The Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass Family

Frederick Douglass was not alone in fighting for the end of slavery and for all freedoms for formerly enslaved and newly liberated people of African descent in the USA and in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England.

During all his tireless labours as an antislavery campaigner and a social justice reformer Douglass’s family worked by his side: his wife, Anna Murray Douglass (1813-1882), his daughters, Rosetta Douglass Sprague (1839-1906) and Annie Douglass (1849-1860) and his sons, Lewis Henry Douglass (1840-1908) Frederick Douglass Jr. (1842-1892), and Charles Remond Douglass (1844-1920).

While the many public lives of Frederick Douglass – as the representative ‘fugitive slave,’ autobiographer, orator, abolitionist, reformer, philosopher, and statesman – are and continue to be celebrated worldwide, his life as a private individual and as a father and husband has yet to be told. Gaps in the official historical record guarantee that there are very real difficulties in even beginning to piece together the lifelong labours of Anna Murray, Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond and Annie Douglass as inspirational activists, reformers, historians, orators, literary writers, social commentators, and political theorists in their own right.

And yet, as even a very brief investigation into their vast writings confirms, no topic was off-limits for each member of the Douglass family. Trailblazing and revolutionary advocates for social justice on their own terms, they delivered speeches and wrote essays on a variety of subjects, including: antislavery activism, women’s rights, discriminatory legislation, scientific racism, lynch law, prison reform, capital punishment, unfair housing, segregated schools, and prejudicial transportation networks. At the same time, they took a leading role by writing for and/or managing numerous African American newspapers. They also organised and held memberships of African American literary societies, professional sports leagues, Civil War veterans’ organisations, and national reform movements, among much more. Each and every member of the Douglass family worked together for a 'new dawn of freedom'.

The manuscripts and photographs in this section from the Walter O. and Linda Evans Foundation are now in the Walter O. Evans Collection at Yale University.

‘I feel that we children have shared in a measure, your sacrifices for the good of the Cause.’
Frederick Douglass Jr (1842-1892) to his father Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)