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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Historic markers unveiled at newly discovered site of Frederick Douglass’ escape from slavery

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Douglass Markers
Two markers were unveiled at 2809 Boston Street, the site where Frederick Douglass boarded a train to freedom. Photo Credit: Canton Community Association

Baltimore— On Saturday, June 19, 2021 (Juneteenth), Councilmember Zeke Cohen, the Canton Community Association, in partnership with the Baltimore National Heritage Area and the Friends of President Street Station, unveiled a set of historic panels commemorating Frederick Douglass’ escape from slavery in 1838 at 2809 Boston Street in Canton, the site of the former depot where Frederick Bailey—later known as Frederick Douglass—boarded a train to freedom in the north.

Douglass, who made his escape dressed as a sailor, kept this story to himself until he published his third autobiography in 1881. Although Douglass’ account leaves out many logistical details, (including the location of the station), recent research of contemporary documents completed by Dr. Raymond Bahr, citizen historian and founder of the Canton History Project, points to the location of a long-lost railroad depot on Boston Street— in front of what is now Tindeco Wharf Apartments.

“I heard the theory (from anecdotal sources) that Frederick Bailey, then enslaved in the shipyards of Fell’s Point, probably escaped on a train leaving a station on Boston Street in Canton. So, with the help of colleagues, I dug into contemporary maps, news articles, reports of the Canton Company, and the lore of local railroad historians to fill in a more complete picture of the preconditions young Frederick faced and what decisions he made when planning his escape. We were very excited to discover that such a pivotal moment in history occurred in our neighborhood,” said Dr. Raymond Bahr.

Following his escape from Baltimore, Douglass continued to battle against slavery, oppression, and inequality throughout American society. Today, Douglass is recognized as one of the most historically consequential Americans raised in Maryland. His writings about race relations, human liberty, and political power are painfully relevant and consistently impactful.


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