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Primary Source Material

Frederick Douglass was the most photographed American during the 19th century. He believed his portraits had the power to shape public opinion and recognition of his humanity as a Black American.
Credit: Frederick Douglass, 1863, National Gallery of Art, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund Smithsonian Institution


What is your identity?

Reflect on your own identity by answering the questions below. Consider the characteristics that make up your social identity and personal identity. Once complete, you may download or print your responses.


Many factors influence how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Media is one of the most powerful influences on social and personal identity.

Media, in all of its many forms, sends messages and relays stories and information that represent the values, beliefs, and points of view of its creators. When we consume media, we take in the information and messages that are being shared and interpret or react to them in some way.

Different forms of media have evolved over time. Go to the next page to examine how the media influenced the identity of Frederick Douglass both in the past and today.