Frederick Douglass: A Bicentennial Tribute


Good evening. I’m Jennifer King. I am the director of the Stuart
A. Rose Manuscript Archives and Rare Book Library. On behalf of Emory University
and the Emory Libraries, it is an honor to welcome you
to the Bicentennial Tribute to Frederick Douglass here
in the Canon Chapel Sanctuary on this very cold fall night. Tonight, we celebrate
the 200th birthday of abolitionist, author,
statesman, and orator Frederick Douglass with live readings
from his speeches, editorials, and letters, many of which
were preserved in the books that we hold in our library. This evening’s program
was beautifully orchestrated by Emory’s curator
of African-American history Pellom McDaniels and expertly
organized by our event team Leslie Wingate, Sara Jones,
Maya Cody, [? Ayana ?] Bohannon, and Ronda Winter. Our presenters tonight
include Emory University faculty and staff librarians,
Atlanta community members, and Douglas’s
direct descendants. Before we begin the
evening’s celebration, I want to offer thanks,
heartfelt thanks, to the Irish consulate in
Atlanta, Consul General Shane Stephens, Vice Consul Ellis
O’Keefe, historian Christine Kinealy, and Sondra Reid,
who provided the inspiration for this evening’s event
and the Kerry Gold cheese that I hope some of you
sampled at the reception. It was delicious. I also want to thank Frederick
Douglas his descendants who traveled to be here
with us today– Kenneth Morris Jr., the great
grandson of Frederick Douglass, and his mother Nettie Douglas,
Douglas’ great granddaughter. Thank you. And a note about another
special guest of ours who I think many of us were
looking forward to meeting this evening– Lewis Gossett Jr. had to
withdraw from the program. But that’s not
the way to put it. Lewis had to travel
to South Africa. And since he couldn’t
be with us in person, he is participating
through a video that he recorded specially
for us for tonight. I also want to thank Emory
Libraries, particularly the Rose Library staff
for building and caring for such an extensive
and extraordinary library and archive. The African-American
collections in the Rose Library tell a comprehensive story
that is 200 years in the making and that, in many ways,
Frederick Douglass was the catalyst for. The Rose Library’s archives,
manuscripts, and rare books are the raw materials
that document the antislavery movements,
the migration of people from the farms into Atlanta,
civic leaders combating Jim Crow, black communists,
religious leaders, black power, HIV-AIDS activists, and
LGBTQ activists of color. The library’s books and literary
manuscripts and the papers of dozens of poets, artists,
and novelists, many of whom are Ireland’s most
prominent poets, brought oppression to light
through their creative works. The collections as a whole
represent the context for and the impact from Frederick
Douglass’ life, his advocacy, and his visionary leadership. The Rose Library’s
inspiring archive is one of the connections
Emory University has with the Irish consulate,
for Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland, as
we learned this evening and we will hear
more about, shortly after publishing his
autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick
Douglass, an American Slave. In Ireland, Douglass
began to explore the meanings of
resistance and citizenship for those denied their
civil and human rights. And that resistance
and citizenship is what brings us
together tonight. Shane, thank you for
bringing us together as a community to hear
Frederick Douglass’ voice as he spoke for civil
and human rights. Thank you very much. Thank you very much
to Jennifer King and also to Pellom McDaniels. Thank you for today. It has been– it is
an immense privilege for the Consulate General
of Ireland here in Atlanta to partner with the
Rose Library in marking this 200th anniversary of the
birth of Frederick Douglass. The reverence with which the
Rose Library have approached this project has
elevated it beyond what I could have imagined. As a diplomat who is tasked
with communicating my people’s message in a foreign land, I am
awestruck and astounded by what a 27-year-old Frederick Douglass
achieved in Ireland in 1845 and in 1846 as a representative
of the embryonic US civil rights movement. Frederick Douglass
reached Tens of thousands of people in Ireland through
his wonderful oratory, through the media, and
through three Irish editions of his narrative,
his autobiography. He also used this platform
that he established for himself in Ireland as
a sort of a second front in his battle with slavery
here in the United States. He used the platform
in Ireland to shame those who were
orchestrating slavery into a change of course. That was his effort. So that’s my personal
reaction to this story. But I think what
is more significant and what explains why I’m here
tonight is that it is actually a matter of Irish
government policy to celebrate and mark the
200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth not only
here in the United States but also in Ireland
because we see his role as an essential
part of the narrative of the relationship
between Ireland and the US. We also are proud to tell
this story because it speaks of a commitment to international
cooperation in pursuit of the advancement
of human rights. And we also tell the story
conscious of the fact that today, my country Ireland
is suddenly and quite recently actually a diverse nation. In the last 30 years, Ireland
has changed dramatically. And now, 18% of our population
was born outside Ireland. And many of those people
who are our citizens and who we as diplomats
are tasked to represent, many of those people
look more like Douglass than they do look like me. So that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re doing this. It’s now my great privilege
to introduce somebody who’s played an essential part in
supporting the Irish efforts to mark this year. It’s my privilege to introduce
Professor Christine Kinealy, who is the author of the newly
published Frederick Douglass in Ireland In His Own Words. Christine is a proud Irish
woman, a member of our diaspora who, like many Irish
people, was born abroad and now lives– but has lived
between Liverpool and Ireland and the United States. And so it’s my great
privilege to introduce her to say a few words to you. Thank you. Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you, Shane. And thank you who’s put
on this magnificent event. It’s such a great way to honor
the great Frederick Douglass. So why is an Irish historian
interested in Frederick Douglass? And you’ve had some hints of it
from Jennifer and from Shane. But from my perspective, reading
about Frederick studying him for 10 years in
great detail, it just seems that at every important
juncture in his life, Ireland was there. You probably know that Frederick
was born Frederick Washington Bailey. His surname name
was not Douglas. It was Bailey. Of course, it sounds Irish. But as he always
joked, genealogy was not too big on
the plantations. So he didn’t know too much
about his Bailey background. When he was teaching himself
to read, he purchased a book– The Colombian Orator. And in that book, he came
across to Irish patriots– Sheridan and Arthur O’Connor. And these men fascinated
him because not only were they great Irish patriots– they were also great
civil rights activists. And this started to
shape his thinking. How can these
ideologies be combined? As a slave, he heard the
great Daniel O’Connell, our Irish national liberator. And he heard O’Connell in
the context of O’Connell as an abolitionist. Daniel O’Connell
always refused to shake the hand of any
American he met until he knew his stance on slavery. In 1838, he refused to shake the
hand of the American ambassador in London. The ambassador was furious. But O’Connell charged him
with being a slave breeder. The ambassador challenged
the now-aged O’Connell to a duel, which O’Connell
refused to fight. But this issue was played
out in the newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. And Frederick Douglass said
he heard his master berate this interfering Irishman. And he knew that if
his master hated him that he would love him. And when Frederick
came to Ireland, one of his reasons
for staying was to meet Daniel O’Connell,
which he did indeed do. So why Ireland? We’ve heard about the narrative. Frederick Douglass escaped
from slavery aged 20. People doubted his story
because he was so articulate, so well-informed, so educated. And so in 1845, he
wrote the narrative, and the narrative was
an immediate success. But it propelled him
into the limelight. And because of the
Fugitive Slave Act, it meant he was in danger of
being recaptured and taken back into slavery. So his friends persuaded
him to travel to England. He did so in August 1845,
arrived in Liverpool, and stayed there for two days. He then traveled to Dublin
because some Quakers in Dublin had offered to reprint the
narrative to give him income to live on while he was abroad. Frederick came to Dublin
with the intention of staying for four days. He stayed for four months
because the welcome he experienced was something he
had never experienced before. The night he arrived, he wrote
