Portrait of Frederick Douglass by unknown artist; Oil on canvas, circa 1844
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born a slave in Maryland, Frederick Douglass fled in 1838 to Massachusetts. By the mid-1840s his commanding eloquence transformed him into one of the antislavery movement's most persuasive spokesmen. This portrait was first documented in 1902, when it was given to the Rhode Island Historical Society from the estate of Alphonso Richard Janes. A friend of Douglass's, Janes was treasurer of the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society for many years. The portrait is very similar to the engraved likeness that appeared as a frontispiece to Douglass's autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (Boston, 1845), and could have been based on the engraving.
The identity of the artist is not known. Oil on canvas, circa 1844 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution NPG.74.45 Source
Frederick Douglass not only was a leading abolitionist, he became a statesman in the summer of 1889 when he was appointed Ambassador to Haiti. Not to be missed is an on-line video play, starring Fred Morsell, based on Douglass' speeches and autobiography. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, is also available on-line.