Frederick Douglass bicentennial

I’ve long been fascinated with Frederick Douglass. The son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, “Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey” was born in February of 1818 on Maryland’s eastern shore as an enslaved person. But he became a free man, and was one of the leading spokespersons in the abolitionist cause. He was also an ally in the women’s movement.

He did some of his greatest writing and oration in upstate New York. His July 5, 1852 speech about Independence Day when one is enslaved is an epic piece.

On the 200th anniversary of his birth month, here’s just a small bit from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

“I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land… I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.

“We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus…

“The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time.

“The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

Read more about Frederick Douglass here or here or here.

Connecting the historical dots: Ferguson to Charleston

“People should not spend their days mourning relatives they never knew from a war that ended 150 years ago, especially if that feeling is so paramount that it outweighs the sense of brotherhood they might feel toward fellow humans who are alive…”

Little Rock, 1957
Little Rock, 1957
At my relatively diverse, but still primarily white, church, I am the de facto organizer for Black History Month each February. I’ve noticed that 2016 will mark the 90th anniversary of what what was Negro History Week, designed by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. “Besides building self-esteem among blacks, [it] would help eliminate prejudice among whites.”

I think the argument that the United States is “post-racial”, now that Barack Obama has been elected President twice, has been pretty well negated by the events of the past six years. There are those who will seriously argue that because Obama, and for that matter, actress Halle Berry, had white mothers, they shouldn’t be considered black. Anyone passingly aware of the historic obsessive nature of the US government to define race Continue reading “Connecting the historical dots: Ferguson to Charleston”

‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ by Frederick Douglass

I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.

This year, in addition to reading the Declaration of Independence – I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere, consider reading Frederick Douglass’ July 4, 1852 address, only a portion of which has been included here. And if you’re in Albany, NY area, check out a speaker on this very subject this morning:

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation…. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence… Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier…
Continue reading “‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ by Frederick Douglass”