Thursday, February 7, 2013

BLACK HISTORY MONTH No. 7: 12 Things to Know About Frederick Douglass

So, apart from the fact that - I mean, what sort of a cockamamie black history month deal would NOT include Frederick Douglass?  On the other hand, it seems kind of rotten to have him and these other complex individuals relegated to 1/12th of the year.  Frederick Douglass is just one heck of a fierce American.  Courageous. Ferocious. And oh my gosh, what a FACE!

"It is easier to build strong children 
than to repair broken men." 

"If there is no struggle,
there is no progress." 

I love this one:
"We have to do with the past 
only as we can make it useful 
to the present and the future." 

1.  He never knew his dad, a white man, and his mom, from whom he was early on taken away, died when he was a boy.  He came into the world in Maryland, around 1818, but no one knows for sure exactly when.

2. Yikes, I should have posted this next week!  Frederick chose Valentine's Day as his birthday.

3.  Originally, he was named Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. 

4. Though doing so was against the law– and against the wishes of her husband: after all, an educated slave might become unhappy about being enslaved –  the wife of one of his white masters taught him his letters and young Frederick scavenged education from white kids, anywhere he could get it.  He practiced reading, newspapers, signs, anything he could find. Then he did his best to teach others.  Until angry, club-wielding white folks broke up his classes.

5. One of his masters, Edward Covey, was known as a "slave-breaker," one who'd beat and torment the spirit out of a slave.    16-year-old Frederick fought back, so much and so well, that Mr. Covey never beat him again.  

Anna Murray Douglass
      "I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions." 
6. On his 3rd attempt, 20-yr-old Frederick escaped. Stole himself away. In 1838.  With the help of his future wife Anna Murray.  Their marriage, which began on 15 Sept 1838, lasted 44 years.

7. In his anti-slavery speeches, he spoke so well, people wondered if he'd really been a slave.  So, he wrote his 1845 bestseller, his  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  

8. Then he left the country.  Went on a 2 year speaking tour of Ireland and England.  Because, really, there's nothing like an escaped slave writing a popular, incendiary autobio to attract the attention of his legal owner.   But you know what happened?  Frederick's fans in Great Britain passed the hat, came up w/ the money for his freedom.

9. Back in the U.S.A. in 1847, F.D. began an antislavery newspaper.  AND, he showed up at Seneca Falls, NY, at the very FIRST Women's Rights Convention.  In the years to come, F.D. would speak often about women's civil rights.  
When Amendment XV to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1870, African American men were allowed to vote.  Women, black or white, would have to wait another 50 years. 

10. For the rest of his life Frederick Douglass wrote newspaper articles, books, speeches. He campaigned for social justice, equal education.  With Ida B. Wells, he campaigned against the vile, nasty practice of lynching. 

Cedar Hill
Helen Pitts Douglass
11.  Is there a Frederick Douglass National Historic Site? Why yes!  Frederick and Anna bought Cedar Hill in southeastern D.C., in 1877.  Five years later, Anna died.  then, in 1884, F.D. remarried. His 2nd wife was sufragist Helen Pitts.   

"This proves I am impartial," F.D. said, laughingly, "My first wife was the color of my mother and the second the color of my father."

12.  The old lion died 11 years later, of a massive heart attack. 

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

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