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Frederick Douglass

Family Man

Despite the many roles that Frederick Douglass played in his life, the role that followed him from almost the beginning was that of husband and father. He met his first wife, Anna Murray, in Baltimore when he was still a slave. She was older than Douglass, having been born in 1813. They were married in New York City in 1838 and would have five children together as follows:

-- Rosetta Douglass Sprague (June 24, 1839 – 1906)

-- Lewis Henry Douglass (October 9, 1840 – 1908)

-- Frederick Douglass Jr. (March 3, 1842 – July 26, 1892)

-- Charles Remond Douglass (October 21, 1844 – 1920)

-- Annie Douglass (March 22, 1849 – March 13, 1860)

Anna struggled with the fact that she never attained the intellectual learning capacity to keep up with the versatile Frederick. She seemed content to maintain his household and raise their children. Despite Douglass’ belief that women were just as equal as men, he was married to a woman who never challenged him intellectually. There may have been infidelity on his part, but he was supposedly devastated when Anna died from a stroke at Cedar Hill on August 4, 1882. He secluded himself for awhile in order to come to terms with the loss.

On January 24, 1884, at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, Douglass married for a second time to Helen Pitts (1838-1903), a white woman twenty years younger than him. Douglass caused an uproar in his family and with much of the public with the fact that he married a woman of another race. As Helen stated, “Love came to me and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color.” Douglass responded to the debate by saying that his first wife “was the color of my mother, and the second, the color of my father.” (Miller, p. 131) Helen was born in Honeoye, New York, and was educated at Mount Holyoke College. She was an ardent feminist who had worked with Douglass on many occasions in his endeavors with social activism. Douglass now had an intellectual companion to talk with and throw ideas off of. They had a successful marriage up until his death in 1895.


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