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Happy birthday, Mr. Douglass!

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By Casey Lartigue Jr.

As a pre-teen growing up in Missouri City, Texas, I participated in my first leadership seminar: I read all three of Frederick Douglass's autobiographies.

Applying lessons learned from the 19th century slave-turned-abolitionist, I convinced my parents to drive me to Douglass's "Cedar Hill" home in Washington, D.C. (a distance of about 1,400 miles).

Imagine what an honor it was in 2003, later as an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute, I gave the keynote address to and joined the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association (FDMHA) as a member of the Board of Trustees of that home and Douglass's legacy.

Born a slave, Douglass wasn't sure of even the day or year he was born. He guessed Valentine's Day 1817, because his mother called him "My Little Valentine" (documents unearthed later revealed it was sometime in February 1818).

He "grew too big for my chains," escaping to freedom in 1838, then lived as a fugitive for almost a decade before friends purchased his freedom in a "ransom deal" after he fled to England to escape American slave-catchers.

From the humblest of origins, that former "piece of property" orphaned as a child became an internationally known abolitionist, newspaper editor, orator and........

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