to William Lloyd Garrison and said, I am safe
in dear, old Ireland. Two weeks later,
though, he wrote– and his letter was very telling
because not only did Frederick feel safe. For the first time in his
life, he felt an equal. And this is a brief
extract from his letter. One of the most pleasing
features of my visit thus far has been
a total absence of all manifestations
of prejudice against me on account of my color. The change of circumstances in
this is particularly striking. I find myself not treated
as a color but as a man– not as a thing, but as a child
of the common father of us all. So Frederick stayed in Ireland. He lectured. He lectured in Dublin and Cork
and Wexford, Waterford, York, Limerick, and Belfast. And there are many
stories I could tell you about his time in Ireland. He gave in total
almost 50 lectures. When he was leaving Cork, a
soiree was held to honor him, and a local poet, Daniel
Casey, wrote a poem for him, “Kate [INAUDIBLE]
to the Stranger.” And tonight, you’re
going to hear that sung. And when Frederick
died, he still had a copy of that song in
his personal possession. When he was in Belfast,
he bought himself a watch, and he had never
had a watch before. And he kept it for
the rest of his life. And as a very old man, he
wrote about having a watch. And it wasn’t just important in
helping him to keep the time. It meant he was a somebody. So many things in Ireland
were very important to him. But what was also
important– and again, both Jennifer and Shane
have hinted at this– was the idea that she saw other
people who themselves felt themselves to be oppressed. Ireland at this stage had been
a British colony for 600 years. And Irish people,
particularly Catholics, were marginalized
and impoverished. And Frederick witnessed
this firsthand, and it caused him to
change his thinking. And shortly after he left
Ireland, he wrote to Garrison. And in this, you see
the change from being an abolitionist to being a
champion of human rights. I see much here to remind
me of my former condition, and I confess I should
be ashamed to lift up my voice against
American slavery but that I know the cause of
humanity is one the world over. He who really and truly feels
for the American slave cannot steel his heart to
the woes of others. And he who thinks himself an
abolitionist yet cannot enter into the wrongs of others has
yet to find a true foundation for his anti-slavery. Frederick returned to
America in April 1847. He’d been away for 20 months. It was women abolitionists
who purchased his freedom. When he came back, he continued
to fight for abolition, but he also fought
for women’s rights, for equality, and
for social justice wherever he saw injustice. Towards the end of his life,
he was Consul General in Haiti, and in 1893, again, age
75, he made a speech. And the influence of
Ireland is evident. In his speech on
Haiti, he said, it was once said by the
great Daniel O’Connell that the history
of Ireland might be traced like a wounded man
through a crowd by the blood. The same can be said
of the history of Haiti as a free state. Frederick Douglass
never forgot Ireland, and I’m glad to say
Ireland has never forgotten Frederick Douglass. So happy birthday, Frederick. Good evening, everyone. Good evening. So on this occasion,
I am not a speaker. I’m the director, so
I’m going to direct. I’m going to provide you with
the format for this evening but also ask a few kind of
housekeeping kind of gestures here. Phones, if you wouldn’t
mind turning them off so that they’re rather on– what is that called– vibrate or buzz so that
we can’t hear them. Second, if you want to, if you
use social media, we’re #fd200. If you want to livestream,
please keep that hashtag. Also #roselibrary,
#embryuniversity. The more information
that gets out about what we’re doing here
in terms of programming, what we offer in terms of our– you had something? Oh, yes. Oh, I’m sorry. I kind of jumped
ahead of the program. We have one more
presentation, and then I’m going to come back
and see you, OK? As a symbol of our gratitude
to the Rose Library, I would like to present Jennifer
King with a copy of Christina Kinealy’s great new book,
Frederick Douglass in Ireland In His Own Words. [INAUDIBLE] That was worth it. Thank you. So #fd200. So this evening, we have
something very special for you. We’re celebrating Frederick
Douglass’ 200th birthday. And one of the things that we
thought would be important, of course, would be to present
some of the speeches that are iconic of the man and of
the different times in which he lived. Of course, we’ll have
something from 1845 when he’s visiting
Ireland, but we also have a number of
his speeches where he’s speaking specifically
to the Civil War, to Haiti, and also towards
the end of his life when issues around
women’s liberation and also the world in terms
of the politics of the world are central in his focus. So the format for this evening,
we’ll have two readers. The first reader will
provide you with context. The second reader
will provide you with an excerpt from
that particular year that the first reader is
providing you context with. At the end of the
program, we’ll actually have a song being sung
by this young man who’s up front here who will share
with us this song that Douglass held dear to his heart. And we’ll also have a fiddler. Patrick here will also
play the interludes between the different
pairs of speakers. So hopefully, that’s
simple enough. What we’re trying to have
here is both an inspirational, educational, but also a
moment to really reflect on the man who was
Frederick Douglass. Patrick? 1845– on Saturday, August
16, 1845, Frederick Douglass boarded the RMS Cambria,
a paddle wheel steamer bound for Liverpool, England. Douglass’s European
excursion was to promote his new
book, The Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,
written by himself. His growing popularity
among abolitionists and the free and enslaved masses
of people of African descent elevated him as the
quintessential representation of defiant black manhood. This no doubt threatened the
stability of American slavery as well as Douglass’
own safety as an agent against the institution. To be sure, the
trip abroad was also a tactic to protect him from
being kidnapped by bounty hunters and returned
to his prior condition of chattel servitude or worse. Before Douglass
departed from Europe, his publisher, William
Lloyd Garrison, made arrangements
for the printing of an Irish edition
of the narrative with printer Richard Webb. With Webb’s assistance, Douglas
lectured across the Emerald Isle, coming face to
face with supporters of the cause of
freedom and liberty. In providing compelling
personal accounts of the evils of
slavery and the need to continue the fight
for its abolition, the man who would come
to be known as the Black O’Connell in Ireland brought in
livened crowds to their feet, grasping at the sorrow felt and
the hope shared in Douglass’ personal narrative. By all standards, the handsome
and intelligent Douglas, who is also proving to be
an indefatigable warrior for justice and
freedom, was quickly becoming a recognizable agent
for change throughout Europe. This trip would be
transformative not only to Douglass’
sense of destiny as a leader of the movement
to free the enslaved– his journey abroad
would be the catalyst by which he would come
to grasp a greater understanding of the factors
that must be overcome if slavery was to end and
his people liberated to enjoy their full measure of freedom. In his October 23, 1845,
speech at Cork, Ireland, Douglas addressed America’s
prejudice against color and the insistence of
those in favor of slavery that people of African
descent were not human beings but usable commodities to be
bought and sold and traded. Mr. President,
ladies and gentlemen, there is perhaps no argument
more frequently resorted to by the slave holders in
support of the slave system than the inferiority
of the slave. This is the burden
of all their defense of the institution of slavery. The Negro is degraded. He is ignorant. He is inferior. And therefore, it is
right to enslave him. A distinguished
divine lately traveled in these countries
stung to shame for the humanity of his
country, instead of confessing its sin before God
and the universe, adduced the pitiful
argument for slavery of the inferiority of our race. What if we are inferior? Is it a valid reason
making slaves of us, for robbing us of
our dearest rights? Can there be any reason found
in moral or religious philosophy justifying the enslaving
of any class of beings merely on the ground
of their inferiority– intellectual,
moral, or religious? If we search the words
of inspired wisdom, we shall find that
the strong are to bear the infirmities
of the weak, teaching the wise the duty
of instructing the ignorant. And if we consult the
better feelings of humanity, we find all hearts on the
side of the weak, the feeble, the distressed,
and the outraged. In no sound philosophy
can slavery be justified. Tis at war with the best
feelings of the human heart. Tis at war with Christianity. Wherever we find an
individual justifying slavery unjust– a pretext,
you will find him also justifying the slavery
of any human beings on earth. Tis the old argument
on the part of tyrants. Tyrants have ever
