This is what you need to know about Frederick Douglass and the anti-slavery, the revolutionary abolitionist fight. He was the man, the shining q star black man who led the fight for black men to join the Union Army and not just either be treated as freaking contraband or worse, as projected in early in the war by the Lincoln administration the return of fugitive slaves to “loyal” slave-owners. Led the fight to not only seek an emancipation proclamation as part of the struggle but a remorseless and probably long struggle to crush slavery and slaver-owners and their hanger-on militarily. Had been ticketed at a desperate moment in 1864 to recreate a John Brown scenario if they logjam between North and South in Virginia had not been broken. Yes, a bright shining northern star black man.
Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the great revolutionary abolitionist and black liberation fighter, Frederick Douglass.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, FREDERICK DOUGLASS, DOVER PUBLICATIONS, 2003
FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH
At the start of the 21st century the international labor movement faces, as it has for a long time, a crisis of revolutionary leadership. That leadership is necessary to resolve the contradiction between the outmoded profit-driven international capitalist productive system and a future production system based on social solidarity, cooperation and production for social use. In America, at least, there is also a crisis of leadership of the black liberation struggle, which is tied into the labor question as well through the key role of blacks in the labor force. More happily in the 19th century in the struggle against slavery by the slaves and former slaves for black liberation there was such a leadership and none more important than the subject of this autobiography, Frederick Douglass. Even a cursory look at his life puts today ‘clean’ black leadership in the shades.
That Frederick Douglass was exceptional as a fighter for black freedom, women’s rights and as a man there is no question. His early life story of struggle for individual escape from slavery, attempts to educate himself and take an active political role on the slavery question rightly thrilled audiences here and in Europe. I, however, believe that he definitely came into his own as a revolutionary politician when he broke from Garrisonian non-resistant abolitionism and linked up with more radical elements like John Brown and the Boston ‘high’ abolitionists like Wendell Phillips and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. This abolitionist element pointed the way to the necessary fight to the finish strategy to end slavery, arms in hands, that eventually came to fruition in the Civil War.
At one time I believed that Douglass should have gone with John Brown to Harper’s Ferry. He would have provided a better grasp of the political and military situation there than Brown had and would have been forceful in calling out the slaves and others in the area to aid the uprising. In no way was my position on his refusal based on his personal courage of which there was no question. I now believe that Douglass more than made up for any help he would have given Brown by his work for an emancipation proclamation and for his calls for arming blacks in the Civil War to take part in their own emancipation. As such, it is well known that Douglass was instrumental in calling for the creation of the famous Massachusetts 54th Regiment, including the recruitment of two of his sons. Yes, 200,000 black soldiers and sailors under arms fighting to the death, and under penalty of death by the Confederates, for their freedom is a fitting monument to the man.
Douglass, as well as every other militant abolitionist worth his or her salt, lined up politically with the new Republican Party headed by Lincoln and Seward before, during and shortly after the Civil War. However, the Republican Party ran out of steam as a progressive force fairly shortly after the war, culminating in the sell-out Compromise of 1877 which abandoned blacks to their fate in the South. Douglass, committed to emancipation, education and ‘forty acres and a mule’ for his fellows stayed with that party far too long.
Key elements of that party lost heart in aiding the black struggle for political, social and economic emancipation due to their racism and other factors, moved on to other more finacially rewarding interests, or accepted the traditional white leadership of the South. Douglass should also should have moved on to another more progressive formation. Embryonic workers parties and other such progressive formations were raising their heads in the 1870’s. I do not believe that office in the Consular Service in Haiti was worth continuing to support a party going in the wrong direction. Notwithstanding that point, if you want to read about the exploits of a ‘big man’ in the history of the struggle of the oppressed, our history, when it counted this is your stop. Honor the memory of Frederick Douglass.