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About the Project


The Frederick Douglass Papers collects, edits, and publishes in books and online the speeches, letters, autobiographies, and other writings of Frederick Douglass. The project's primary aim has been to make the surviving works by this African American figure accessible to a broad audience, much as similar projects have done for the papers of notable white historical and literary figures. As such, the Frederick Douglass Papers is one of the few major documentary editing projects (in progress) devoted to an African American figure. Other similar on-going projects include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University, and the Freedman and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland.

The original heart of the project is the publication by Yale University Press of fifteen volumes of the most historically significant of Douglass’s works; nine of these volumes have been published so far, as well as several ancillary paperback volumes. In recent years the project has also begun utilizing the internet to make both its electronic texts of Douglass’s works, as well as research tools related to Douglass, accessible to an even broader audience.

Project History

The Frederick Douglass Papers Edition originated in 1973 at Yale University, as a result of consultations among the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and John W. Blassingame, Professor of History at Yale. With Blassingame serving as editor, the project began work in 1973. For almost twenty years the project was housed at Yale University, staffed by scholars at that institution.

In 1993 Blassingame turned over direction of the Douglass Papers to John R. McKivigan, a member of the project staff since 1979. Since then the Papers have moved twice with McKivigan. From 1992-98, West Virginia University housed the project, and since 1998 the Frederick Douglass Papers has resided at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) as a unit of that campus’ Institute for American Thought (IAT).