justified their tyranny by arguing on the
inferiority of their victims. The slavery of only part or
a portion of the human family is a matter of interest to every
member of the human family, slavery being the
enemy of all mankind. I wish it distinctly to
be understood that this is no feeling of merely
intellectual interest, but tis also a matter
of moral interest to you since the morals it
produces affect all men alike. I speak to the Christian
man and Christian woman. The glory of Christianity is to
be defended, to be maintained. But how, Mr. President,
I ask, is Christianity to be defended and maintained
if its [? professers, ?] if those who stand
forth as its advocates, are found with
their hands dripping with the blood of
their brethren? Why is Christianity to be
maintained if Christians stand by and see men made
in the image of God considered as things,
mere pieces of property? In the name of
Christianity, I demand that the people
of these countries be interested in the
question of slavery. In vain may a slave owner tell
you it is no concern of yours. Mr. President, it belongs to
the whole nation of America and to the Irishman not
because they are Irish, but because they are men. Slavery is so gigantic that
it cannot be coped with by one nation. Hence, I would have the
intelligence and humanity of the entire people of Ireland
against that infamous system. I plead here for man. Not withstanding
our inferiority, we have all the feelings
common to humanity. I will grant frankly,
I must grant, that the Negroes in America
are inferior to the whites. But why are they so? That’s another
question and a question to which I will call your
attention for a few moments. The people of America deprive
us of every privilege. They turn around and taunt
us with our inferiority. They stand upon our necks. They imprudently taunt
us and asked the question why we don’t stand up erect. They tie our feet and
ask us why we don’t run. That is the position of
America in the present time. The laws forbid education. The mother must not teach
her child the letters of the Lord’s Prayer. And then while this
unfortunate state of things exists, they turn around
and ask, why are we not moral and intelligent, and
tell us because we are not, they have the right
to enslave us. Now let me read
a few of the laws of that democratic country. Not that I have anything
against democracy– I’m not here to call into
question the propriety or impropriety of a
democratic government or to say anything in favor
of any kind of government. I am here but to urge the right
of every man to his own body, to his own hand, and
to his own heart. Mr. President, I shall give you
a few specimens of these laws. In South Carolina in 1770,
this law was passed– whereas the teaching
of slaves to write is something connected
with inconvenience, be it enacted that every
person who shall teach a slave to write, for
every such offense, shall forfeit the
penalty of 100 pounds. Mark, we are an inferior race,
morally and intellectually. Hence, tis right to enslave us. The same hypocrites make laws
to prevent our improvement. In Georgia in 1770, similar laws
were passed and in Virginia. South Carolina in 1800
passed the following– that the semblance
of slaves and mulatto was for the purpose of
instruction must be dissolved. In Louisiana, the penalty for
teaching a black in Sunday school is, for the first
offense, $500 fine– for the second, death. This is in America, a Christian
country, a Democratic, a Republican country,
the land of the free, the home of the
brave, the nation that waged the seven years warfare
to get rid of a three penny tea tax and pledged itself
to the declaration that all men are
born free and equal, making it at the same time a
penalty punishable with death for the second offense to
teach a slave his letters. Now I will briefly tell you
what passed during my voyage to this country
which will illustrate the feelings of our people
towards the black man. In taking up one of your
papers this morning, I saw an extract from
the New York Herald by Gordon Bennett, one
of the greatest slave haters in the world. It relates that a remarkable
occurrence took place in the Cambria during
the passage to England. A colored slave
named Douglass is said to have spoken
on anti-slavery and that a row took
place in consequence. You may have occasion to hear
more of the New York Herald. The editor was over here some
time ago at Conciliation Hall, and Mr. O’Connell denounced
him in round terms. Now the circumstance to which
this refers is as follows. I took passage at Boston. Or rather, my friend,
Mr. [? Buffin, ?] the gentleman who lived
in the same town with me, went to Boston
from Lynn to learn if I could have a cabin
passage on board the vessel. He was answered
that I could not, that it would give
offense to the majority of the American passengers. Well, I was compelled to take
a [? steerage ?] passage. Good enough for me. I suffered no inconvenience
from the place. I kept myself in the
fore castle cabin and walked about on
the forward deck. Walking about there
from day to day, my presence soon
excited the interest of the persons on
the quarter deck, and my character
and situation were made known to several
gentlemen of distinction on board, some of whom
became interested in me. In four or five days, I was very
well-known to the passengers, and there was quite a
curiosity to hear me speak on the subject of slavery. I did not feel at liberty
to go on the quarter deck. The captain at last invited
me to address the passengers on slavery. I consented, commenced, but
soon observed a determination on the part of some half a
dozen to prevent my speaking who I found were slave owners. I had not uttered more than
a sentence before up started a man from Connecticut
and said, that’s a lie. I proceeded without
taking notice of him. Then, shaking his fist
again, he said, that’s a lie. Some said I should not
speak, others that I should. And I wanted to inform the
English, Scotch, and Irish on board on slavery. I told them that blacks were
not considered human beings in America. Up started a slave
owner from Cuba. Oh, said he, I wish
I had you in Cuba. Well, said I, ladies
and gentlemen, since what I have said
has been pronounced lies, I will read not
what I’ve written but what the southern
legislators themselves have written. I mean the law. I proceeded to read. This raised a general
clamor, for they did not wish the laws exposed. They hated facts. I’ll say that again. They hated facts. They knew that the people
of these countries who were on the deck would draw
their own references from them. Here, a general hurry ensued. Down with the nigger, said one. He shan’t speak, said another. I sat with my arms
folded, feeling no way anxious for my fate. I never saw a more
barefaced attempt to put down the freedom of
speech than upon this occasion. Now came the captain. He was met by one of
the other party, who put out his fist at him. The captain knocked him down. Instead of his
bowing, the fallen man drew out his [? card, ?] crying,
I’ll meet you in Liverpool. Well, said the captain,
and I’ll meet you. The captain restored order
and proceeded to speak. I have done all I could from
the commencement of the voyage to make the voyage
agreeable to all. We have had a little
of everything on board. We’ve had all sorts of
discussions– religious, moral, and political. We have had singing
and dancing, everything that we could have except
an antislavery speech. And since there was a number of
ladies and gentlemen interested in Mr. Douglass, I
requested him to speak. Now those who are not
desirous to hear him, let them go to another
part of the vessel. Gentlemen, he said, you
have behaved derogatory to the character of
gentlemen and Christians. Mr. Douglass, he said, go on and
pitch it into them like bricks. However, the excitement
was such that I was not allowed to go on. The agitation,
however, did not cease, for the question was
discussed the moment we landed at Liverpool. The captain threatened
the disturbers with putting them in irons
if they did not become quiet. These men disliked
irons, so they were quieted by the threat. Yet this famous class have
put the irons on the black. Now that I’m alluding
to papers, allow me to say that there has been
a little misunderstanding between myself and the
reporter of one of your papers. I’m glad to have an opportunity
of making an explanation respecting the matter. I believe the name of the
paper is the Constitution. The first meeting, which
was held in the courthouse, was reported, and the
reporter took occasion to speak of me as a
fine, young Negro. Well, that is the mode of
advertising in our country a slave for sale. I took occasion to allude to
the apparent sweeping manner in which I was
spoken of, but I find from information which I have
received that the gentleman who wrote it had no intention to
sneer or speak slightingly of me or the Negro race at all. I am glad to know it. This simple meeting
gathered together today may do something towards
freeing the bondsman. Every true word
spoken, every right aim leveled against
slavery in this land, will affect wonders
in the destiny of the black slave in America. They will be free only
