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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
Unidentified Artist
Former attribution
Elisha Livermore Hammond, 1779 - 1882
Frederick Douglass, Feb 1818 - 20 Feb 1895
c. 1845
Oil on canvas
Stretcher: 70.2 x 57.5 x 3.8cm (27 5/8 x 22 5/8 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 82.6 x 69.9 x 8.3cm (32 1/2 x 27 1/2 x 3 1/4")
Frederick Douglass: Male
Frederick Douglass: Literature\Writer
Frederick Douglass: Education and Scholarship\Educator\Lecturer
Frederick Douglass: Journalism and Media\Newspaper publisher
Frederick Douglass: Politics and Government\Diplomat\Minister
Frederick Douglass: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Abolitionist
Frederick Douglass: Society and Social Change\Enslaved person
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born near Easton, Maryland
Frederick Douglass became the most influential African American of the nineteenth century by turning his life into a testimony on the evils of slavery and the redemptive power of freedom. After he escaped from bondage in 1838, Douglass quickly emerged as an outspoken advocate for equality and abolition. Aware of the power of telling one’s own story, he frequently spoke about his life, published three genre-defining autobiographies, and founded the influential newspaper, The North Star, in 1847. Douglass also posed for countless photographs, which he considered less susceptible to artists’ racial prejudices.
This painting was likely based on the engraved frontispiece of Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), a gripping account of his struggle for freedom. In My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Douglass went on to address the psychology of slavery and the racism that continued to define the lives of the newly free.
Nacido cerca de Easton, Maryland
Frederick Douglass se convirtió en el afroamericano más influyente del siglo XIX al hacer de su biografía un testimonio de los males de la esclavitud y el poder redentor de la libertad. Tras escapar del cautiverio en 1838, se destacó como abierto defensor de la igualdad y la abolición de la esclavitud. Consciente del poder de los relatos personales, hablaba a menudo de su vida. Publicó tres autobiografías que definieron el género y fundó el influyente periódico The North Star en 1847. Douglass también posó para incontables fotografías, considerándolas menos susceptibles al prejuicio racial de los artistas.
Esta pintura se basó posiblemente en el grabado del frontispicio de su primera autobiografía, Historia de la vida de Frederick Douglass (1845), un relato apasionante de su lucha por la libertad. En Mi esclavitud y mi libertad (1855), examinó la psicología de la esclavitud y el racismo que seguía definiendo la vida de los recién liberados.
Estate of Alphonso Janes [d. 1893]; gift 1902 to Rhode Island Historical Society; purchased 1974 NPG
The painting is not listed in the inventory of the estate of Alphonso Janes, but is so credited by the Rhode Island Historical Society. Copy in NPG curatorial file. Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., American Paintings in the Rhode Island Historical Society [Providence, 1974], p.72, no. 94.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, North Gallery 220