1 minute readHistory

Black History Month: Honoring Frederick Douglass

Portrait Frederick Douglass

This Black History Month, we are honoring Black men and women who played a pivotal role in helping the American Red Cross become the organization that it is today. Meet Frederick Douglass.

Frederick is widely known for his autobiographies and powerful speeches describing his life as a slave. However, this abolitionist leader also shares a connection to the American Red Cross, tracing back to before the organization’s founding.

Frederick, a prominent abolitionist, orator and author, first met Red Cross founder Clara Barton shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the war, Barton risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers, including to the all-black Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which was recruited by Frederick Douglass. The story of the 54th Regiment was well documented and formed the basis for the 1991 film “Glory.”

Frederick and Clara developed a friendship, and Clara discussed establishing a Red Cross Association in the United States with him. The famed abolitionist offered advice and support to Clara in her efforts to gain American acceptance as a member nation of the global Red Cross network. Frederick’s name is on an appeal for funds after the 1882 Mississippi flood. He also, in his capacity as Register of Deeds for the District of Columbia, signed the original Articles of Incorporation for the Red Cross when they were submitted to the municipal authorities. The articles legally documented the creation of the American Red Cross.


Thank you, Frederick Douglass, for your contributions in helping found our organization.