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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. 1844
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")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born near Easton, Maryland
Frederick Douglass became the first nationally known African American in U.S. history by turning his life into a testimony on the evils of slavery and the redemptive power of freedom. He had escaped from slavery in 1838 and subsequently became a powerful witness for abolitionism, speaking, writing, and organizing on behalf of the movement; he also founded a newspaper, the North Star. Douglass's charisma derived from his ability to present himself as the author of his own destiny at a time when white America could barely conceive of the black man as a thinking and feeling human being. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is not only gripping nonfiction account of one man's struggle for freedom; it is also one of the greatest American autobiographies. This powerful portrait shows Douglass as he grew in prominence during the 1840s.
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
American Origins
On View
NPG, East Gallery 120