In honor of Black History Month and our president’s remarks on the great Frederick Douglass, I asked my husband Professor/Playwright Rickerby Hinds to provide a guest commentary this week. He’s currently working on a new play about Mr. Douglass and has been immersed in his “from slave to statesman” story. My good friend Kenneth Morris, Mr. Douglass’ great great great grandson, is co- founder of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, and his organization shared More and More About Frederick Douglass for those of you who may want more information.
I am currently working on a play on Frederick Douglass entitled The Blood of Souls and like anyone vaguely familiar with Mr. Frederick Augustus Bailey Johnson Douglass, I was amused by our president’s statement in honor of Black History Month, later reinforced by his Press Secretary, that “Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
I was tempted to list all of Mr. Douglass’ accomplishments and talk about his significance to our country, but you can easily find such a list online.
I think it best to just allow Mr. Douglass to speak to our president for himself…
On the Negroes who surround the president “…It is not uncommon for slaves even to fall out and quarrel among themselves about the relative kindness of their masters, each contending, for the superior goodness of his own over that of the others’…When Col. Lloyd’s slaves met those of Jacob Jepson, they seldom parted without a quarrel about their masters… These quarrels would almost always end in a fight…They seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves. To be a slave was thought to be bad enough; but to be a poor man’s slave, was deemed a disgrace indeed.”
On the abuse of women: “The slave woman is at the mercy of the fathers, sons or brothers of her master. The thoughtful know the rest.”
On the president’s religious supporters: “His (Covey-The Negro Breaker) religion hindered him from breaking the Sabbath, but not from breaking my skin on any other day than Sunday. He had more respect for the day than for the man for whom the day was mercifully given, for while he would cut and slash my body during the week, he would on Sunday teach me the value of my soul, and the way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ.”
On Black Lives: “The usual pretext for killing a slave is that the slave has offered resistance. Should a slave when assaulted, but raise his hand in self-defence, the white assaulting party is fully justified by southern, or Maryland public opinion, in shooting the slave down. Sometimes this is done simply because it is alleged that the slave has been saucy.”
“It is worth half a cent to kill a n****r, and half a cent to bury him.”
On power and wealth: “The poor slave, on his hard, pine plank, but scantily covered with his thin blanket, sleeps more soundly than the feverish voluptuary who reclines upon his feathered bed… Food to the indolent lounger, is poison, not sustenance. Lurking beneath all their dishes, are invisible spirits of evil, ready to feed the self-deluded gormandizers with aches, pains, fierce temper, uncontrolled passions, dyspepsia, rheumatism, lumbago and gout.”
“Neither to the wicked, not to the idler, is there any solid peace: Troubled, like the restless sea.”
On White guilt: “A man who will enslave his own blood may not be safely relied on for magnanimity. Men do not love those who remind them of their sins–unless they have a mind to repent–and the mulatto child’s face is a standing accusation against him who is master and father to the child.”
For more from Frederick Douglass read any of his three autobiographies: Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; Frederick Douglass My Bondage and My Freedom; or The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
By the way the 200th anniversary of his birth is 2018, hopefully he’ll be “recognized" a little more then.
I'll be back next week,