Frederick Douglass is one of the towering figures of 19th-century America. Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, he escaped at around the age of 20 and fled to Massachusetts, where he became an active abolitionist and champion of human rights. In 1845, his autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” became a bestseller and one of the most influential pieces of literature in the abolitionist cause, and from 1847 through the 1850s he published the important abolitionist newspapers “The North Star” and “Frederick Douglass’ Paper”. During the Civil War he persuaded Abraham Lincoln to put emancipation on the national agenda.
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site preserves the Washington, D.C. house where Douglass lived from 1877 until his death in 1895. During that time he served as U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia and held diplomatic positions with Haiti and the Dominican Republic. When you tour the 21-room mansion and nearly 15 acres of grounds, you can see the parlor where Douglass entertained guests, the dining room where he and his family ate, the indoor kitchen (uncommon for the era) where meals were prepared, the library where he worked, even the bed he slept in and the dumbbells he kept next to it for daily exercise. The library displays more than 800 volumes from Douglass’s own collection, which includes bound editions of The North Star and rare photograph albums.
You can only enter the house as part of a tour with a park ranger, and since there’s a maximum of 10 people per tour, they tend to fill up. It’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance through the site’s web page at www.nps.gov/frdo/index.htm.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Hours: The number of tours offered per day varies with the season.
Admission: There is a $1.50 per person charge for advance reservations, which are strongly recommended.
Parking: There is a parking lot on site.
Metrorail: The nearest Metro station is the Green Line stop at Anacostia, about a fifteen-minute walk. Walk northeast on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. to W Street and take a right. Alternatively, you can transfer to the B2 bus in the direction of Mount Rainier, which will drop you off right at the doorstep.
Old Town Trolley Tour