• Explain who Frederick Douglass is and what he is best known for.
  • Expand their understanding of his life through expressing how he viewed other people who made up the “composite “nation” including Chinese immigrants.
  • Connect, compare, and contrast Douglass’ views to issues of today.


Frederick Douglass (1817 or 1818-1895) is an important figure in American history best known for escaping from slavery and speaking eloquently for its abolition. He wrote three autobiographies, supported women’s rights, worked to advance the rights of freed slaves after the Civil War, and held several public offices. Lesser known is his broader vision for America as seen in a speech he gave in 1869 called “Our Composite Nation.” In the speech, he addresses the variety of people in America, urging acceptance of all. Notably, he speaks also of the Chinese who only fairly recently, within Douglass’ lifetime, made it to the shores of the United States. The excerpt used for this lesson captures his sentiments of why the Chinese should be allowed to come to the U.S. in the context of American ideals and the history of other racial groups and ethnicities here already.


  1. Who gets to be an American?


Lesson plan created in partnership with 1882 Foundation