Douglass: An escaped slave

This post is about Frederick Douglass, who lived from 1818-1895 and escaped from his owners in 1838.  Douglass gave his first speech against slavery in 1841 to a mixed crowd of whites and blacks.

The question posed by my professor for a mini essay was: “What were the primary rhetorical obstacles for African Americans when they worked alongside white abolitionists?”

Equal Rights?

            I found it ironic that the white abolitionists were all about rallying for the black race as long as the people they were rallying for didn’t get more attention than the white folks or take jobs the white folks wanted. That was pretty ignorant in my humble opinion, and I don’t mean ignorant as uninformed, I mean the other ignorant.

Douglass had a wife and five kids to support, but when it came down to him getting a job on the docks as a caulker; the white folks objected to him being hired. Now maybe this could slide by as the people he was completing with for a job might not have necessarily been white abolitionists, but once he began traveling with the Garrisonian abolitionists, I would have thought this racism would have ceased. I was wrong.

Douglass traveled all over speaking against slavery but apparently he was used more as a prop than a speaker. The white speakers wanted to do the talking and just parade Douglass out on stage to show the audience his scars from the vicious beatings he was given at the hands of his white owners. As if that wasn’t insulting enough, as Douglass developed his voice and made use of rhetorical tones, his white friends believed he was destroying his credibility as a slave. I suppose the more he sounded like the white folks, educated with no Southern draw, the less likely anyone would believe he had been a slave. They even doubted that he had in fact written his own speeches. If he hadn’t had the scars, would they have believed anything?

Fact: There are times that my own race disgusts me, historically and presently.

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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