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Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist Activities (American National Biography)

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Roy E. Finkenbine, "Douglass, Frederick," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00186.html.

Unlike [William] Garrison, who viewed moral suasionist appeals to individual conscience as the only appropriate tactic, Douglass was increasingly persuaded of the efficacy of politics and violence for ending bondage. He attended the Free Soil Convention in Buffalo in 1848 and endorsed its platform calling for a prohibition on the extension of slavery. In 1851 he merged the North Star with the Liberty Party Paper to form Frederick Douglass' Paper, which openly endorsed political abolitionism. This brought a final breech with the Garrisonians, who subjected him to a torrent of public attacks, including scandalous charges about his personal behavior. Nevertheless, Douglass endorsed the nascent Republican party and its moderate antislavery platform in the elections of 1856 and 1860. At the same time, he increasingly explored the possibilities of abolitionist violence. As early as 1849 Douglass endorsed slave violence, telling a Boston audience that he would welcome news that the slaves had revolted and "were engaged in spreading death and devastation" throughout the South. After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which put the federal government in the business of capturing and returning runaway slaves, he publicly urged resistance to the law, with violence if necessary. And he became active in the Underground Railroad, hiding numerous fugitives in his Rochester home and helping them on the way to Canada West (now Ontario). Douglass's growing attraction to violence is evident in his 1852 novella, The Heroic Slave, generally considered to be the first piece of African-American fiction, which glorified the leader of a bloody slave revolt.
How to Cite This Page: "Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist Activities (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18538.