Frederick Douglass, the sitter in this early type of photograph or , escaped slavery and rose to fame during the mid-19th century as a prominent , , newspaper publisher, human-rights activist, and diplomat. Six feet tall with strong features and a mass of hair, Douglass sat for several daguerreotypes early in his career. Samuel J. Miller, whose name is on the inside of the velvet case, opened a daguerreotype shop in . On one of his numerous lecture tours, Douglass probably passed through the Akron area and took a moment to have his made. This image, recovered from a shoebox of abolitionist , is one of his most striking photographic portraits. He presents himself as a strong and stern figure. Sitters for such photographs were able to exert a measure of control over their own representation, something they were not able to do for a painted portrait. Poet loved the daguerreotype for this reason, calling it a democratic style of painting because, as he explained, "the artist stands aside and lets you paint yourself."


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