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Peter C. Myers is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and author of “The Limits and Dangers of Civil Disobedience: The Case of Martin Luther King, Jr.”.”
Frederick Douglass, the greatest of all American abolitionists, possibly the greatest American champion of the cause of equal rights, was born 200 years ago in February 1818.
Douglass - Feb - Morning - Boyhood - Mother
Perhaps the infant Douglass arrived on Feb. 14, as he liked to think, remembering a morning in his boyhood when his mother, enslaved as he was, walked miles to bring him a modest cake and called him her “little valentine.”
By this now-customary dating, we commemorate Douglass’s 200th birthday Feb. 14 as an opportune moment to reflect on his life, thought, and legacy.
Booker - T - Washington - School - Slavery
Raised in what Booker T. Washington would call “the school of slavery,” Douglass was a battler.
“To live is to battle,” he believed, according to his writings. “Contest is itself ennobling.”
Contest - Liberty - Forces - Tyranny - Battle
In particular, the age-old contest for liberty against the forces of tyranny. He presented his own physical battle, as a teen, against the cruel slave master Edward Covey as a great turning point of his life.
“I was a changed being after that fight,” Douglass wrote. “I was nothing before; I was a man now.”
Act - Resistance - Resurrection
He called his act of resistance to tyranny a “resurrection.”
It was not, however, by means of physical force that Douglass chose to do battle over the course of his great career. The battle with Covey was not the only battle, nor the only moment of rebirth, that he recounted in his autobiographies. No less profoundly formative was his battle for literacy and education.
Slave - Masters - Hugh - Auld - Wife
When another of his slave masters, Hugh Auld, scolded his young wife Sophia for beginning to teach young Frederick how to read—such learning, Auld said, ‘would forever unfit him for the duties of a slave’—the alert boy received...
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