Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen will introduce the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act. The legislation would establish a commission to honor and celebrate Frederick Douglass in 2018 as we mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. It is the companion bill to legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD).
“Two hundred years after Douglass’ birth, it is important to reflect upon his great achievements and pay tribute to his fight for freedom and justice,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This commission will explore how we can celebrate his legacy and redouble our efforts to make an ever more perfect union. As Douglass once stated, ‘The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.’”
Douglass was enslaved at birth in Talbot County, Maryland. At a young age Douglass learned to read and write, and in 1838 he fled Maryland and moved to New York. He later escaped to Great Britain to avoid being tracked down and returned to slavery. Ultimately, British Quakers paid for his freedom, which enabled him to return to the United States. He settled in Baltimore, Maryland in 1847, and he continued to be a strong abolitionist who campaigned against slavery and in favor of the right to vote throughout the East and Midwest.
As a freeman he was able to hold significant positions within the government. He served as an Advisor to President Lincoln. He was also appointed to serve as the District of Columbia Legislative Council, the United States Marshall, and the Recorder of Deeds. He subsequently became the Ambassador to Haiti from 1889 to 1891.