History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Frederick Douglass

Scroll down to see images of the item below the description

Beautiful signature of the most influential African-American of the 19th Century

Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, 18181895.  African-American abolitionist, social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman.  Autograph Sentiment Signed, Very truly yours / Frederick Douglass / 1876, on a 2¼” x 4½” card.

Douglass was the most influential African-American of the 19th Century.  A literate man who had learned to read from white children as a slave, Douglass’s oratorical and writing skills took him to the forefront of the abolitionist movement in New York and Massachusetts.  Two of his three autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) and My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), were influential in the abolitionist cause.  He later became the first African-American to be nominated for Vice President of the United States, and the first both to have his name placed in nomination for President of the United States at a major party convention and to receive a vote in the roll call. 

Born into slavery in Maryland, separated from his mother in his first year, and whipped by a cruel taskmaster, Douglass failed in two escape attempts before finally escaping to free territory in 1838, when he was 20. 

In Narrative, Douglass described his life as a slave, the difficulties that attended slaves such as he who were the children of their white masters, and the horrors of the bloody beatings that cruel masters meted out to slaves who dared disobey their orders.  He ended the book by describing the first time that he spoke out publicly against slavery:

I had not been long a reader of the "Liberator," before I got a pretty correct idea of the principles, measures and spirit of the anti-slavery reform.  I took right hold of the cause.  I could do but little; but what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting.  I seldom had much to say at the meetings, because what I wanted to say was said so much better by others.  But, while attending an anti-slavery convention at Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I felt strongly moved to speak, and was at the same time much urged to do so by . . . a gentleman who had heard me speak in the colored people's meeting at New Bedford.  It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly.  The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down.  I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease.  From that time until now, I have been engaged in pleading the cause of my brethren—with what success, and with what devotion, I leave those acquainted with my labors to decide.

By the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most renowned African-Americans in the United States.  He argued that the Union Army should include African-Americans in its ranks, which it ultimately did, and served as a recruiter for the Union's first African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.  Although he deemed President Abraham Lincoln was a “white man’s president” for initially only opposing the spread of slavery, not advocating abolition, he conferred with Lincoln about both the treatment of black soldiers and the removal of liberated slaves from the Confederate states.

In 1876, the year he signed this card, Douglass delivered the keynote address at the dedication of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington.  He said that although Lincoln “shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery.”  In appreciation, Mary Todd Lincoln gave him Lincoln’s favorite walking cane, which remains in Douglass’s final home in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his devotion to the causes of abolition and equal rights for African Americans, Douglass was a vocal advocate of several other social causes, including women’s suffrage, temperance, free public education, land reform, and the abolition of capital punishment.  His third autobiography,

In 1872, without his knowledge or concurrence, Douglass became the first African-American nominated for Vice President of the United States when he was nominated by the Equal Rights Party to run with presidential nominee Victoria Woodhull.  In 1888, Douglass was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention and became the first African-American both to have his name placed in nomination for President of the United States at a major party’s convention and the first to receive a vote in the roll call. 

This is a magnificent signature of Douglass.  The card is virtually pristine and still retains its sheen.  Douglass has signed in brown pen.  The card has a couple of small indentions in the upper left corner and two at the right end, not affecting Douglass’s handwriting or signature, and a couple of tiny ink splatter spots.  Overall the card is in very fine condition.

This piece would be beautiful framed with a portrait of Douglass.

Unframed.  Click here for information about custom framing this piece.


Click here to see more American History items.






home  |  presidents  |  supreme court  |  american history  |  world history  |  contact us


History In Ink, L.L.C.




 Registered Dealer # RD281