While February 14th is universally celebrated as Valentine's Day, it is also the chosen birthdate of the orator, abolitionist and "The Most Photographed Man of His Times," Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was born into bondage in Maryland presumably in 1818, however his exact day of birth was unknown. Douglass chose February 14th as his "birthday" and the rest is history.
Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and not only became a social reformer for the equity and civil rights of Black people, but strongly believed in the power of imagery and portraying his blackness with intelligence, dignity and strength of character.
Frederick Douglass was known as The Most Photographed Man of His Times
Douglass' many photographs challenged the stereotypes that were pervasive throughout the American landscape during the nineteenth century. Minstrel shows were a very popular form of mainstream entertainment and they perpetuated an exaggerated representation of Black people. Despite this issue, Douglass felt that the camera could convey his humanity which would be acknowledged by the public more objectively. Therefore, Douglass made it a point not to smile in any of his portraits for this very reason.
Now more than two centuries after his birth, the world is still captivated by the photographs of Frederick Douglass, for his his poise and virtue. The legacy of Frederick Douglass lives on at Mount Peace Cemetery. In fact, during the creation of the cemetery in the early 1900s, a road was named in his honor and is still known as Douglass Drive today (see cemetery map). Stay tuned for profiles of many other notables and unsung heroes at Mount Peace Cemetery!
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