by the combined influence of the Christian world. They can’t be free otherwise. America has not sufficient
moral stamina in herself to emancipate the slave
unassisted by the world. 1852– by 1852,
Douglas’s star had risen to a pinnacle of national
and international influence. His tour of Europe
garnered the support of the Irish and English for
the case against slavery. Through the efforts of
friends, his freedom was secured legally from his
former master, Hugh [? Ald. ?] Settling in to his role as
a leader in the revolution to free his people, Douglass
accelerated his writing and lecturing about the evils
of the institution of slavery, the rights of man,
women’s suffrage, and the responsibility
of government to protect its subjects
of every class. The former slave was a firebrand
for the defiance of slavery. He had, in his own
words, believed that knowledge was power, as
was evidenced by his own rise from ignorance to enlightenment. Indeed, Douglass had become one
of the most formidable figures of the age, deftly challenging
African colonization and the constitutionality
of slavery and its expansion into the Western United States. As a free African-American man,
Douglas had managed to not only publish his experiences and
opinions about the institution of slavery and attack those
supporting its continued abuses– he traveled widely throughout
the northern region of the country to keep the
struggle alive in the minds and actions of abolitionists. In writing and speaking
truth to the masses, Douglas was, in fact,
empowering and inspiring the impulse of liberty in
the hearts of those wandering in the deserts of despair. On July 4, 1852, in Corinthian
Hall in Rochester, New York, Douglas gave one of the
most biting addresses at an event intended to
commemorate the Declaration of Independence. On this day, he did not
disappoint those in attendance. What, to the American
slave, is your 4th of July? I answer– a day that reveals
to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross
injustice and cruelty to which he is the
constant victim. To him, your
celebration is a sham– your boasted liberty
and unholy license– your national greatness,
swelling vanity. Your sounds of rejoicing
are empty and heartless. Your denunciations of tyrants,
brass fronted impudence. Your shouts of liberty and
equality, hollow mockery. Your prayers and hymns, your
sermons and thanksgivings with all your religious
parade and solemn duty are, to him, a bombast,
fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy– A. Thin veil to cover
up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a
nation on the earth guilty of practices
more shocking and bloody than the people
of these United States at this hour. Go where you may. Search where you will. Roam through all the monarchies
and despotisms of the world. Travel through South America. Search out every abuse. And when you have
found the last, lay your facts by the side
of the everyday practices of this nation, and
you will say with me that for revolting barbarity
and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival. Take the American slave trade
which we are told by the papers is especially
prosperous just now. Ex-senator Benton tells
us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions this fact to show
that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one
of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all
the large towns and cities in one half of this
confederacy, and millions are pocketed every year by
dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade
is a chief source of wealth. In contradistinction
to the foreign slave trade, the internal slave
trade, it is probably called so, in order to divert
from the horror with which the foreign
slave trade is contemplated. That trade has long
since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced
with burning words from the high places of this
nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to
put an end to it, this nation keeps a
squadron at immense cost on the coast of Africa. Everywhere in this
country, it is safe to speak of the foreign
slave trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike
to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extrapolate
and destroy it is admitted even by our
doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to
it, some of these [INAUDIBLE] have consented that their
colored brethren, nominally free, shall leave this country
and establish themselves on the Western coast of Africa. It is, however, a notable fact
that while so much excretion is poured out by Americans
upon those engaged in the foreign
slave trade, the men engaged in the slave trade
between the states passed without condemnation. And their business
is deemed honorable. Behold the practical operation
of this internal slave trade, the American slave trade,
sustained by American politics and American religion. Here, you will see
men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine driver? I will show you a man driver. They inhabit all of
our southern states. They perambulate the
country and crowd the highways of the nation
with droves of human stock. You see one of these human
flesh jobbers armed with pistol, whip, and Bowie knife driving
a company of 100 men, women, and children from the
Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people
are to be sold singly or in lots to suit
the purchasers. They are food for the cotton
field and the deadly sugar mill. Mark the sad procession
as it moves wearily along and the inhuman wretch
who drives them. Hear his savage yells and
his blood chilling oaths as he hurries on his
afrighted captives. There, see the old man
with locks thin and gray. Cast one glance, if you
please, upon that young mother whose shoulders are bare
to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the
brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl
of 13 weeping– yes, weeping– as she thinks
of the mother from whom she has been torn. The droves move tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly
consumed their strength. Suddenly, you hear a quick snap,
like the discharge of a rifle. The [? fetters ?] clank,
and the thin change rattles simultaneously. Your ears are
saluted with a scream that seems to have torn its
way to the center of your soul. The crack you heard was the
sound of the slave whip. The scream you heard was
from that young woman you saw there with the babe. Her speed had faltered
under the weight of her child and her chains. That gash on her shoulder
tells her to move on. Follow the drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction. See man examined like horses. See the forms of women
rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of
American slave buyers. See this drove sold
and separated forever and never to forget the
deep, sad sobs that arose from the scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens,
where under the sun you can witness a spectacle
more fiendish and shocking. Yet, this is but a glance
at the American slave trade as it exists at
this moment in the ruling part of the United States. But still more inhuman,
disgraceful, and scandalous the state of things
remains to be presented. By an act of the American
Congress not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in
its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, the Mason-Dixons
line has been obliterated. New York has become as
Virginia, and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men,
women, and children as slaves remains no longer a
mere state institution but is now an institution
of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive
with the Star Spangled Banner and American Christianity. Where these go may also go
the merciless slave hunter. Where these men are,
man is not sacred. He is a bird for
the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and
fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of
every man are put in peril. Your broad, Republican domain
is a hunting ground for men– not for thieves, robbers,
enemies of society, merely, but men
guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have
commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your president, your
secretary of state, our lords, nobles, and
ecclesiastics enforce as a duty you owe to your
free and glorious country and to your god that you
do this accursed thing. Not fewer than 40 Americans
within the past two years have been hunted down and
without a moment’s notice hurried away in chains
and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives
and children dependent on them for bread. But of this, no
account was made. The right of the
hunter to his prey stands superior to
the right of marriage and to all the rights
in [? his ?] republic, the rights of God included. For black man, there are neither
law, justice, humanity, not religion. The Fugitive Slave law
makes mercy to them a crime and bribes the judge
who tries them. An American judge gets
$10 for every victim he consigns to slavery and
$5 when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains
is sufficient under this hell black enactment to send the most
pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless
jaws of slavery. His own testament is nothing. He can bring nothing
