By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi
Written by: David W. Blight
DAVID BLIGHT (AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN HISTORY)
David Blight offers a nuanced biography of Frederick Douglass, a great 19th century American leader. Blight shows Douglass to rival the intelligence and charisma of the best known 20th and 21st century black Americans. Like Malcolm Little (aka Malcolm X), Martin Luther King, and Barrack Obama, Douglass faces down poverty and demonstrates the equality of all human beings. Malcolm Little, King, and Obama never face the lash of slavery, but Blight shows how Douglass pushes aside physical and cultural cruelty to demand freedom and equality of all.
JOHN BROWN (AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST 1800-1859) Brown is neither lionized or vindicated by Blight but is shown as a turning point in Douglass’s life; a turning from moral suasion to action by people of color against slavery.
Ethan Hawke as John Brown.
Though shown to begin in peace, Blight shows how Douglass grows to understand peace will not come from words alone but must come from action. Douglass came to revere the anti-slavery violence of John Brown. Courageously, Douglass attacks the institution of slavery before, during, and after the American Civil War. Douglass becomes the conscience of white and black America.
Blight explains how Douglass came to revere Abraham Lincoln; not in Lincoln’s beginnings, but in Lincoln’s life of struggle for the true meaning of the American Constitution.
After Lincoln’s assassination, Douglass is shown to decry President Johnson’s abandonment of reconstruction in the south. Douglass offers unstinting support for Ulysses Grant’s election because of his commitment to the abolitionist cause.
Blight shows Douglass, like all human beings, is imperfect. He has blind spots when speaking of freedom and equality. Douglass discounts America’s decimation of native Americans and denial of women’s rights by arguing neither compares to slavery, subjugation, and murder of blacks.
The irony of Douglass’s imperfect argument is in native Americans who are murdered and restricted to reservations that are indiscriminately encroached upon by free and enfranchised Americans.
Indian families are regularly isolated, displaced, and murdered at the whim of white men in power.
In women’s rights, Douglass discounts the same inequality trap that captures black Americans; i.e. the disenfranchisement trap. Women have no power. Women without power, just as any separated classification of humanity, are looked at as less equal by some measure. How many women are treated by men as property in the history of civilization? How many women are abused, and/or raped by men without consequence? How many women are unable to find work or are not paid the same wage for the same job? The bible is one of many records of discrimination faced by women.
FAMOUS WOMEN IN HISTORY (History, as well as this pictorial, shows many women are as intellectually strong and mentally tough as men; e.g. Cleopatra, Sojourner Truth, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousafzai, and others.)
Blight fairly describes Douglass’s blind spots while clearly identifying his remarkable insight and intelligence. Douglass’s many speaking engagements, published books, and newspaper articles graphically and forthrightly explain the plight of black Americans in the 19th century. Blight explains how Douglass manages to survive slavery, educate himself, forgive (but not forget) his oppressors, and become one of the greatest Americans of his time.
SLAVES LYNCHED IN 19TH CENTURY AMERICA
It is sad to know so many of Douglass’s observations remain true in the 21st century. Much of white America still fears the rise of black freedom and equality. “All men are created equal…” is preached but remains un-practiced in today’s America.
RODNEY KING (APPEARANCE 3 DAYS AFTER CAR-CHASE BEATING 3.6.92–KING DIES IN JUNE 2012 @ 47 YEARS OF AGE
The lessons of history show that people are not to be feared; they are to be offered equal opportunity to become all they can be. By nature, human beings are equally free and capable of being incredibly good and disastrously evil. It is the purpose of government to protect the rights of each from the other when evil takes hold of the governed. A moral life requires equal treatment of all. That is the essence of what Blight is writing about in the story of Frederick Douglass’s life.