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Black History Month: Frederick Douglass

By tim on Feb 3, 2014 3:28 PM
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"I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong." - Frederick Douglass.
The above quote is striking, is it not? But like many great sound bite quotes, it says so much more in context. This comes from a lecture that Douglass gave in 1855 to the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society:
My point here is, first, the Constitution is, according to its reading, an anti-slavery document; and, secondly, to dissolve the Union, as a means to abolish slavery, is about as wise as it would be to burn up this city, in order to get the thieves out of it. But again, we hear the motto, 'no union with slave-holders;' and I answer it, as the noble champion of liberty, N. P. Rogers, answered it with a more sensible motto, namely--'No union with slave-holding.' I would unite with anybody to do right; and with nobody to do wrong.
Frederick Douglass is one of those historical figures we all remember from school. The striking figure he posed with his handsome features and his mane of salt-and-pepper hair leaves quite the impression. But the real worth of this man came from his mind, his tongue, and his pen. For another taste of this man's amazing way with words, here is an excerpt from his more famous speech know as 'What to the slave is the 4th of July?':
Fellow citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave's point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July!
Douglass was a pioneer of civil rights, speaking and writing not just for abolition but also for universal suffrage and the desegregation of schools. A brilliant and eloquent orator, writer, and statesman, there is no way a brief blog entry can possibly do justice in explaining the greatness of such a man. I instead merely implore you to take a look at both his own writings and any of the various books about the man in our collection. This entry is part of our coverage of Black History Month 2014.


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