Douglass was born into slavery and was originally named Frederick Washington Bailey. His mother was a slave and his father was white. He never knew his father and left his mother at an early age. He was raised by his grandmother and was taught to read by the wife of the man he worked for.
In 1838, Douglass escaped slavery in Maryland and moved to New York and then to Massachussetts, where he soon became an international figure in the fight against slavery. Douglass lectured extensively against slavery in the US and in Great Britain. During the Civil War, Douglass met with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln many times, discussing Lincoln's efforts to abolish slavery and the arming of former slaves to fight the Confederacy.
In 1847, Douglass started an anti-slavery newspaper called the North Star (it was later called Frederick Douglass's Paper); it was published until 1860. Douglass served as the assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission (1871). He was later appointed marshal (1877-81) and recorder of deeds (1881-86) of Washington, D.C. His last government appointment was as the U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti (1889-91). Douglass' autobiography, "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass," was published in 1882.