Valentine’s Day marks the 200th year birthday of Frederick Douglass, a man known as an American hero because of his advocacy for women’s rights and the anti-slavery movement.
Jon Speed, a bookstore owner in Nedrow, owns a copy of the narrative from Douglass’ life that’s over a century old– the copy came from Douglass’ own printing press in Rochester.
He is the owner of one of 10 copies that were bound in Rochester.
The rare edition made it to his store in Nedrow by happenstance when a family moving from the area contacted him last year.
He soon learned the copy was worth $20,000.
“In 1839, he heard his first abolitionist speakers– it really got him interested and they were interested in him as an escaped slave, so from about 1841 to 1847, he was traveling around speaking of his life as a slave,” Speed said.
In 1845, the first edition of Douglass’ narrative was published.
It chronicles his emotional journey as a fugitive slave.
He wanted to speak on his views on abolition and race, so he started the North Star Paper based at this site in Rochester — making trips Syracuse to continue to tell his story.
Once when in Syracuse, Douglass wanted to speak on the unity of the human race– and city leaders feared for his safety.
“There were newspapers that denounced his visit and said he was wrong in what he was speaking and called him a traitor. The mayor at the time called in militia to protect his freedom of speech,” said Tom Hunter of the Onondaga Historical Association.