Have you seen the Frederick Douglass memes all over social media? They mostly take aim at President Donald J. Trump for his brief comment on the first day of Black History Month this year. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job, that is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said, leading people to speculate whether the president knows who Douglass was.
Douglass, the civil rights icon who escaped slavery and fought for human rights until his death in 1895, has been trending on Twitter and other sites as people keep posting the mainly satirical memes and tweets. But, many also are calling for greater awareness and education about the famous author, orator and feminist hero.
— Yale Univ Press (@yalepress) February 1, 2017
Listed below are a few digital resources where you can learn all about him.
- The History Channel offers a series of videos, telling Douglass’ story.
- Biography also offers a video series.
- C-SPAN presents a video, examining Douglass’ writings.
- Welcome to FresBerg presents an educational cartoon:
Lesson Plans for Educators
- The National Park Service offers a lesson plan titled “Frederick Douglass’ Hat.”
- The Smithsonian lists a number of resources on Black history.
- PBS offers a resource bank and teacher’s guide on slavery in America, complete with videos and educational activities.
- The Frederick Douglass Heritage organization, created by the University of Massachusetts History Club, presents a timeline of his life, a biography, his speeches and publications, activities and more resources.
Recent News Stories
- David Blight writes about Douglass as a refugee in The Atlantic. From his article: “Douglass’s life and work serve as a striking symbol of one of the first major refugee crises in our history. From the 1830s through the 1850s, the many thousands of runaway slaves, like Douglass, who escaped into the North, into Canada, or Mexico put enormous pressure on those places’ political systems. The presence and contested status of fugitive slaves polarized voters in elections; they were the primary subject of major legislation such as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 as well as Supreme Court decisions such as Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857. They were at the heart of a politics of fear in the 1850s that led to disunion. Among the many legacies of Douglass’s life and writings alive today, one of the most potent is his role as an illegal migrant and very public abolitionist orator and journalist posing as a free black citizen in slaveholding America.”
- In his Boston Globe story, Roy Greene quotes excerpts from Douglass’ “A Plea for Free Speech” talk: “A man’s right to speak does not depend upon where he was born or upon his color. The simple quality of manhood is the solid basis of the right — and there let it rest forever.”
- Charles M. Blow asks in his New York Times op-ed: “How could the American ‘president’ or a White House press secretary, or any American citizen for that matter, not know who Douglass is?”
- NBC News explains how Douglass became a trend on social media.
Douglass’ descendants responded to Trump’s comment in the Huffington Post, saying:
“Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job …
- Enduring the inhumanity of slavery after being born heir to anguish and exploitation but still managing to become a force for solace and liberty when America needed it most,
- Recognizing that knowledge was his pathway to freedom at such a tender age,
- Teaching himself to read and write and becoming one of the country’s most eloquent spokespersons,
- Standing up to his overseer to say that ‘I am a man!’
- Risking life and limb by escaping the abhorrent institution,
- Composing the Narrative of his life and helping to expose slavery for the crime against humankind that it is,
- Persuading the American public and Abraham Lincoln that we are all equal and deserving of the right to live free,
- Establishing the North Star newspaper when there was very little in the way of navigation or hope for the millions of enslaved persons,
- Supporting the rights of women when few men of such importance endeavored to do so,
- Arguing against unfair U.S. immigration restrictions,
- Understanding that racism in America is part of our ‘diseased imagination,’
- Recruiting his sons — who were born free — to fight in the war to end the enslavement of other African Americans,
- Being appointed the first black U.S. Marshal by President Rutherford B. Hayes,
- Being appointed U.S. Minister to Haiti by President Benjamin Harrison,
- Serving as a compelling role model for all Americans for nearly two centuries.”
This month next year will mark the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth and his descendants will be publishing the Bicentennial Edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; giving this hard cover book to a million young people in schools, churches, clubs and detention centers as part of their One Million Abolitionists project; and creating a national Frederick Douglass curriculum for elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges, among other things.
Banner image credit: National Park Service
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