THE LIZ LIBRARY PRESENTS:
This child was born in a shack in 1818 in Maryland. He never knew who his father was, and he was separated from his mother when he was a baby. His grandparents raised him from babyhood until he was six years old, but then abandoned him -- "a betrayal", he said in his adult life, that he "never got over". He saw his mother only a few times before she died when he was seven years old.
The rest of his childhood and youth was cruel. He was abused, he was beaten; and he spent much time hungry and cold. When he was eight, he went to live in Baltimore with a ship carpenter. While he was there his master's wife taught him the alphabet, and very basic reading skills. She was forced to stop at that point, but the child, who wanted very much to learn to read, traded his food with neighborhood boys who would teach him what they could. He even traded his food for their school books.
Ultimately he did learn to read, and once he did he read everything he could -- newspapers, books, political pamphlets -- striving to educate himself in his spare time. He watched others while they were writing. But the rest of the time he was forced to work hard horrible hours, and he was whipped often.
When the child was 18 years old, he twice broke the law attempting to free himself from this miserable situation. The second time, he was thrown into jail.
Two years later, when he was 20, he tried again, escaping by impersonating a sailor and sneaking onto a train. This time he succeeded, and managed to get to New York City. He changed his name, got married, and soon afterward settled in Massachusetts. He and his wife started to raise a family, and he became active in politics.
He started attending various political conventions, and meeting more and more important people. Through it all, he kept reading everything he could, and also writing. He became an eloquent writer. He started traveling around and giving speeches, and he became unusually good at public speaking too, stirring many audiences who heard him talk about his causes, justice and equality.
His writing remained important however -- so much so, that he even started his own newspaper. The motto of this newspaper was "Right is of no Sex -- Truth is of no Color -- God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."
In some of his speeches, he told others that he had three rules to live by:
One: Believe in yourself.
Two: Take advantage of every opportunity. And
Three: Use the power of spoken and written language to effect positive change for yourself and society.
Throughout his life, he worked to inspire others and to effect political change. In 1848, he participated in the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. He wrote three versions of his autobiography. When the first was published, it became a bestseller, and because of that, his fame grew even more.
Ultimately, this former slave child became an advisor to the President of the United States, and also held the jobs of United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C., and Minister-General to the Republic of Haiti.
Of his political activism, he liked to say "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."
He also said: "What is possible for me is possible for you."
Frederick Douglas, a boy from
a "fatherless home."
* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.
"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson
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