Our current president didn’t make the traditional official proclamation designating February as Black History Month yesterday, but he did make a statement. Addressing a small group of African American aides and supporters to kick off Black History Month, he mentioned Frederick Douglass, but seemed to be confused about who he was. Later in the day, his Press Secretary struggled with a similar issue. Considering Douglass’s importance to the abolitionist movement, American literature, and Black history — called by some “the most important black American leader of the nineteenth century” — it was clear who our next featured author should be: Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection)
Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection)

Frederick Douglass was was a prominent American abolitionist — an African-American social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman. He was also active outspoken supporter of women’s rights, (the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention). He was born a slave, escaped at 20 years old after two previous failed attempts, and went on to be an anti-slavery activist.

Douglass’s three autobiographiesNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881) — are considered important works of the slave narrative tradition. “Written as antislavery propaganda and personal revelation, they are regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography,” (http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/frederick-douglass).

Video: Frederick Douglass — Mini Biography, from Bio.

Two Black History Month events of interest on campus today:

  • Being Black &… Series, 4PM, LSC 300 Topic:  Being Black and Religious “We will discuss the stereotypes vs the history of African American religion, spirituality and the church as an organization and community center. Several of the questions we will engage in are: What is it to be Black and believe? What is the role of discrimination and racism in being a spiritual African American?  Discussion Led by Dr. Ray Black”

  • Movie: Birth of a Nation6 PM, LSC Theater 2016 American period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. Discussion to follow.