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Frederick Douglass

There are 160 Separate Photographic Portraits of Frederick Douglass, Which is More Than Abraham Lincoln.

Frederick Douglass’s list of accomplishments is astounding. A respected orator, famous writer, abolitionist, civil rights leader, and presidential consultant, especially considering he was a former slave with no formal education. But did you know there are more portraits of him than of former president Abraham Lincoln?

Frederick Douglass has 160 separate photographic portraits, more than Abraham Lincoln.

Bread for Knowledge

Douglass was prohibited from learning to read or write because he was a slave. When he was about 12 years old, the wife of a Baltimore slave owner taught him the alphabet, but she stopped when her husband intervened. Douglass took matters into his own hands, sneaking in a reading lesson whenever he was out on the street running errands for his owner.

As he described in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he’d carry a book with him and trade small pieces of bread with white kids in his neighborhood in exchange for them helping him learn to read the book.

Douglass obtained a copy of The Columbian Orator, a collection of essays, dialogues, and speeches on various topics, including slavery when he was young. The Orator, published in 1797, required reading for most schoolchildren in the 1800s and included 84 selections from authors such as Cicero and Milton. When he first entered politics, Abraham Lincoln was also influenced by the collection. (Source: Mental Floss

Passing Wisdom to other Slaves

While working for a farmer named William Freeland, a teenage Douglass taught fellow enslaved people to read the New Testament, but a mob of locals soon disrupted the classes. Undaunted, Douglas resumed the lessons, sometimes teaching as many as 40 students.

Anna Murray was an independent laundress in Baltimore when she met Douglass in the mid-1830s. They devised a plan, and one night in 1838, Douglass boarded a northbound train dressed in a sailor’s uniform purchased by Anna, with money from her savings and papers from a sailor friend in his pocket. He arrived in Manhattan free and clear about 24 hours later. Anna soon joined him, and they married on September 15, 1838. (Source: Mental Floss

Most Photographed Man 

Douglass has more portraits than Abraham Lincoln or Walt Whitman, two other nineteenth-century heroes. During the Civil War, Douglass wrote extensively, describing photography as a democratic art that could finally represent black people as humans rather than things. He gave his portraits away at talks and lectures, hoping his image would change people’s perceptions of black men. (Source: Mental Floss

Frederick Douglass’ Second Wife

Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white abolitionist and feminist 20 years his junior, two years after his first wife, Anna, died of a stroke in 1882. Even though she was the daughter of an abolitionist, Pitts’ family, which had direct ancestors on the Mayflower, disapproved and disowned her, demonstrating how taboo interracial marriage was at the time.

The black community also questioned why their most prominent spokesperson chose to marry a white woman regardless of her politics. Despite the public’s reactions and their families, the Douglasses had a happy marriage and remained together until his death from a heart attack in 1895. (Source: Mental Floss

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