Frederick Douglass is known as one of the most important African American leaders and activists of the 19th century. He was a former slave who became an abolitionist, writer, and orator, speaking out against slavery and advocating for civil rights. However, less well-known is the story of his wife, Anna Murray Douglass, who played a critical role in his life and activism.
Anna Murray was born in 1813 in Maryland, where she spent her early life as a slave. She eventually escaped to freedom in Philadelphia in the 1830s, where she met Frederick Douglass. The two fell in love and were married in 1838, with Anna playing a key role in helping Frederick escape slavery and start a new life as a free man and activist. Throughout their marriage, Anna supported Frederick in his work as an abolitionist and activist. She helped him write and edit his speeches and essays, and was a trusted advisor and confidante. In her own right, Anna was an accomplished seamstress and dressmaker, running a successful business to support their family.
Despite the challenges of living as African Americans in the 19th century, Anna and Frederick had a long and loving marriage. They had five children together, and remained devoted to each other until Anna's death in 1882. Unfortunately, much of Anna's life and contributions to Frederick's work have been overshadowed by his own achievements. However, recent scholarship and interest in her story have shed new light on Anna's important role in Frederick's life and the wider struggle for civil rights.
Douglas ultimately married another woman. Despite his deep love and admiration for Anna Murray, Douglas ultimately chose to marry another woman, Helen Pitts, after Murray passed away in 1882. Pitts was a white woman who was 20 years younger than Douglas, and their marriage caused quite a scandal at the time. Despite the controversy surrounding their relationship, Pitts remained devoted to Douglas until his death in 1895.
While his marriage to Pitts was certainly significant in its own right, the story of Anna Murray Douglas remains a powerful reminder of the important role that black women have played throughout American history, even when their contributions have been overlooked or forgotten.