Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818; he never knew the actual day he was born, so he just chose February 14 to be his birthday. Having learned the first basics of reading at the age of twelve, he became an avid reader, doing everything in his power to improve his reading and writing skills. In the 1830s he escaped slavery, and he eventually chose the surname 'Douglass', based on the surname Douglas in Sir Walter Scott's poem, The Lady of the Lake. In 1845, he published Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, the first of his three major autobiographical works (the others being My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass), and in 1847 founded a newspaper, the North Star, whose success is said to have done more for the abolitionist cause than any number of abolitionist speeches. He continued to have a long and varied career. He died in 1895. The first Fortnightly Book will be his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which is generally the most highly regarded of the autobiographical works, due to its vividness and intensity.
Booker T. Washington was also born into slavery, in 1856 in Virginia. (He also did not know the date of his birth.) He was freed under the Emancipation Proclamation when he was nine years old, and, eventually learning to read, he attended school. After working in the coal industry for a while, he studied for a bit at the Hampton Institute and then Wayland Seminary. In 1881, he was recommended by the head of the Hampton Institute to take charge of a new teacher's college, the Tuskegee Institute; the school was literally built by Washington and his students, and this set much of the tone for the school, which was to teach people to teach farmers and tradesmen in rural areas. He published an autobiography in 1900, but it was second autobiography, Up from Slavery, published in 1901, that became an immediate bestseller (leading Theodore Roosevelt to invite him to the White House). The Wizard of Tuskegee died in 1915. Up from Slavery will be the second Fortnightly Book.