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