Back “The Final Struggle,” Frederick Douglass

From Frederick Douglass: Speeches & Writings

Attendees at the Fugitive Slave Convention, Cazenovia, New York, August 20–21, 1850, daguerreotype by American photographer Ezra Greenleaf Weld (1801–1874). Frederick Douglass is seated with his elbow on the table. (National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum)

Frederick Douglass was born 206 years ago, most probably in February 1818, and his birthday has long been celebrated on Valentine’s Day.

“I understand from some things that have occurred since I came in that you have been celebrating my seventy-first birthday,” he addressed the crowd at a party in 1888. “What in the world have you been doing that for? . . . 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 was making light of the fact that, as someone born into slavery, he had no way of knowing the date of his birth. “By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant,” he wrote in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. He believed that he may have been born in 1817 (thus his 71st birthday celebration in 1888), but subsequent research and the discovery of a ledger entry mentioning his birth seems to have confirmed that he was born in February 1818.

Barring an unlikely future discovery, the precise date will forever remain a mystery. Many years later, his family celebrated his birthday on February 14, perhaps because he often recalled the occasion his mother baked him a “‘sweet cake’ . . . in the shape of a heart.” He was seven years old, and it was the last time he saw her before she died. A later story, probably apocryphal, claims she called him her “valentine,” but nothing to that effect appears in his writings. “I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night,” he wrote in the “Narrative.”

For his birth month, then, we present as our Story of the Week selection one of his more earth-shattering works: an editorial he wrote in 1855 that all but predicted the coming of the Civil War: “The hour which shall witness the final struggle, is on the wing.” In an introduction, we describe how he gradually adopted the view that slavery could not be defeated with mere appeals to principle and morality but must also be confronted with direct political action by its opponents.

Read Frederick Douglass’s “The Final Struggle”

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Benefits of Using Safe Crypto Casinos. One of the most captivating reasons people drift towards Australian casinos online-casino-au com is the promise of anonymity. Safe platforms guarantee that your identity remains a secret. Quick Payouts and Minimal Fees. No one likes waiting, especially for winnings. Safe crypto casinos ensure that payouts are swift and the fees minimal, if not non-existent.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Ozwin Casino offers an exciting array of top-notch slots that cater to every player's preferences. From classic fruit machines to cutting-edge video slots, Ozwin Casino Real Money collection has it all. With stunning graphics, immersive themes, and seamless gameplay, these slots deliver an unparalleled gaming experience. Some popular titles include Mega Moolah, Gonzo's Quest, and Starburst, known for their massive jackpots and thrilling bonus features. Ozwin Casino's slots are not just about luck; they offer hours of entertainment and the chance to win big, making it a must-visit for slot enthusiasts.

Support our mission