass threw down on celebrating freedom while living in a country that permitted slavery.
The day after he gave "The Hypocrisy of American Slavery," Douglass incorporated parts of it into a much longer speech, which he presented to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society.
Douglass' second autobiography continued a theme of "The Hypocrisy of American Slavery," telling white Northerners they weren't all that and a bag of chips. He discussed the racial injustice and prejudice he experienced in both the South and the North.
After a lot of hemming and hawing after Lincoln's election in November 1860, South Carolina's secession in December 1860, and the creation of a new Confederate government in February 1861, Confederate troops fired on the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
While this date is often highlighted as the end of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation had minimal practical effect because it freed slaves only in those parts of the country that were in rebellion—areas held by Confederate forces that didn't acknowledge the oversight of the U.S. federal government.
Frederick Douglass was a fan, although many people didn't think the Emancipation Proclamation went far enough. The real effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was in the battle for hearts and minds: it clearly made emancipation a Union war goal and provided hope that true abolition would soon be achieved.
While the official end of the war didn't come until late May, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in April, and everybody knew it was just a matter of time. Lee's surrender is generally recognized as the end of the Civil War.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution officially outlawed slavery in the United States. However, it left a frequently exploited loophole through which it was legal to enslave people who had been convicted of a crime.
For his second act, Douglass served as the U.S. Marshal for D.C., Recorder of Deeds for D.C., and Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti.
In his third and final autobiography, Douglass talked about his life as an activist. He considered the progress that had been achieved and what remained to be done. Hint: a lot.
Douglass died with his boots on. Between a meeting for the National Council of Women and a planned speaking engagement, he went home and suffered a massive heart attack or stroke. He died as he lived: busy changing the world.