Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History & Political Thought, History Concentration (MA)

Committee Chair

Blackwell, Deborah L.

Committee Member

Hazelton, Andrew J.

Committee Member

Zschirnt, Simon


This thesis reexamines the evolving friendship between the two most prominent U.S. abolitionists of the Nineteenth Century, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. The purpose is to provide a more complex picture of their friendship than one-sided antagonistic view often highlighted by scholars. While applying the political principle of egalitarianism and Aristotle’s three notions of friendship (pleasure, utility, and goodness) from Nicomachean Ethics, one can derive an alternative vista to a profound and fruitful relationship. By doing so, one can acknowledge that within their friendship, they were morally sovereign men led by reason despite the adverse events that played out in the public eye, events that tend to overshadow their virtuous friendship. By acknowledging an Aristotelian friendship, one can derive the goodwill and generosity between the Douglass-Garrison friendship, their actions, intentions, and character despite their differences and in spite of their commonalities. The argument is not to disprove what was, but to reveal the discourse of an undiscovered layer of the Douglass-Garrison friendship. It is significant to recognize that although this initial relationship between Douglass-Garrison was pleasant because of one another’s knowledge and similarities and their goal of emancipation; the friendship between the two men cocooned into an interdependent relationship of convenience where both were each other’s equals. They were sovereign men who were nonetheless transformed by the friendship that shaped them into the men they eventually became. This relationship is crucial to revisit not only for the integrity of the Douglass-Garrison friendship, but to recognize that although the world discriminated, this impartial friendship, existed between two sovereign men. It was, not, as may appear at first glance, a relationship based on oppression or victim-hood.