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Frederick Douglass, the slave-turned-freedman that we all learned about in middle school, is quite possibly one of the most important figures from the civil war era. After living a life of slavery, and after numerous failed attempts, Douglass finally escaped to the North in September 1838. After marrying, Mr. Douglass became an outspoken abolitionist and fighter for equal rights for Africans and women.
Mr. Douglass met with both President Lincoln and later Johnson about the plight of the blacks before, during, and after the Civil War and pushed his cause with the fervor matched by no one. He was perhaps the right person at the right time to start changing the American mind towards the stain of slavery and what must be done to correct it. He did not revere President Lincoln, but instead looked at him with a hint of distrust and even voted for John C. Frémont in the 1864 Presidential election because President Lincoln didn't publicly proclaim support for black suffrage.
For all the Mr. Douglass is remembered for, most may not know his major claim to fame: he was the first African American to receive a vote in a major parties nomination for President in 1888. It took another one hundred and twenty years before America would finally elect their first black President. If it weren't for Mr. Douglass, who knows if that ever would have happened.