Frederick Douglass: When The Lion Wrote History

Douglass’ fascinating life story

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A century before Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, there was Frederick Douglass, arguably the most important and the earliest African American activist in United States history. Frederick Douglass: When The Lion Wrote History traces Douglass’s heroic life and work. Born into slavery, Douglass was separated from his mother as a small child and forced into field labor on one of the largest plantations in the American South. There he witnessed such horrific brutality to his fellow slaves that by the age of 8 he wished that he had never been born. He was then sent to Baltimore to live as a house slave, an event he would later consider an act of divine providence. It was there that young Frederick learned to read and write, setting him on the path to become a powerful writer, orator, and agitator.

Douglass tried to organize his fellow slaves but was forced to escape north to Massachusetts. Celebrated antislavery activist William Lloyd Garrison asked him to speak at the Abolitionist Convention, leading to a career as a full-time lecturer and spokesman for the African American experience. Douglass broke with Garrison, feeling that the antislavery movement needed a black leader–himself. He provided such pivotal leadership through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and afterwards, an incessant gadfly to white leaders (including President Lincoln) unwilling to go far enough to assure African American rights. To learn Douglass’s fascinating life story is to discover the history of the African American struggle for freedom. –Laura Mirsky for

  • Actors: Alfre Woodard
  • Directors: Orlando Bagwell
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: NR – Not Rated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: PBS Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: January 27, 1998
  • Run Time: 90 minutes


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