Friends for Freedom:
The Story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass

  • 1695

By: Suzanne Slade / Illustrated by: Nicole Tadgell

Their friendship changed America.

They were unlikely friends, but the struggle for equality that Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass shared created a bond that lasted almost fifty years. This little-known story introduces young readers to two momentous personalities in American history and to their fiery passion for human rights and equality. When they met, they had only known each other’s reputations, but they became fast friends. They decided to combine their efforts and work together to win equality for African Americans and for women.

Their friendship endured the harsh words and looks of their society. Their friendship lasted in the face of hostility and anger. Their friendship persisted even through their own disagreements—and they could fight like cats and dogs. But these two intellectual giants knew that fighting for what was right was the most important work they could do.

Nicole Tadgell’s illustrations bring to life the tentative and uneasy beginnings of the fight for equality, with its trials and its triumphs. And through it all Susan and Frederick remained friends.

As much a celebration of friendship and cooperation as it is a history of a pivotal time in American history.

Read an excerpt!

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Suzanne Slade, author

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than one hundred books for children, including Climbing Lincoln’s Steps, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Freedom and Equality, an Amelia Bloomer recommended title. Suzanne lives near Chicago, Illinois.

Read more about Suzanne.

Nicole Tadgell, illustrator

Nicole Tadgell is the illustrator of more than twenty picture books, including First Peas to the Table: How Thomas Jefferson Inspired a School Garden, In the Garden with Dr. Carver, and Lucky Beans.

Read more about Nicole.

Awards & Honors:

  • Amelia Bloomer Project List
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award

Editorial Reviews:

Publishers Weekly, starred review

At a time when “it wasn’t proper for women to be friends with men” and “You weren’t supposed to be friends with someone whose skin was a different color,” Anthony and Douglass sought out each other based on mutual respect and a shared commitment toward equality. Tadgell’s carefully drafted and evocative watercolors capture both the past and present obstacles Anthony and Douglass faced, from Douglass’s youth as a slave to rotten eggs hurled at the two when they appeared in public together and combative differences of opinion, as when the Fifteenth Amendment proposed to give voting rights to black men but not to women. Author and artist notes and a time line conclude a powerful testament to a friendship that spanned decades as it challenged conventions and “helped America grow up, too.”

School Library Journal

Offering a new perspective, this informational picture book details the deep friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Even though their friendship was taboo for the time period, they were able to withstand prejudice and even violence, including the brawls and fights that broke out when the two spoke against slavery together, and being pelted with rotten eggs. The illustrations are simple and realistic, focusing on the strength of their rapport. The author eloquently weaves together information about the fight against slavery and the battle for women's rights, setting this title apart from others. An extensive author's note provides more information on research and on the bronze sculpture of Anthony and Douglass in Rochester, New York. A solid addition that will spark conversations about gender and racial equality.

Kirkus Reviews

Two important historical figures from separate worlds come together for the common purpose of freedom. From the first line of this work of creative nonfiction, the author makes clear the contrasts between Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony: The cabin in which the slave, Frederick, was born had clay floors; the two-story house in which Susan was born had floors of polished wood. Despite differences in race, class and upbringing, Douglass and Anthony determined to be friends despite the taboos against cross-racial friendships. Both Slade's text and Tadgell's watercolor illustrations emphasize the passion each had for social justice as well as the lengths to which they both went to maintain their friendship. Often, characters in the background peer at them, looking disgusted or scandalized. In one illustration, enemies throw rotten eggs at them; Douglass' angry expression and Anthony's upraised fist speak to their determination to make their friendship an example of how America should be. The backmatter, which includes a photograph of bronze sculptures in Rochester, New York, of Douglass and Anthony having tea together, also offers useful information from the author in which she delineates the facts versus the fiction in the story. This biographical gem places the spotlight on a friendship far ahead of its time.


Can a friendship change a nation? In a most inappropriate friendship for their time, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass worked together to gain equality for African Americans and women. The overall focus of the book is their amazing relationship, which lasted more than 45 years. The book begins with a brief introduction of both characters, noting the sharp contrast of their childhoods: Anthony’s was one of privilege, while Douglass’ was one of “chopping, plowing and planting.” Despite a major disagreement over the Fifteenth Amendment, the short pages of text show how they helped the nation make profound progress in the area of “liberty and justice for all.” The watercolor illustrations provide historical context. Back matter includes richly detailed notes from the author and illustrator, a bibliography, source notes, and a time line.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-568-2

ISBN: 978-1-58089-569-9

ISBN: 978-1-60734-749-1 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-651-7 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 40
8 x 10

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Informational. Grade 2. Standards 1-6, 8, and 10.
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Informational. Grade 3. Standards 1-8 and 10.

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