Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Frederick Douglass: Truth is of No Color

Frederick Douglass: Truth is of No Color, by: Michael A. Schuman, Easlow Publisher Inc., Berkeley Heights, NJ, 2009.
Frederick Douglass was an interesting man.  He was born a slave, and in his early life received some mistreatment, as well as some care.  His mother was really never able to care for him, as she worked long hours.  As a toddler he was in the care of his grandmother.  His mother would have to walk 12 miles from the fields to see her son.  At age six Frederick was sent to work.  At this time he met his older siblings who had previously been sent to the same plantation to work. 
At eight years old, Frederick’s master passed away.  He and the entire family were lined up and distributed amongst the inheritors.  He went to Thomas and Sophia Auld.  Sophia would read the bible to Frederick and her own son, when Frederick was not working.  He became fascinating with the idea of letters forming words.  He asked her to teach him, and she did.   This is unusual as it was against the law to teach a slave to read.  When Sophia bragged to Thomas about Fredericks’s reading, the lessons stopped.  However Frederick continued to learn.  At this time he worked as an errand boy in the shipyard in Baltimore.  He would play reading games with other boys, testing who could read best.  Frederick used these games to improve his reading. 
As a teen, Frederick was assigned to work for others.  In this he was beaten, and required to do tasks he had not been trained to perform.  He finally determined he must escape.  He escape using the Maritime Papers of a friend.  These identified him as a veteran sailor who had won his freedom through his service.  This came in handy as questioning was much less for those who were veterans.  He traveled by ship and train, until he made it to Philadelphia.
He changed his name to make it harder for others to track him.  He lived in several communities which he had heard that they were positive to African Americans.  However he still found prejudice.  In the church the Black people were asked to sit in the back and spoken down to.  They formed their own church.  Blacks were not allowed in school, so Frederick took upon himself their education.
Douglass became and abolitionist speaker.  He published an autobiography, and then began publishing his own abolitionist paper.  He traveled in England, for his own safety.  He was still subject to capture and return to slavery in the United States.  However, we was married and had children and missed them, so he returned.  Douglass was a correspondent of John Brown.  When Brown was arrested and hung for treason, these letters were found and a finger pointed at Douglass.  Even though Douglass had cautioned him against his rash plan, there was still the air of conspiracy.  Douglass fled to England again.  However, the nation did not want to pursue anyone else about this affair, especially after the commencement of the Civil War.
Douglass returned, and advised the president to free the slaves and recruit them for military service.  After the emancipation proclamation they were accepted for service, and Douglass worked with recruitment.  He also worked for African American soldiers to receive equal pay.
At Lincoln’s second inauguration he visited the White House, but guards would not let him enter.  African Americans had never before been invited to a social occasion at the White House.  However, President Lincoln saw him, and invited him in, said there is my good friend Frederick Douglass.  He asked for his critique of his inaugural address.  This may have been the first time an African American had been invited into the White House for such an occasion.
Douglass fulfilled many government positions by appointment after this.  His wife died after 44 years of marriage, and he went into a period of melancholy before being able to return to work.  Douglass did another thing that was unheard of at that time.  He married a White woman, Helen Pitts, who had been his clerk. 
Frederick Douglass did a great deal towards the emancipation of the slaves, and then towards the advancement of African Americans.  He likely did more in this regard than anyone, at least until the fight for Civil Rights.

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