With the U.S. government honoring the Maryland-born civil rights pioneer through the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission in 2018, the nation is taking special note of Douglass’ legacy. But to intimately celebrate Douglass, Baltimore offers a unique lens. The renowned orator, author, diplomat and adviser to President Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years in Baltimore and is a part of the city’s historical fabric.
Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, and came to Baltimore as a child. Here, he learned to read and worked at shipyards in Fell’s Point before escaping to freedom in 1838. Years after he transformed the nation with his ideas for reformation, he returned to Baltimore to build a row of houses for African American renters, brick-and-mortar examples of his commitment to creating stability and community for African Americans in the years following the Civil War.
His “Douglass Place” homes in Fell’s Point still stand today, with a commemorative plaque next to the front door where Douglass lived, at 524 S. Dallas Street. Read on to see how today you can literally walk in Douglass’ footsteps in Fell’s Point, and celebrate his legacy at Baltimore’s African-American and cultural institutions.
President Street Station
Frederick Douglass is thought to have passed through President Street Station as part of his journey on the Underground Railroad. Douglass escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1838.
(Aliceanna Street at South Durham)
Born into slavery, Douglass was sent to this Fell’s Point area as a child to serve the family of Hugh Auld. In spite of her husband’s disapproval, Auld’s wife Sophia taught young Frederick the alphabet.
28 Thames Street, Fell’s Point
At Nathaniel Knight’s shop at 28 Thames Street, Douglass procured the first book he ever owned, a popular collection of poems and essays called The Columbian Orator.
Maryland Historical Society
The Maryland Historical Society features a Civil War exhibit detailing the history of abolition in Maryland and the impact of Frederick Douglass as an activist, abolitionist and national figure. During the Civil War, Douglass acted as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln, and recruited African-American soldiers to fight for the Union.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture
Celebrating the legacy of African-American Marylanders, the Lewis Museum includes events and exhibitions honoring the life of Frederick Douglass. The museum offers a family activity guide for students in grades four through eight, and features historical reenactments of the life of Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass Path to Freedom Walking Tour
Tour guides lead this route tailored to Douglass’ experience in Baltimore while also offering background on the history of the Underground Railroad, immigration and shipbuilding in the city. The one-hour tour is available daily by appointment. Info: 443-983-7974