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During the first week of Black History Month 2017, two historical figures were clumsily brought to the forefront of the American consciousness with snide remarks and clever quips.  One reference was about Abraham Lincoln in reference to Black History Month. The successes and achievements of African Americans did not begin with slavery which shows an alarming disconnect the person who had made that acknowledgement had revealed. Another reference was about Frederick Douglass.  The person who referenced Frederick Douglass in an acknowledgement of Black History Month made it appear that Mr. Douglass was still alive and was now getting properly recognized.  This revealed a lack of comprehension of who Frederick Douglass was in the 19th century.

Imagine a runaway slave having a meeting with the POTUS.  Well, it happened.  In 1863 Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln met at the White House. Douglass was very critical of the president and his policies, so he declared to stop recruiting black men for the army.  Black troops were being ill-treated, and as an abolishionist and reformer, Frederick Douglass wanted better treatment for the black troops.  Lincoln proved to be a politician with his words and deeds which did not immediately create changes for the troops, but Douglass grudgingly liked the man and felt there was room for improvement for the treatment of his people.

“Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery….” -Frederick Douglass

Being born a slave in 1818, Frederick Douglass was determined to better himself.  He was secretly taught to read by others.  This early education began his enlightenment.  He shared what he learned with other slaves and read any and everything to educate himself.  At the age of 28, he escaped. Once free, Frederick Douglass travelled and educated himself.  He was a reformer, abolitionist and orator.  He wrote antislavery editorials and was very outspoken about the treatment of African Americans pre and post the Civil War. He also spoke out on women’s rights.

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In Frederick Douglass’ 2nd autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, he stressed how important literacy was to the African American.  His message is still important today.  As the eyes of the world turn toward the United States of America for all the political and controversial machinations of highly visibile individuals, it’s important to realize the education is the key to self preservation and success.  If Frederick Douglass was alive today, I wonder what he would say if he saw the deplorable conditions of inner city schools.  I wonder what speech he would give to have his people not only focus on sports and entertainment as a means of bettering themselves.  Would he see progress or regression?

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