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What would Frederick Douglass say?

Stacy Swimp | 2/24/2012, 8 p.m.

Frederick Douglass was considered a founding father of freedom, an orator, author and statesman as evidenced by President Abraham Lincoln’s bestowing Douglass with unprecedented “open door” access to the White House, making Douglass the first African American to receive such an honor. He also served as minister-resident and consul-general to the Republic of Haiti (1889–1891) and was considered a highly- successful entrepreneur.

As a result of his many accomplishments, Douglass stands as a leader among leaders and remains a shining example of the power of abiding love, faith, hope and determination.

Douglass, a Republican, was not born in a conservative household nor fed from an elitist table. In order to understand his ardent support of the Republican Party platform, you have to understand his roots.

Although functionally illiterate at the age of eight, Douglass credited abolitionists with spurring his education and literacy and opening the gateway to his subsequent prosperity.

He reported years of bondage as a slave left him feeling broken in body, soul and spirit. His 1838 escape from slavery led him to New York where he became familiar with William Lloyd Garrison’s weekly journal The Liberator.

He eventually met Garrison personally and became his protégée, as well as an abolitionist speaker of the American Antislavery Society, which Garrison founded.

Like many political leaders, the two had differences of opinions, and in 1851 parted over Douglass’ belief that the Constitution represented a document which might liberate enslaved Blacks — a belief that Garrison fiercely opposed.

When the Republican party (led by abolitionists and ex-Whigs) was founded in 1854, Douglass became one of its fiercest champions declaring: “I am a Republican, a Black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.”

Douglass supported Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential race in 1860, only to be crushed by the newly elected President’s election-day declaration of his promise to uphold fugitive slave laws and not interfere with slavery in the states where it was already established.

Rather than attempt to defeat the newly-elected leader, Douglass continued to press President Lincoln to be true to his values and his opposition to slavery.

The act helped the two men to rise above their personal expectations and, later, the President’s objection to Blacks fighting in the union army.

Two of Douglass’ sons served in the civil war as a result and Frederick Douglass remained resolutely committed to freedom and progress.  

In a society where we have a profound leadership vacuum and little knowledge or our African American heroes, Frederick Douglass’ example is desperately needed. We can only imagine what our leader might say about our condition today:

“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”

Forty-five years after Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society Utopia”, two generations of Americans are trapped in bondage. Today’s society has within it a welfare dependent culture. Thus, millions are yet in bondage to a mentality of entitlement.