7 Interesting facts about Frederick Douglass

Actual birthday remains unknown

A cake with numerous candles is served during a birthday.
A cake with numerous candles is served during a birthday. | Pixabay/ Public Domain Pictures

Although Frederick Douglass’ birthday is observed on Feb. 14, his actual day of birth remains unknown due to the poor record keeping of his first owner, Aaron Anthony.

In 1980, historian Dickson Preston narrowed the likely date to February 1818, based off evidence at the Maryland Archives. Some sources had claimed 1817 as the actual year.

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At a Feb. 28, 1888, event held in Washington, D.C., to celebrate his birthday, Douglass spoke about how birthday celebrations “belong to free institutions.”

“We, at the South, never knew them. We were born at times: harvest times, watermelon times, and generally hard times,” said Douglass.

“I never knew anything about the celebration of a birthday except Washington’s birthday, and it seems a little strange to have mine celebrated. I think it is hardly safe to celebrate any man’s birthday while he lives.”

Douglass himself eventually settled on Feb. 14 as his birthday, according to Scott Bomboy of the National Constitution Center, in part because he liked the celebratory aspects of Valentine’s Day.

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