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Remembering The Work Of Frederick Douglass

July 4th, 2013 · 14 Comments · Analysis and Comment

Retired city firefighter Ron Mackey reminds us of the work and words of leading abolitionist, writer and orator of the 19th Century, Frederick Douglass.

Here is a little American history that I looked up and I have posted before, it’s just a reminder of how far this country has moved forward but there is much more to do.

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence that was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was the best known and most influential African American leader of the 1800s. He was born a slave in Maryland but managed to escape to the North in 1838.

He traveled to Massachusetts and settled in New Bedford, working as a laborer to support himself. In 1841, he attended a convention of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society and quickly came to the attention of its members, eventually becoming a leading figure in the New England antislavery movement.

He settled in Rochester, New York, where he published The North Star, an abolitionist newspaper. He directed the local underground railroad which smuggled escaped slaves into Canada and also worked to end racial segregation in Rochester’s public schools.

In 1852, the leading citizens of Rochester asked Douglass to give a speech as part of their Fourth of July celebrations. Douglass accepted their invitation.

In his speech, however, Douglass delivered a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of a nation celebrating freedom and independence with speeches, parades and platitudes, while, within its borders, nearly four million humans were being kept as slaves.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Steven Auerbach

    Ron Mackey, thank you for posting. Slavery still remains one of the darkest times in American history. But here we are in the 21st century and gays and woman are still fighting for rights. We as a nation tend to waste time debating ridiculous issues while making personal issues the debate of the day. It is also even more ironic most times the once oppressed become the oppressors. I hope Hollywood continues to make movies depicting the trials and tribulations of African Americans using the top guns of Hollywood for mass-marketing appeal. Frederick Douglass was indeed a most impressive character. I am personally interested in a film on Harriet Tubman … “all men are created equal” “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” … for all!

    • Steven Auerbach

      The recent Supreme Court ruling on voting shows just how much more work is needed. I believe the United States will go through major changes and upheaval in the next few years. I see a new civil war and it will not be pretty.

    • Bob

      Shame on you Steven … you forget the antisemitism that is rife in this country and the fact Jews were part of the struggle for equality for ALL Americans.
      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Moskowitz
      Read this about one of the founders of the NAACP.

      • Steven Auerbach

        Bob … shame on me? Antisemitism is still an issue in this country. I was responding to Mackey. African Americans have been instrumental in building this country. They have also suffered here in the states in our lifetimes. You can see an African American coming at you. A Jew, Protestant, Catholic and Gay you cannot. I am a proud Jew. I am a huge supporter of the minority communities. We are all in this together. I am well aware of my heritage. It doesn’t mean I cannot stand with other groups comfortably and shout what is not acceptable to me.

        • Bob

          Here’s what I was responding to Steve, “But here we are in the 21st century and gays and woman are still fighting for rights.” and interestingly omitted the on-going issue of antisemitism. You also stated, “You can see an African American coming at you. A Jew, Protestant, Catholic and Gay you cannot.” But you can see a woman coming at you. Be careful of your PC statements … we are ALL in this together. And just to reiterate, the Jews have done more for the betterment of the Black communities in the U.S. than any other “minority.”

          • Steven Auerbach

            Okay Bob, got you. Not ashamed of comments. I am fully aware of Jews standing with African Americans. I was simply referring to Mr. Mackey’s essay. I was not writing on antisemitism in America but appreciate your raising awareness. Did you know kids in the Bridgeport school system never met a Jew before and 99 percent have no idea what Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are or why they are off from school. There is your FYI fact. Did you know Jesus was Jewish? They don’t. Is it the parents’ or local pastor’s fault? There is my input on antisemitism.

          • Bob

            Steve, the name Auerbach refers to an area either in Germany or Austria … therefore Galicia (galiciano) … my last name was changed from Bernstein (Amber in German or Polish, I’m of Ashkenazi descent) by my father who experienced antisemitism in the south, where he had many clients.

          • Steven Auerbach

            Bob, I am Ashkenazi. Town in Germany named after my family, grandparents were Austrian. My mother’s grandmother Sephardic. We were royals in Spain. Truth! I have never experienced any blatant antisemitism. ONLY comments inquiring about Ultra Orthodox Jews in New York and I try to explain they are a sect unto themselves and do not mingle with other branches of Judaism. I was raised conservative, my grandparents were orthodox (like Jesus) and these days I am observant. I respect all religions. The majority of my friends are Roman Catholic as well as former Catholics, a few Muslims and Buddhists. I LOVE DIVERSITY.

  • Ron Mackey

    POLL TAX: The tax has long been attacked as being an unfair burden upon those less able to pay. In the United States, the poll tax has been connected with voting rights. Poll taxes enacted in Southern states between 1889 and 1910 had the effect of disenfranchising many blacks as well as poor whites, because payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voting. By the 1940s some of these taxes had been abolished, and in 1964 the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution disallowed the poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in federal elections. In 1966 this prohibition was extended to all elections by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that such a tax violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain introduced a poll tax with exemptions for people with low incomes or disabilities. The measure was extremely unpopular and played a role in her replacement as prime minister later that year.

  • Ron Mackey

    In closing I must say I find it to be very sad Bridgeport does not celebrate the 4th of July. No parade, no fireworks show, this a day of celebration but not by this City. Yes, Bridgeport’s parade and fireworks are celebrated for PT Barnum but I’m sure there is some way a connection between the two can be made so either the parade or the fireworks can be changed to the 4th of July.

  • Mojo

    *** Remembering the birthdate of a new nation in the new world that was supposed to be based on the principles of “freedom.” Yet looking back at history throughout the world we see slavery was a common way of life for many powers that would overtake the weak. What cheaper way of paying for the cost of war than by forced slave labor? In the end it’s all about the Benjamins and Power and the fear it can create to keep control of the masses, no? *** FREE YOUR MIND! ***

  • Hector A. Diaz

    Ron, thank you for the post. I’m not sure if you know of John Hanson, one of the signers of the Declaration, a free (RICH) Black man who helped finance George Washington’s army. He is considered by some to be one of the first Presidents {before the Constitution} of America. He designed what is and has been the Presidential Seal. You don’t hear much about him in school.

    • BlackRockGuy

      Actually Hector, the part about Hanson being a free person of color is not true. He is confused with another John Hanson who was one of the founders of Liberia.

  • Ron Mackey

    Here are two more quotes from Frederick Douglass:
    Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

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