to witness for himself. The minister of
American justice is bound by the law to
hear but one side, and that side is the
side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact
be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the
world that in tyrant killing, king hating, people loving,
democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice
are filled with judges who hold their offices
under an open palpable bribe and who are bound in deciding
the case of a man’s liberty. They hear only his accusers. In glaring violation of
justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering
law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenseless,
and in diabolical intent, this fugitive slave
law stands alone in the annals of
tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there’ll be another
nation on the globe having the brass and baseness to put
such a law on the statute book. If any man in this
assembly thinks differently from me in this matter and feels
able to disprove my statements, I’ll gladly confront
him at any suitable time and place he may select. I take this law to be one of
the grossest infringements of Christian liberty, and if
the churches and ministers of our country were not
stupidly blind or most wickedly indifferent, they too
would so regard it. 1863– from the outset,
the American Civil War was recognized as a white man’s
war to be settled by white men alone. It would be fought to determine
the future of the United States. With the slavery question
at the core of the conflict and under the direction of
President Abraham Lincoln, the federal government
battled to quell the momentum of the
treasonous southern states led by Confederate President
Jefferson Davis. Understandably, African-American
participation in the Civil War was neither embraced nor
recognized as necessary by white politicians
or nativists resisting the elevation of the so-called
Negro as a man able to arms. Frederick Douglass believed
that African-American men would be liberated from the
grips of tyranny and oppression when allowed to serve their
own interests in securing their efforts to
secure the nation. He believed that
freedom would be granted after the patriotic
contributions of African-American
soldiers were tallied and their unyielding
bravery recognized as true. After President Lincoln issued
the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863,
hundreds and then thousands of enslaved African-American
men and boys liberated themselves to
join in the union effort. In the state of
Kentucky and elsewhere, officials of the US
military and a large portion of the general public
rejected African-American men free born and enslaved
who volunteered to help crush the southern rebellion. Still, African-Americans
swelled union camps in search of the answer to
their prayers for freedom. Where Douglass had previously
admonished President Lincoln for not recognizing the
humanity of those designated as human chattel, the
statesman for the small nation within a nation
now heaped praise on the commander-in-chief
for inspiring a more tangible sense
of hope for the indigent and degraded black masses. Quick to put into perspective
the challenges that lay ahead, Douglass wrote, the price of
liberty is eternal vigilance. Even after slavery has
been legally abolished and the rebellion
substantially suppressed, there will still remain
an urgent necessity for the benevolent
activity of men and women who, from the first,
oppose slavery from high moral conviction. On July 6, 1863, in support of
African-American participation in the war, Douglass
delivered a speech at a mass meeting in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to address the
promotion of colored enlistments in the Union Army. Mr. President and
fellow citizens, I shall not attempt to
follow Judge Kelly and Miss Dickerson in the eloquent
and thrilling appeals to colored men to enlist in the
service of the United States. They have left nothing to
be desired on that point. I propose to look at the
subject in a plain and practical commonsense light. There are obviously two views to
be taken of such enlistments– a broad view and a narrow view. I am willing to take
both and consider both. The narrow view of
this subject as that which respects the matter
of dollars and cents. There are those
among us who say they are in favor of taking a
hand in this tremendous war, but [INAUDIBLE] they wish to
do so on terms of equality with white men. They say if they
enter the service, endure all the hardships,
perils, and suffering– if they make bare their
breast and with strong arms and courageous hearts,
confront rebel canons, and rein victory from
the jaws of death– they should have the same
pay, the same rations, the same bounty, and the same
favorable conditions every way afforded to other men. I shall not oppose this view. There is something deep down
in the soul of every man present which is sent to the
justice of the claim thus made and honors the manhood
and self-respect which insist upon it. I say at once in
peace and in war, I am content with nothing
for the black man short of equal and exact justice. The only question I
have and the point at which I differ from
those who refuse to enlist is whether the
colored man is more likely to obtain justice
and equality while refusing to assist in putting down
this tremendous rebellion than he would if
he should promptly, generously, and
earnestly give his hand and heart to the salvation
of the country in this, its day of calamity and peril. Nothing can be more plain,
nothing more certain, than that the speediest and
best possible [INAUDIBLE] open to us to manhood,
equal rights, and elevation is that we enter this service. For my own part, I hold that
if the government of the United States offered nothing
more as an inducement to colored men to enlist than
bare subsistence in arms, considering the moral effect
of compliance upon ourselves, it would be the wisest and
best thing for us to enlist. There is something ennobling
in the possession of arms, and we of all of the
people in the world stand in need of their
ennobling influence. The case presented in the
present war and the light in which every colored
man is bound to view it may be stated thus. There are two governments
struggling now for possession of and
endeavoring to bear rule over the United States. One has its capital in
Richmond and is represented by Mr. Jefferson
Davis, and the other has its capital at
Washington and is represented by honest old Abe. These two governments
are today face to face confronting each
other with vast armies and grappling each other upon
many a bloody field, north and south, on the banks
of the Mississippi and under the shadows
of the Alleghenies. Now the question for every
colored man is, or ought to be, what attitude is assumed by
these respective governments and armies toward the rights
and liberties of the colored race in this country? Which is for us and
which against us? Now I think there
can be no doubt as to the attitude
of the Richmond or Confederate government. Wherever else there
has been concealment, here all is frank, open, and
diabolically straightforward. Jefferson Davis
and his government make no secret as to
the cause of this war, and they do not conceal
the purpose of the war. That purpose is
nothing more or less than to make slavery of
the African race universal and perpetual on this continent. It is not only evident from
the history and logic of events but the declared purpose
of the atrocious war now being waged
against the country. Some indeed have
denied that slavery has anything to do with the war. But the very same men
who do this affirm it in the same breath in which
they deny it, for they tell you that the abolitionists
are the cause of the war. Now if the abolitionists
are the cause of the war, they are the cause of it
only because they sought the abolition of slavery. View it in any way you please. Therefore, the
rebels are fighting for the existence of slavery. They are fighting
from the privilege the horrid privilege,
of sundering the dearest ties
of human nature, of trafficking in slaves
and the souls of men, for the ghastly privilege
of surging women and selling innocent children. I say this is not the
concealed object of the war but the openly confessed
and shamelessly proclaimed object of the war. Vice president
Stephens has stated with the utmost clearness
and precision the difference between the fundamental ideas
of the Confederate government and those of the
federal government. One is based upon the
idea that colored man are an inferior race who may be
enslaved and plundered forever and to the heart’s
content of any men of a different complexion
while the federal government recognizes the natural
and fundamental equality of all men. I say again, we all know that
this Jefferson Davis government holds out nothing to
us but fetters, chains, auction blocks,
bludgeons, branding irons, and eternal slavery
and degradation. If it triumphs in
this contest woe, woe, 10,000 woes to the black man. Such of us are free
in all the likelihoods of the case would be given
over to the most excruciating tortures while the last hope
of the long-crushed bondman would be extinguished forever. Now what is the attitude of
