History In Ink®  Historical Autographs






Frederick Douglass

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. 

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.

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.




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