Frederick Douglass

Byron R.Titus | Política y sociedad / TRANSFORMACIÓN

In 1838, Frederick Johnson and Anna Murray arrived to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they lived for three years before moving to Lynn, Massachusetts, where they changed their last name to Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in a cotton plantation of Talbot County, Maryland, sometime around June 26th 1889 –the exact date is unknown–. Later on, he will chose February 14th to celebrate his birthday. He was christened as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey by his slave mother Harriet. It was suspected that Aaron Anthony, a white plantation overseer was his father.

After escaping slavery and settling in Massachusetts as Frederick Douglass, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement. And, contrary to the slaveholder’s propaganda, thru his work, Douglass became a living proof that former slaves, as everyone else, when free, did have the intellectual capacity to become independent citizens. In matter of fact, Douglass surpassed all expectations and prejudices learning how to read and write, becoming a self-taught orator, activist and writer, who’s fame first extended to New York, then to the rest of the US, and lastly to the whole world.

Douglass lived an active and very productive seventy seven years long life. However, he wrote in his autobiography that one of his most important achievements in life had been «to learn how to read and write». Luck has it that at around the age of 11 years, after the dead of his mother, Douglass was send to Baltimore to live and serve at the house of Hugh Auld, whose wife Sophia taught him the alphabet. Later on, Sophia Auld, under orders of her husband, would stop teaching him, convinced that education was not meant for slaves. Influenced by her husband, she came to believe –like others during that time–, that education was counterproductive for slavery, because it contributed to liberate people’s minds and in so, promote «freedom».

Frederick Douglass would later share that he was self-thought, by using the basis of the alphabet, learning to read and write from white children in Baltimore and others that he worked with. He became famous for appropriately pointing out that «Knowledge is the path from slavery to freedom».

At the age of 16, Mrs. Sophia Auld, his then owner after losing her husband,send Douglass to work for a very cruel farmer. But, after a few whippings, Douglass rebelled against the abuse of the farmer and defended himself. After that incident, the farmer never bothered him again. Unsuccessfully, Douglass tried to escape slavery 2 times (1836). O the third attempt, on September 3rd 1938, he was helped to escape by Miss Anna Murray, a free black woman with whom later Douglass fell in love, married and live with until her death in 1882.

It is while living in Lynn, Massachusetts, that Mr. Douglass wrote his best-know work, his first autobiography Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass; an American slave, which was not published some 4 years later, in 1845. Other important bodies of work will follow this publicaton.

Following the Douglass’ stay in Lynn and to avoid unresolved slavery issues trouble with his former owner (?), Mr. Douglass left the United States and spend around two years traveling thru Ireland and England. He returned to settle in Rochester, NY, in 1847. At his return to the US, Douglass started publishing his first abolitionist newspaper that stated: «Right is of no sex, truth is of no color, God is the father of us all, and we are all brethren». Basically, his equality’s manifesto.

Frederick Douglass has been considered the most influential African American of the 19th century (Roy). His various contributions to women’s rights, free public education, land reform, among many other, have been invaluable. According to Roy Finkenbine, Douglass understood that «The struggle for emancipation and equality demanded forceful, persistent, and unyielding agitation». Douglass was a firm believer in people’s equality.

Fotografía tomada de Wikimedia Commons.

Byron R.Titus

Sociólogo, investigador científico y transformador. Conferencista y asesor internacional. Actualmente director del Regional Resource Center en Webster MA. Fundador y director del Centro de Transformación a la Excelencia. Vivo fuera de Guatemala desde la noche del dia de la virgen de Guadalupe 1975. Mi cumpleaños es el 15 y 16 de julio, resido -hasta que San Juan baje el dedo- en Nueva Inglaterra, EUA. Amante de las artes, particularmente la literatura y la música.


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