Frederick Douglas (Douglas) was a 19th century abolitionist and intellectual who was born into slavery and obtain his freedom by escape and eventually pardoned. He modeled the strength and spirit of African American survival and demonstrated the unquenchable thirst to attain liberation, not only for himself but for the entire African American population. As a slave, he experienced and witnessed some of the most atrocious acts of human kind; as a “fugitive”, he met some of the warmest people within the hostile grip of slave economy who supported his survival; and as an anti-slavery activist, Douglas observed and battled the extreme polarities of proponents and opponents of chattel servitude. His oratorial talent catapulted Douglas to be one of the most respected and adorned articulators of his time. He traveled between Europe and America galvanizing anti-slavery sentiment for the abolitionist movement. Douglass, along with Martin Delaney, would start an instrumental publication called the “Northern Star” which provided a vocal outlet for African American abolitionist. The significance of his story stands out for two important reasons: Douglass’ position on education in relation to African American liberation and his abolitionist activism and his commitment to anti-slavery efforts.
The compelling triumph of Douglass’ was, in his enslavement, he manage to start the process of educating himself in a hostile environment that prevented such actions. At the age of 7, Douglass was sold to the Auld family in Baltimore. His new mistress, the wife of his master, being unfamiliar with slave ownership, begin to teach him the alphabets at his request. Mr. Auld rejected such actions, Douglass write, and forbade his wife to teach the slave literacy because “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master….Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.” (Douglass, 146) Douglass exclaims that it was at this moment that he understood, “the path way from slavery to freedom.” (Douglass, 147) He discovered that one of the difference between his plot life versus his master was education. Personally, this is my yearning. Just as important now as it was when Douglass discovered it, in order to change my plight in life I have to educate myself. This is the disposition i used in the “Education Metaphor” discussion post. Like most African Americans, a partition of my economic and political inheritance is derived from the slave institution and its cousin Jim Crow. In order for me to finally destroy its lasting link, and its inconceivable impermanence, upon my family educating myself is the most essential ingredient. Douglass realize this and became a loud proponent for its cause in order to liberate the 19th century African American populace.
Douglass’ anti-slavery activism became the hallmark of his earlier career and elevate him to be a prominent moral agent for the common good of America. After his escape to freedom, reaching a destination of New York, life’s circumstances landed him with William Loyd Garrison, a rising champion of anti-slavery effort in the north. This encounter opened the door to Douglass’ first lecture on his personal experience as a slave. During the next several years, traveling circuits in northern states, promoting abolition’s philosophy with Garrison, an incident developed that almost jeopardized Douglass’ freedom. He fled the US to England, and through empathetic anti-slavery comrades in Britain, managed to purchase his freedom from his former master. Though tempted to remain abroad, Douglass returned to the states with the sheer commitment “that I had a duty to perform — that was, to labor and suffer with the oppressed in my native land.” (Douglass, 326) Douglass returned and continued his effort to advocate for the millions of voiceless in bondage.
Douglass’ life was committed to the common welfare of African Americans. I argue that his voice for the enslaved was simultaneously the choir for all of America. He took a non-violent approach to a brutally violent environment. During his abolitionist career, Douglass jeopardize his life in many incidents for the moral and righteous conscience of America. Amongst the freed population, Douglass labored to “promote the moral, social, religious, and intellectual elevation” for the purpose of attacking slavery and gaining political rights in the north. (Douglass, 407) Douglass provide clarity to what I choose to use my education for and the devotion of my career. He provides a 19th century blueprint of democratic practice that remains to be relevant.