Born a slave in Maryland around 1817, Frederick Douglass had a difficult childhood. Working as a houseboy for a family in Baltimore, there were times when he had to fight with dogs for table scraps. He was taught to read and write by his owner's daughter. Refusing to "act like a slave," he was sent to a slave breaker, one who would beat or work a slave into submission. Still unbroken, he managed to escape to New York where he married a free African American woman.
At the request of abolitionists, he spoke on the evils of slavery. He fled to England because of the possibility of recapture under the Fugitive Slave Law. His friends in England bought his freedom and he later returned to America, continuing to protest and agitate others against slavery. Appointed a civil servant and U.S. marshal after the Civil War, Douglass was an advisor to five U.S. presidents.