William Douglass was born free in Baltimore, Maryland in 1804 or 1805. He lived and studied in Maryland, becoming proficient in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. In 1834, he was ordained as the first African American Episcopal deacon. Shortly after which, he moved to Philadelphia where he was ordained as an Episcopal priest and invited to lead the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church there. He had nine children with his first wife Elizabeth and, after her death, marrying Sarah Mapps Douglass. His children were well educated according to his firm belief in the value of education. Douglass was a strong supporter of abolition and activist movements but he was also a fervent advocate for peace. He did not allow the more radical political movements to meet in his church, drawing much criticism from other activists. He published a history of the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, The Annals of the First African Church in the United States, in 1862, and he died later that year.

Reverend William Douglass (circa 1804-1862)