While Frederick Douglass, the iconic 19th century civil rights leader, can claim such locales as the Eastern Shore, Baltimore, Bedford, Mass., and Rochester, N.Y., it is the District of Columbia where he made his greatest contributions as a free man and District residents are proud of that.

“Frederick Douglass was a free accomplished African American,” Darryl Ross told the AFRO. “He set an example for the rest of us in his time and the present day.”

A photo taken of Frederick Douglass’s house, Cedar Hill, in Anacostia, featuring an unknown male figure who is likely one of his sons or grandsons. The original photo has a handwritten note that says, “Photgraphed by Charles Douglass- Feb. 27, 1887. (Courtesy Photo from the U.S. National Park Service)

On Feb. 14, the District, like the rest of the country, celebrated Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday. He was born on a plantation in the Eastern Shore of Maryland as a slave in 1818 and he escaped from slavery in Baltimore on Sept. 3, 1838 under disguise and eventually made his way to New York City to freedom.

Douglass settled in New Bedford, Mass., and established himself as an abolitionist, writer and orator. His advocacy led his him to write about his experience as a slave, in a book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” that was published in 1845. In addition to that, he was popular on the speaker circuit in the U.S. and Europe for years.

He also published an anti-slavery newspaper called “The North Star.”

During the Civil War, Douglass encouraged President Abraham Lincoln to enlist Black men to fight on behalf of the North and advocated that they receive military commissions and pay that they were due. In 1877, Douglass re-located to the District where he served, among other things, as the recorder of deeds, U.S. Marshal and on a national/international level as the U.S. Minister to Haiti and U.S. envoy to Santa Domingo.

Douglass lived in the Anacostia neighborhood of the District and built his home, known as Cedar Hill, on a hill overlooking the Anacostia River. It is presently owned and operated by the National Park Service as a tourist site.

Douglass died on Feb. 20, 1895 of a heart attack at the age of 77.

On Feb. 13, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) broke ground on the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge Project, which is the largest public infrastructure project in the history of the District, and on Feb. 14, she unveiled a portrait of Douglass that was done by artist Henry Wadsworth Moore on the fifth floor of the John A. Wilson Building.

“Just a few years ago, a statute of Douglass became the first statute to represent Washington, D.C. in the U.S. Capitol,” the mayor said, making reference to the likeness of Douglass in the U.S. Capitol’s Statutory Hall representing the District. “Now, it is my great honor to ensure Douglass will have a permanent home here in the Building.”

On Feb. 17, Bowser participated in the Frederick Douglass 5K and Oxon Run Trail ribbon cutting ceremony in Southeast Washington that connects from South Capitol Street, S.E. to 13th Street, SE.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who made the statute of Douglass in the U.S. Capitol a reality on June 19, 2013, was one of the speakers at the swearing-in of the Douglass Bicentennial Commission at Emancipation Hall in the Capitol on Feb. 14.

The commission is designed to celebrate the life of Douglass through various activities such as historical programs and art, essay and oratorical contests for young people. The commission was the work of legislation co-authored by Norton and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) that passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate without opposition and signed by President Trump last year.

Norton said that Douglass was a “true Washingtonian.”

In her persistent advocacy of the District’s quest to become the 51st state of the Union, she said “who knew that Frederick Douglass could not live in the District of Columbia without becoming a champion for D.C. residents to have the same rights as Americans who lived in the states.”

District residents pay federal taxes and can be drafted into wars like other Americans but have no voting representation on Capitol Hill.