An opportunity for teaching and Storytelling

Who Was Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)?

Escaped Slave, Ship Caulker, Dock Worker, Abolitionist, Internationally Celebrated Orator, Newspaper Publisher, Civil Rights Activist, Bank President, University Trustee, U.S. Marshal, Statesman, and more. Taught to read while still enslaved, Douglass understood that literacy held the key to freedom. He lived through nearly all of the nineteenth century, and for much of that time was one of a few Americans recognized throughout the country as well as internationally. Douglass valued the arts very highly. He was an early adopter of photography; he also played the violin, and was a prolific writer and editor. There is much more than this to Douglass’s life and legacy. We invite you to join our Community and contribute what you know, what you admire, and how you have been inspired by Frederick Douglass.

What is the Bicentennial?

February 14, 2018 will mark the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth. This milestone can, should, and will be marked in a grand, far-reaching way, for several reasons. In its arc from his birth in slavery to his death as an internationally recognized statesman, Douglass's life story and experiences embody many of the core ideals, stories, and journeys of the United States itself. 

His life spanned most of the nineteenth century (1818-1895). Within that span, Douglass lived several lives: bondman, fugitive, abolitionist orator, newspaper editor, presidential adviser, Union Army recruiter, bank officer, university trustee, ambassador, and many more.

For his insistence on autonomy and self-determination, for his powerful writing and speaking, and for his lifelong civil rights activism (and many more reasons besides), Douglass’s life and legacy remain relevant to many present-day issues, and continue to inspire art in all media and formats. The bicentennial offers a once-in- our-lifetime opportunity to come together to remember, to celebrate, to teach, to learn, to share, to make and display works of art, and to reflect on what the past has to teach the present.


An enduring worldwide community sharing an interest in Frederick Douglass’s life and legacy—that brings together members of the public, scholars, artists, stewards of Douglass historic sites and papers, historical interpreters, descendants, activists, educators, and students of all ages—to preserve and extend his legacy, and to better secure his place in the world's memory.


To connect scholars with activists with artists with teachers with history practitioners with descendants with students of all ages that all may learn from and inspire one another.

To put the known facts of the historical Douglass’s life in dialogue with the ways in which he is continually reimagined in art, and continues to inspire social justice activism, to highlight the dynamic interaction between past and present.