Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published February 2003

From Enslaved to Great Abolitionist


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Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is dedicated to preserving the legacy of a truly great American, a man whose life was a testament to courage and persistence that continues to serve as an inspiration for those who struggle in the cause of liberty and justice.

The Douglass site covers 8.5 acres known as Cedar Hill and includes the main house, gardens, and an extensive collection of personal effects that both captivates visitors and educates them about Douglass and his family. Douglass moved to Cedar Hill in 1877 and lived there for 18 years. During that time, he served as U.S. Minister to Haiti and as U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, continuing all the while to write about and speak out for human rights and equality until his death on February 20, 1895.

This historic site, part of the park system since 1962, suffers from a number of ills. An unresolved moisture problem threatens the house and the treasures it contains, and a plan is not in place to guide historically accurate restoration of the grounds. Most important, the park lacks sufficient funding to ensure that it remains a fitting tribute to Douglass, the man who was born enslaved in 1818 and rose to become one of the nation's foremost abolitionists.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site was evaluated as part of the National Parks Conservation Association's State of the Parks® program. The program was launched in 2000 to assess the condition of natural and cultural resources at national parks.

The current overall condition of cultural resources at the Douglass site rated only 57 out of 100, which is one point away from poor.

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