the Washington government towards the colored race? What reasons have we
to desire its triumph in the present contest? What reasons have we
to desire its triumph in the present contest? Mind, I do not ask what
was its attitude toward us before this bloody
rebellion broke out. I do not ask what was
its disposition when it was controlled by
the very men who are now fighting to destroy it when
they could no longer control it. I do not even ask what was it
two years ago, when McClellan shamelessly gave
out that, in a war between loyal slaves
and disloyal masters, he would take the
side of the masters against the slaves when he
openly proclaimed his purpose to put down slave insurrections
with an iron hand– when glorious Benjamin Butler,
now stunned into a conversion to antislavery principles,
which I have every reason to believe sincere,
proffered his services to the governor of Maryland to
suppress a slave insurrection while treason ran riot in that
state and the warm, red blood of Massachusetts soldiers
still stained the pavements of Baltimore. Under the interpretation of
our rights by Attorney General Bates, we are American citizens. We can import goods,
own and sell ships, and travel in foreign countries
with American passports in our pockets. And now so far from there
being any opposition, so far from excluding us
from the army as soldiers, the president at Washington,
the cabinet and the Congress, the generals commanding, and
the whole army of the nation unite in giving us
one thunderous welcome to share with them in the
honor and glory of suppressing treason and upholding
the Star Spangled Banner. The revolution is tremendous,
and it becomes as wise men to recognize the change and to
shape our action accordingly. I hold that the federal
government was never, in its essence, anything but
an anti-slavery government. Abolish slavery
tomorrow, and not a sentence or syllable of the
Constitution need be altered. It was purposely
framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the
claim, of property in man. If, in its origin, slavery had
any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding
to the magnificent structure to be removed as soon as
the building was completed. There is, in the
Constitution, no east, no west, no north, no south,
no black, no white, no slave, no slave holder,
but all our citizens who are of American birth. Such is the government,
fellow citizens, you are now called upon
to uphold with your arms. Such is the government that you
are called upon to co-operate with in burying rebellion and
slavery in a common grave. Never since the world
began was a better chance offered to the long enslaved
and oppressed people. The opportunity is
given to us to be men with one courageous
resolution we may blot out the handwriting of
the ages against us. Once let a black man get
upon his person the brass letters US, let him get
an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder
and bullets in his pocket, and there is no
power on the earth or under the earth
which can deny that he has earned the
right of citizenship in the United States. I say again, this is our
chance and woe betide us if we fail to embrace it. 1883– between the
end of the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction,
the circumstances and outlook of the African-Americans
in America have changed dramatically
the Emancipation Proclamation had freed those who had once
been used as human chattel. The ratification of the
13th Amendment in 1865, the Civil Rights Act of 1866,
and the 14th Amendment in 1868 were signs of progress for
the newly liberated segment of the American population. By 1870, Radical
Reconstruction-era politicians pushed the 15th Amendment
through Congress, which granted African-American
men the right to vote. These constitutional
changes and victories supported the protection
of African-Americans under the law, paving
the way for the election of African-American
representatives to local, state, and
federal government positions throughout the South. However, what was clearly
rooted in building and securing a foundation for the future
of the formerly enslaved to realize a world filled
with endless possibilities was short lived. The tremendous gains made
challenged Southern Democrats, their poor, working class
northern white counterparts, and members of the
Republican Party. The party of Lincoln
was being transformed to serve the business
interests of the country and psychological
needs of white men which rivaled the moral and
ethical obligations to continue to support and raise
up the colored people. To be sure,
African-Americans never solely depended upon
the federal government to help them come to voice and
assert their sense of destiny or assess the value of their
newly acquired freedom. As early as 1830,
African-American organizations such as the National
Convention of Colored Men held conferences
annually to address the needs of black people. Douglass had been a
member since the 1840s and was optimistic about
the future prospects of the success of the
colored people of America. In his speech at the
September 24, 1883, meeting of the
Colored Convention in Louisville,
Kentucky, Douglass questioned the commitment
of reasonable moral men to continue to support the
interests of African-Americans as a whole. Charged with the
responsibility and duty of doing what we made
to advance the interests and promote the general welfare
of a people lately enslaved and who, though now
free, still suffer many of the disadvantages
and evils derived from their former
condition, not the least of which is the low and
unjust estimate entertained of their abilities and
possibilities as men and their value as
citizens of the republic, instructed by these people
to make such representations and adopt such measures
as in our judgment may help to bring about a
better understanding and a more friendly feeling
between themselves and their fellow
white citizens– recognizing the
great fact, as we do, that the relations of the
American people and those of civilized nations
generally depend upon prevailing ideas,
opinions, and long established usages for their
qualities of good and evil than upon courts of law,
of creeds, of religion– allowing the existence of
a magnanimous disposition on your part to listen
candidly to an honest appealed for fair play coming from any
class of your fellow citizens however humble who
may have or may think they have rights to
assert or wrongs to redress– the members of this
national convention chosen from all parts
of the United States, representing the thoughts,
feelings, and purposes of colored men generally
would, as one means of advancing the cause
committed to them, most respectfully and
earnestly ask your attention and favorable consideration
to the matters contained in the present paper. At the outset, we very
cordially congratulate you upon the altered condition
both of ourselves and our common country. Especially do we congratulate
you upon the fact that a great reproach
which for two centuries rested on the good name of your
country has been blotted out, that chattel slavery
is no longer the burden of the colored man’s
complaint, and that we now come to rattle no chains,
to clink no fetters, to paint no horrors
of the old plantation to shock your sensibilities,
to humble your pride, excite your pity, or to
kindle your indignation. We rejoice also that
one of the results of this stupendous revolution
in our national history, the republic which was
before divided and weakened between two hostile and
irreconcilable interests, has become united and strong– that from a low plane of life
which bordered upon barbarism, it has risen to the possibility
of the highest civilization– that this change has started
the American Republic on a new departure
full of promise, although it has also
brought you and ourselves face to face with problems
novel and difficult destined to impose upon us
responsibilities and duties which
plainly enough will tax our highest mental and
moral ability for they’re happy solution. Born on American soil in
common with yourselves, deriving our bodies and
our minds from its dust, centuries having passed
away since our ancestors were torn from the
shores of Africa, we, like yourselves,
hold ourselves to be, in every sense, Americans
and that we may therefore venture to speak to
you in a tone not lower than that which becomes earnest
men and American citizens. Having watered your soil
with our tears, enriched it with our blood, performed
its roughest labor in time of peace, defended it against
enemies in time of war, and at all times been loyal
and true to its interests, we deem it no arrogance
or presumption to manifest now a common concern
with you for its welfare, prosperity, honor, and glory. If the claim thus set
up by us be admitted, as we think it
ought to be, it may be asked what propriety
or necessity can there be for the convention
of which we are members and why are we now addressing
you, in some sense, as supplicants asking for
justice and fair play. These questions
are not new to us. From the day the call for
this convention went forth, this seeming incongruity
and contradiction has been brought
to our attention. From one quarter to another,
