Courtesy of University of Rochester Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
In the late 1830s Douglass became involved in local antislavery activities in his new home of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He decided to become an orator in 1839 after hearing a speech by the renowned abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Douglass quickly discovered his talent for delivering impassioned, compelling speeches and by 1841 he was employed by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society as a full time lecturer. Douglass's strident calls for the end of slavery in the South and of segregation in the North made him a celebrity in the abolitionist movement but also exposed him to rough treatment and occasional violence from hostile crowds. This portrait, engraved by J. C. Buttre from a daguerreotype, captures a sense of the young man's frustration, anger, and determination in the face of opposition.