Becoming Frederick Douglass

Douglass the Editor


Plate 7 (cat. #7) Samuel J. Miller (1822-1888) August 1852 Akron, OH Half-plate daguerreotype (4 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.) Art Institute of Chicago

“We have during the last three years signed our editorials with [ the initials ‘F.D.’ ]. The custom originated in a desire to remove certain doubts which were most liberally entertained by the proslavery public as to who wrote the leading editorials of The North Star. It had been repeatedly denied that an uneducated fugitive slave could write the English language with such propriety and correctness as those early editorials evinced…We shall now, therefore, dispense with [the initials], and assume fully the right and dignity of an Editor–a Mr. Editor if you please!”

–“F.D.” Frederick Douglass Paper (June 26, 1851)



Since his move to Rochester, New York in 1847, Douglass continued a grueling itinerary of speaking engagements throughout the state (and in Canada) until around early May 1851. He then succumbed to an extended illness for several weeks; he often suffered throat problems and mental exhaustion from the strain of his continuous public speaking (Blight 209-211). Understanding Douglass’ impact on the 1851 New York State Convention of Colored People held in Albany despite his absence, however, is the purpose of this section of the exhibit. The convention proceedings were covered extensively in the Frederick Douglass Paper, his new publishing venture starting in June of 1851.


Curators: Dr. Sherita L. Johnson, Associate Professor of English at The University of Southern Mississippi, with Kayla Schreiber, PhD student in English. Created for Dr. Johnson’s undergraduate class ENG 473: Studies in African American Literature—“Frederick Douglass” (Spring 2019)

Undergraduate Researchers: David Hii, Cherish Triplett, and Emmaleigh Bush from Dr. Johnson’s ENG 473: Studies in African American Literature—“Frederick Douglass” (Spring 2019)