sometimes with argument, sometimes without argument,
sometimes with seeming pity for our ignorance
and at other times with fear censure
for our depravity, these questions have met us. With apparent surprise,
astonishment, and impatience, we have been asked,
what more can the colored people
of this country want than they now have? And what more is
possible to them? It is said they
were once slaves. They are now free. They were once subjects. They are now sovereigns. They were once outside of
all American institutions. They are now inside of all
and are recognized as part of the whole American people. Why, then, do they hold
colored natural convictions and thus insist upon
keeping up the color line between themselves and their
white fellow countrymen? We do not deny the
pertinence and plausibility of these questions,
nor do we shrink from a candid answer
to the argument which they are supposed to contain. But we do not forget that they
are not only put to us by those who have no sympathy with us
but by many who wish us well and that in any case,
they deserve an answer. Before, however, we
proceed to answer them, we digress here to say
that there is only one element associated with
them which excites the least bitterness of feeling in us or
that calls for special rebuke, and that is when they
fall from the lips and pins of colored
men who suffer with us and ought to know better. A few such men well known to
us and the country happening to be more fortunate in
the possession of wealth, education, and position
than their humbler brethren have found it
convenient to chime in with the popular cry against
our assembling on the ground that we have no valid
reason for this measure or for any other
separate from the whites, that we ought to be satisfied
with things as they are. With white men who
thus object, the case is different and less painful. For them, there was
a chance for charity. Educated as they are and have
been for centuries, taught to look upon colored people
as a lower order of humanity than themselves and as
having few rights, if any, above domestic animals,
regarding them also through the medium of their
beneficent religious creeds and just laws, as if law
and practice were identical, some allowance can
and perhaps ought to be made when they
misapprehend our real situation and deny our wants and assume
a virtue they do not possess. But no excuse or apology
can be properly framed for men who are in any
way identified with us. What may be erroneous in
others implies either baseness or imbecility in them. Such men, it seems
to us, are either deficient in self-respect
or too mean, servile, and cowardly to assert the
true dignity of their manhood and that of their race. To admit that there
are such men among us is a disagreeable and
humiliating confession. But in this respect,
as in others, we are not without the
consolation of company. We are neither
alone, nor singular, in the production of
just such characters. All oppressed people
have been thus afflicted. It is one of the most
conspicuous evils of caste and oppression
that they inevitably tend to make cowards and
serviles of their victims, men ever ready to bend at
the knee to pride and power that thrift may follow fawning– willing to betray
the cause of the many to serve the ends of the few– men who never hesitate to sell
a friend when they think they can thereby purchase an enemy. Specimens of this
sort may be found everywhere and at all times. There were northern men
with southern principles in the time of slavery and
Tories in the revolution for independence. There are betrayers and
informers today in Ireland ready to kiss the
hand that smites them and strike down the arm
reached out to save them. Considering our long subjugation
to servitude and caste and the many
temptations to which we are exposed to betray
our race into the hands of their enemies,
the wonder is not that we have so many
traders among us as that we have so few. 1893– throughout the
1880s and into the 1890s, Frederick Douglass was still
very active in his pursuit of freedom for his people. At every turn he continued
to agitate for justice, advocate for the right
of every man to vote, and pushed Americans to
maintain their eternal vigilance in maintaining the
country’s trajectory as a true democratic republic. Traveling by rail through
the Northeast, Midwest, and the deep south, Douglas
gave speeches at churches to benevolent
societies, and crowds gathered to celebrate
their freedom since the end of the Civil War. He urged African-Americans
to continue focusing on developing
themselves through education and agitating for their rights
as part of the human family. Douglas reminded all who would
listen if slavery could not kill us, liberty will not. In the summer of
1889, the statesman was appointed minister and
Consul General to Haiti. The ambassador to the world
had been a long admirer of Haitian revolutionary
leader Toussaint Louverture and the spirit
of the Haitian people to remain independent and free. In agreeing to the
position, Douglas took full advantage
of the opportunity to live and learn from
the evolving nation state led by black people. Most importantly, he observed
firsthand American capitalism and imperialism at work as
the United States attempted to take possession of the island
first by intimidation and then by brute force. In the summer of 1891,
amidst the growing turmoil on the island and
his failing health, Douglas resigned his
post as ambassador but still remained
an active supporter of the Caribbean nation state. In fact, within a
year of his departure, he was asked to serve as
the representative for Haiti at the World’s Colombian
Exposition in Chicago. As the full commissioner
of the Republic of Haiti, Douglas worked
with the delegation from the island nation to
construct the Haitian pavilion. At its dedication
on January 2, 1893, Douglas was not at
a loss for words. It is no disparagement to other
patriotic citizens of Haiti who have taken an interest
in the subject of the World’s Colombian exposition when
I say that we have found these valuable and necessary
qualities preeminently embodied in the President of
the Republic of Haiti. His excellency,
general Hyppolite has been the supreme motive
power and the mainspring by which this pavilion
has found a place in these magnificent grounds. The moment when
his attention was called to the
importance of having his country well-represented
in this exposition, he comprehended the
significance of the fact and has faithfully
and with all diligence endeavored to
forward such measures as were necessary to
attain this grand result. It is an evidence not only
of the high intelligence of President Hyppolite but
also of the confidence reposed in his judgment
by his countrymen that this building has
taken its place here amid the splendors and
architectural wonders which have sprung up here as if by
magic to dazzle and astonish the world. Whatever else may be said
of President Hyppolite by his detractors,
he has thoroughly vindicated his sagacity
and his patriotism by endeavoring to lead his
country in the paths of peace, prosperity, and glory. And as for Haiti
herself, we may well say that from the beginning
of her national career until now, she has
been true to herself and has been wisely sensible
of her surroundings. No act of hers is more
creditable than her presence here. She has never flinched when
called by her right name. She has never been ashamed
of her cause or her color. Honored by an invitation from
the government of the United States to take her place
here and be represented among the foremost civilized
nations of the earth, she did not quail or hesitate. Her presence here
today is a proof that she has the
courage and ability to stand up and be counted
in the great procession of our 19th century’s
civilization. Though this pavilion is
modest in its dimensions and unpretentious in
its architectural style and proportions, though it may
not bear favorable comparison with the buildings of the
powerful nations by which it is surrounded, I dare
say that it will not be counted in any sense
unworthy of the high place which it occupies or over the people
whose interests it represents. The nations of the old
world can count their years by thousands, their populations
by millions, and their wealth by mountains of gold. It was not to be
expected that Haiti, with its limited territory, its
slender population and wealth, could rival or would
try its arrival here the splinters created
by those older nations. And yet, I will be allowed
to say for her that it was in her power to have
erected a building much larger and finer than the
one we now occupy. She has, however, wisely
chosen to put no strain upon her resources and has
been perfectly satisfied to erect an edifice
admirably adapted to its uses and entirely respectable
in its appearance. In this, she has shown
her good taste not less than her good sense. For ourselves as commissioners
under whose supervision and direction this
pavilion has been erected, I may say that we feel sure
that Haiti will heartily approve our work and that no
citizen of that country who visits the World’s
Colombian exposition will be ashamed
of its appearance or will fail to look upon
it and contemplate it with satisfied complacency. Its internal appointments
