Black Empowerment II: Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave who changed America

Frederick Douglass, born a slave in 1818 in the Maryland, was a genius writer and orator who became a figure of the abolition of slavery. After living hell as a slave, he managed to escape and gave many conferences about the life of a slave. He also wrote autobiographies and book about his former condition. All in all, his deeds had a major impact in the world consciousness about the slavery conditions which finally led to the abolition.


Frederick Douglass


So what can we learn from the deeds of the heroic Frederick Douglass to grow as a person and a community?



What made Frederick what he became was his willingness to educate himself, despite his status as a slaver’s possession. When he was twelve, the wife of his owner taught him the basics of reading, breaking the law and her husband’s orders. As Frederick old master said “Knowledge would spoil the best nigger in the world. If you teach this nigger to read, it wouldn’t be possible to hold him anymore. It would make him unfit to be a slave.” Hearing this, Frederick had a revelation and decided to put his education above anything. He studied secretly during his spare time and managed to buy his first book with the money he got selling boots on the black market. He also gave reading class to the other slaves in the plantation he was working in, sharing his knowledge. That’s that strength and this determination that gave him the possibility to make up his own ideas about slavery and mark History.



Frederick Douglass has experienced some of the worst mental and physical treatments you can think of. When he was 6, he saw his aunt being suspended by the arms and violently whipped by the slave master.  Through his whole youth, he was regularly beaten and reminded of his status of thing, but his mind and will never broke. He tried to flee once and was sent to jail but it only gave him more determination to try again. He finally managed to escape disguised as a sailor and reached New York. He spent 8 years in unlawful freedom, living clandestinely before being officially freed. It didn’t stop him from travelling in the whole country giving conference publically and publishing an autobiographic best seller. The bravery of Frederick Douglass is astonishing and he never let fear and despair stop him from his vision while going through and harder life than we can imagine today.   



When Frederick Douglass began to give conference all over so country to tell his story, the audience was so fascinated, charmed and deeply moved that they could never forget his speeches. It is not only because Frederick has an incredible story, but because he trained long and hard his rhetoric and eloquence to become a master of the oratory arts. It multiplied the power of his story and of the anti-slavery message he wanted to pass along.

When Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, the only criticism the racism apologists could find was “this is fake, a nigger can’t be that eloquent” while the book sold so well it helped humanize the American public opinion. This book wouldn’t have such an impact if the fugitive slave did not write so well and could not use the power of the words to magnify his ideas.


Frederick Douglass old


“Is there is no struggle, there can be no progress” - Frederick Douglass


To conclude, what can we learn of the deeds of Frederick Douglass to grow as a person and a community? First of all, as we saw before with Marcus Garvey, education is the basics for all successes to come. Whatever your age or your social education, you must thrive for knowledge and try to get smarter with a wider spirit to have the weapons to win. Then, he teaches us the importance of bravery. If you let any type of fear or bad experiences break your will, you’re just another victim. Of course, it is easier said than done as some of us must go through some traumatic things but let’s be honest, most of us didn’t live half what Frederick Douglass had to suffer. Finally, he teaches us something more specific with his mastery of the oratory skills. He teaches us a way to make our voices heard and better understood, he teaches us a way to get more support for our causes and he teaches us that the pen can be mightier than the sword.


Anyway, through his incredible story and qualities, Frederick Douglass must be an example to us all and we must be sure that is legacy goes through to our youth.


Thanks to Nicolas from The Nation Clothing who helped write this article!

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