Happy Birthday Frederick Douglass

Happy Valentine’s Day

Sylvia Wohlfarth


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Today, Valentine’s Day is also the chosen birthday of the celebrated American abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman Frederick Douglass. As a former enslaved person, he never knew his exact birth year which was posthumously determined to be 1818.

The only information given to him by a former master was that he was born in February. Not knowing his actual birthday in February, he chose Valentine’s Day because he remembered his enslaved mother, Harriet Bailey, had called him her “Little Valentine” during the few precious times she was allowed to visit him. She was separated from him after his birth and was sent back to work on her farm about twelve miles away. Before she died in 1826, she only managed to visit Frederick a few times at night after her day’s work.

As he recalls,

I do not recollect of ever seeing my mother by the light of day. She was with me in the night. She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.

I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday. They seldom come nearer to it than planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time, spring-time, or fall-time. A want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. He deemed all such inquiries on the part of a slave improper and impertinent, and evidence of a restless spirit. The nearest estimate I can give makes me now between twenty-seven and twenty-eight years of age. I come to this, from hearing my master say, some time during 1835, I was about seventeen years old.

Excerpts from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, Chap 1, p 1. Originally published in Boston, May 1, 1845.

Let us celebrate on this Valentine’s Day, both love as a binding force, especially the love, which should be, between parents and their children, and the activist, social reformer and advocate for human rights, Frederick Douglass.

Image by Enoch111 from Pixabay



Sylvia Wohlfarth

An Irish-Nigerian soul living in Ireland after 40 years in Germany. A social anthropologist, English teacher, and more. With stories to share; and an opinion…