are consistent with its external appearance. They bear the evidence of proper
and thoughtful consideration for the taste, comfort,
and convenience of visitors as well as for the
appropriate display of the productions
of the country which shall be here exhibited. Happy in these respects, it
is equally happy in another. Its location and
situation are desirable. It is not a candle
put under a bushel but a city set upon a hill. For this, we cannot too
much commend the liberality of the honorable commissioners
and managers of these grounds. They might have easily consulted
the customs and prejudices unhappily existing in
certain parts of our country and relegated our
little pavilion to an obscure and
undesirable corner. But they have acted in the
spirit of human brotherhood and in harmony with the
grand idea underlying this exposition. They have given us one of
the very best sites which could have been selected. We cannot complain either
of obscurity or isolation. We are situated upon
one of the finest avenues of these grounds. Standing upon our
veranda, we may view one of the largest
of our inland seas. We may inhale its pure
and refreshing breezes. We can contemplate
its tranquil beauty in its calm and its
awful sublimity and power when its crested billows
are swept by the storm. The neighboring pavilions
which surround us are the works and exponents
of the wealth and genius of the greatest
nations on the earth. Here upon this grand highway
thus located, thus elevated, and thus surrounded, our
unpretentious pavilion will be sure to attract
the attention of multitudes from all the civilized
countries on the globe. And no one of them
all who shall know the remarkable and
thrilling events in the history of the brave
people here represented will view it with other than
sympathy, respect, and esteem. Finally, Haiti will be
happy to meet and welcome her friends here. While the gates of the
World’s Colombian Exposition shall be open, the doors of
this pavilion shall be open, and a warm welcome
shall be given to all who shall see fit to
honor us with their presence. Our emblems of welcome will
be neither brandy nor wine. No intoxicants will
be served here. But we shall give all
comers a generous taste of our Haitian coffee,
made in the best manner by Haitian hands. They shall find it pleasant in
flavor and delightful in aroma. Here, as in the sunny
climes of Haiti, we shall do honor to that
country’s hospitality, which permits no weary traveler to
set foot upon her rich soil and go away hungry or thirsty. Whether upon her fertile
plains or on the verdant sides of her incomparable mountains,
whether in the mansions of the rich or in the
cottages of the poor, the stranger is
ever made welcome there to taste her wholesome
bread, her fragrant fruits, and her delicious coffee. It is proposed that this
generous spirit of Haiti shall pervade and characterize
this pavilion during all the day that Haiti
shall be represented upon these ample grounds. But gentlemen, I am reminded
that on this occasion, we have another important
topic which should not be passed over in silence. We meet today on the anniversary
of the independence of Haiti, and it would be an
unpardonable omission not to remember it with all
honor at this time and place. Considering what the
environments of Haiti were 90 years ago– considering the
antecedents of her people both at home and in Africa– considering their
ignorance, their weakness, their want of
military training– considering their destitution
of the munitions of war and measuring the tremendous
mortal and material forces that confronted and opposed them– the achievement of
their independence is one of the most
remarkable and one of the most wonderful
events in the history of this eventful century
and, I may almost say, in the history of mankind. Our American independence was a
task of tremendous proportions. In contemplation of it, the
boldest held their breath, and many brave men
shrank from it, appalled. But as Herculean as was
that task and dreadful as were the hardships and
sufferings it imposed, it was nothing in
its terribleness when compared with the appalling
nature of the war which Haiti dared to wage for her
freedom and her independence. Her success was a surprise
and a startling astonishment to the world. Our war of the revolution had
1,000 years of civilization behind it. The men who led
it were descended from statesmen and heroes. Their ancestry were
the men who had defied the powers of
royalty and wrested from an armed and reluctant
king the grandest declaration of human rights ever
given to the world. They had the knowledge
and character naturally inherited from long years of
personal and political freedom. They belonged to the
ruling race of this world, and the sympathy of the
world was with them. But far different was it
with the men of Haiti. The world was all against them. They were slaves accustomed to
stand in treble in the presence of haughty masters. Their education was obedience
to the will of others, and their religion was
patience and resignation to the rule of
pride and cruelty. As a race, they stood
before the world as the most abject, helpless,
and degraded of mankind. Yet from these men of
the Negro race came brave men, men who loved
liberty more than life– wise men, statesmen,
warriors, and heroes– men whose deeds
stamped them as worthy to rank with the greatest
and noblest of mankind– men who have gained their
freedom and independence against odds as
formidable as ever confronted a righteous
cause or its advocates. Aye, and they not only gained
their liberty and independence, but they have never surrendered
what they gained to any power on earth. This precious inheritance
they hold today, and I venture to
say here, in the ear of all the world,
that they never will surrender that inheritance. 1895– on February 20,
1895, Frederick Douglass, the outspoken
firebrand and advocate for the abolition of
slavery, a champion for civil and human rights, and
the voice for African-Americans died suddenly of a heart
attack at Anacostia, his home in Washington DC. A giant amongst
men, Douglass had been a model for leadership,
dignity, honor, and manhood realized for those
whose lives arose out of the same conditions of
human bondage and degradation experienced in slavery
before liberating himself from the shameful enterprise
that made monsters of men. His unwavering and
undaunted support for the social, cultural,
political, and economic uplift of the colored race
made him a hero to his people the world over. In African-American
newspapers, Douglas was heralded as the unequivocal
leader of American Negroes. In the Cleveland
Gazette, the editorial was clear and direct in stating
that the race will miss him far more than it can, at
this time, fully realize. In the Indianapolis
Freeman, the resolution adopted by
Wilberforce University was published noting
that his heroic struggles and self-sacrificing devotion
to justice and humanity has endeared himself to the
Negro race in particular and to all people, regardless
of race, section, or country. Interestingly
enough, WEB Dubois, the first African-American
to earn a doctorate from Harvard University in 1895,
who was teaching at Wilberforce at the time, eulogized Douglass
at the memorial service in the Wilberforce
University chapel. Dubois’ reflection on
the passing of Douglas was more than an acknowledgment
of the great loss of the leader of African-Americans. It was a proclamation
of his pioneering work as the statesman for the
small nation within a nation. Reflecting on the great loss
to the country and the people he loved so dearly, Dubois
penned a most fitting poem to honor the man who had fought
the lion in its den and won. So we’re going to conclude our
program with a song written especially for Douglass. Jeremy [? Hathcoat ?] will sing
us out of the Cannon Chapel. But I first have to say
thank you to our speakers, to everyone who volunteered to
participate on this program. Thank you to our staff
and the Rose Library for [? organizing. ?]
[INAUDIBLE] Cody, Sarah Jones, George up in the booth, and
Jeff here behind the camera– we have a tremendous
staff at Emory that helps these programs
come off like clockwork. So it’s very appreciative. And of course, all of you
who are here this evening– this has been a wonderful event. So without further ado,
would you like to come on up and lead us in song? A stranger from
our distant nation, we welcome thee
with acclimation. As our brother
warmly greet thee, rejoiced in [? Erin’s ?]
Isle to meet thee. [NON-ENGLISH] to the stranger. Free from bondage,
chains, and danger. [NON-ENGLISH] to the stranger. We could have heard thy hapless
story of tyrants [INAUDIBLE] and gory whose heart throbbed
knot with deep pulsation for the trampled
slave’s emancipation. Then [NON-ENGLISH]
to the stranger. From base to bondage,
chains, and danger. [NON-ENGLISH] to the stranger. Oh, why should
different hue or feature prevent the sacred
laws of nature and every tie of feeling sever? The voice of nature
thunders never. So [NON-ENGLISH]
to the stranger. Free from bondage,
chains, and danger. [NON-ENGLISH] to the stranger. [NON-ENGLISH] to the stranger. Thank you.

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