Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass made his mark in history as an abolitionist with a special place in his heart for America and its founding principles. Douglass, who knew only that he was born sometime in February 1818, chose the 14th as his birthday because his mother, who died when Douglass was around eight years-old, called him her “little valentine.”

It’s only fitting, then, that we remember Douglass on this Valentine’s Day — and his contribution to America. Heritage’s Julia Shaw comments on how his memory can be honored:

We can celebrate Frederick Douglass by honoring the principles he held dear. Douglass became devoted to America and its founding after close study of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Coming out of slavery, Douglass had been influenced by abolitionists who blamed America’s Constitution and its founding for the sin of slavery. In America’s dedication to principles of natural human rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence, he eventually found reason to love and identify with his country.  He came to understand that America’s original sin was not in its founding principles but a deviation from its founding principles.

Read more in our First Principles report, Frederick Douglass’s America: Race, Justice, and the Promise of the Founding.