Artist: StudioEIS (Brooklyn, NY), 2019
MSA SC 1545-3513
Born into slavery in 1818 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Talbot County, Frederick Bailey escaped to freedom in 1838 while working as a ship’s caulker in Fell’s Point. Aided by Anna Murray, whom he married soon after, Douglass took a train from Baltimore to New York.
As a free man, he adopted the surname “Douglass” and became a powerful voice of the abolitionist cause as a writer, publisher, and orator traveling throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. His autobiography,Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, was first published in 1845. Douglass and his family published a number of abolitionist newspapers including The North Star and Douglass’ Monthly.
When Maryland’s Constitution of 1864 emancipated its enslaved population, Douglass made his first return to the state with subsequent visits in the years to follow. In June 1874, Douglass came to Annapolis and made his only known visit to the Maryland State House. A newspaper account describes him walking in front of the painting Washington Resigning His Commission by Edwin White (then on display in the Old Senate Chamber) and reciting from memory George Washington’s resignation speech of December 23, 1783.
Douglass is depicted here at age forty-six, based on photographs from the period. The hands for the sculpture were life-cast from those of his great-great-great grandson, Ken Morris, Jr. He is shown holding a copy of the August 1862 issue of Douglass’ Monthly, which featured an article about the ‘progress of emancipation sentiment in Maryland.’