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    Frederick Douglass writes, "I do not know my age, but think I am not far from 64"

    Frederick Douglass Autograph Letter Signed "Fredk. Douglass" conveying a sketch of his life. One page, 5" x 8", n.p., October 18, 1880, with the cover, which is addressed by Douglass. The prominent abolitionist writes the major details of his life in reply to M. J. Wall of Buffalo, New York, who had requested a longer written account. Douglass writes, "I have no time to write you an account of my life. I do not know my age, but think I am not far from 64. I have been free forty two years, and received man's wages more than two years before my escape from slavery. I am writing you in one of two hands which I write, perhaps, you may be able to detect resemblances." According to Douglass' third autobiography (Life and Times of Frederick Douglass Written by Himself, 1881), which he was likely still working on when he wrote this sketch, questions about a slave's age were considered an "impudent curiosity" by the masters; in fact, Douglass did not know of any slave who knew his age (Life and Times, Elibron Classics, 2001, p. 30). Curious throughout his life about his origins, Douglass figured his birthday was in February 1817. Born a slave in Maryland, he learned to read as a child and later escaped to Massachusetts where he entered abolitionist society. His first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), was popular and provided him opportunities to become a respected and vocal abolitionist. He used his influence to pressure President Lincoln to deliver emancipation to all slaves, which he did in January 1863. Following the Civil War, Douglass worked in politics, but found that he was more effective as a social critic, lecturing and writing. His autobiography of 1881 did not sell well (perhaps the recipient of this letter bought a copy), which certainly disappointed Douglass because he felt that his message - that American slavery not be forgotten - was important for the nation. This sketch was one more minor way for him to extend that message. The letter is toned with folds.

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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