February 14, 2018
Two hundred years ago, one of the most important Americans was born close to the Tuckahoe River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Frederick Bailey didn’t know the exact date of his birth, so he chose Feb. 14. Twenty years later, when he escaped from slavery, he became Frederick Douglass. By the time of his death in 1895, he had become one of the greatest orators and writers of the century.
But in the same way that Abraham Lincoln has become “everybody’s grandfather,” in the words of the historian David Donald, the one American figure who could be adopted by every part of the political spectrum, Douglass is also appropriated broadly, especially by the American right.
In his life of literary and political activism, Douglass was many things, and it is this set of apparent complexities and paradoxes that makes his story so attractive to biographers, as well as to so many constituencies.
Read the full article at NYTimes.com.