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.
Dallas Street and Douglass Place
In 1892, only three years before his death, Douglass purchased land on Dallas Street in Fell’s Point and built five homes known as “Douglass Place” or “Douglass Row” that served as rental properties for African Americans. Once known as Strawberry Alley, Dallas Street was also home to the Fell’s Point church where Douglass worshipped: Strawberry Alley Methodist Church.
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.
Douglass worked in shipbuilding as a young man. During his time at the shipyards of James Beacham and William Gardner, Douglass became a skilled builder and caulker.
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.
Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum
A rich, interactive experience for families and history lovers of all ages, this national heritage site recounts the story of Frederick Douglass and his life as a young man in the shipyards in Baltimore and the Eastern Shore. The museum also celebrates the legacy of Isaac Myers, and the founding of the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company, America’s first African-American-owned shipyard.
Frederick Douglass sculpture at Maritime Park in Fell’s Point
On the grounds at the entrance of the museum sits a striking, six-foot-tall memorial sculpture of Frederick Douglass. The bronze structure was created by artist Marc Andre Robinson, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
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 National Great Blacks In Wax Museum
Frederick Douglass is one of many historical legends featured in wax form at the National Great Blacks In Wax. The museum’s exhibits share the story of African-American history from the Middle Passage through the Civil War and beyond. This year, the museum will unveil a new wax figure of Frederick Douglass, as well as host other commemorative events.
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