Frederick Douglass’ words are new again…
A friend at the US Climate Action Network shared the excerpt from Frederick Douglass below…
Frederick Douglass (c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American black social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the American Constitution. When radical abolitionists under the motto “No Union With Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’ willingness to dialogue with slave owners, he famously replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”
One biographer argues: The most influential African American of the nineteenth century, Douglass made a career of agitating the American conscience. He spoke and wrote on behalf of a variety of reform causes: women’s rights, temperance, peace, land reform, free public education, and the abolition of capital punishment. But he devoted the bulk of his time, immense talent, and boundless energy to ending slavery and gaining equal rights for African Americans. These were the central concerns of his long reform career. Douglass understood that the struggle for emancipation and equality demanded forceful, persistent, and unyielding agitation. And he recognized that African Americans must play a conspicuous role in that struggle. Less than a month before his death, when a young black man solicited his advice to an African American just starting out in the world, Douglass replied without hesitation: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”
From an 1852 speech:
What Frederick Douglass said in his famous 1852 speech, The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro, remain disturbingly relevant:
For it is not light that is needed, but fire;
it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.
We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
The feeling of the nation must be quickened;
the conscience of the nation must be roused;
the propriety of the nation must be startled;
the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed;
and its crimes must be proclaimed and denounced.
May we continue to raise the window of understanding, and in so doing, usher in the winds— the whirlwinds!—of thunderous change.