Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Voice, 1818-1845

By Gregory P. Lampe | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Tumultuous Times: Douglass as Abolitionist Orator, Agitator, Reformer, and Optimist, August 1842-June 1843

AS FREDERICK DOUGLASS' oratorical reputation increased during the first half of 1842, so did the demand for his services. The period from August 1842 through June 1843 was one of intense agitation and antislavery activity, the likes of which he had not experienced during his brief career as an abolitionist lecturer. In early August 1842, the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society recognized Douglass' potential as a drawing card and hired him as one of eight agents to tour western and central New York from the end of August to the end of October. As the tour was winding down, George Latimer, a fugitive from slavery, was arrested and jailed in Boston and threatened with the prospect of being returned to the South and enslaved. Douglass immediately traveled to Boston and joined Charles Lenox Remond, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips in the battle for Latimer's release. In December the Rhode Island Anti-Slavery Society hired Douglass as a lecturer, and he spent much of the next four months in Rhode Island organizing conventions and lecturing against slavery. During the spring of 1843 he returned to Massachusetts and, under auspices of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, embarked on a brief lecture tour of eastern Massachusetts with Remond and Latimer. During the months of May and June he also attended the American, Connecticut, and New England antislavery societies' annual conventions, at which he spoke eloquently and with great effect.

During all these activities Douglass demonstrated his deep and abiding commitment to the antislavery movement. He weathered unfriendly audiences, health problems, inclement weather, and assaults on the abolitionist cause. To the repertoire of issues he had developed to date he added a

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