Putting Down the Steady Pen for the Natural World

Frederick Douglass’s Interplays with Mother Nature


  • Ka’mal McClarin
  • Mike Antonioni




Much of the scholarship on Frederick Douglass in the past twenty years has focused on his public contributions to society at large: numerous comprehensive biographical treatments detail his interactions with political, religious, civil, and social movements. However, there has been little discussion of his interactions with the natural world. This article explores Douglass as a man of many seasons who demonstrated over the course of his life many passions, nature being among the most prominent. Along with Douglass’s staunch commitment as a universal reformer, we argue, Douglass carried a lifelong love for the environment, engaging with it physically, intellectually, and as a source of leisure. By the time of his death, he had become a Victorian gentleman farmer and a naturalist who possessed a global understanding of his natural environment. In fact, he often merged his appreciation for nature with his broad range of activism. These actions worked in harmony with one another. This aspect of his life was an equally important aspect of his character as a man who came of age during the nineteenth century and whose soul departed from the earth on the eve of the twentieth century.