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Historical
See other Historical Articles

Title: Frederick Douglas, An Alternative Truth
Source: [None]
URL Source: http://townhall.com/columnists/arms ... -an-alternative-truth-n2285341
Published: Feb 13, 2017
Author: Armstrong Williams
Post Date: 2017-02-13 15:08:40 by A K A Stone
Keywords: None
Views: 358
Comments: 6

Who was Frederick Douglass? More importantly, why does Frederick Douglass matter to today’s America? The above questions are not merely rhetorical, as the recent controversy surrounding President Trump’s Black History Month statement illustrate. “Frederick Douglass,” Trump said, “is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” The mainstream media have caste Trump’s curious mixture of both past and present tenses – ‘who’s done’ (past) vs. ‘is being recognized’ (present) - as an incongruous construction at best, and at worst as a clueless invocation of one of America’s most beloved and revered historical figures. But there is certainly an alternative view to be had.

The alternative view is that whatever the President’s intended form of language or actual prior knowledge of Frederick Douglass, he is certainly an example of excellence. Furthermore, especially during Black History Month, Douglass is receiving heightened recognition. Frederick Douglass was of course born into slavery, and was possibly fathered by a member of his enslaver’s own family. Although he was illiterate as a child, his enslaver’s wife saw a deep yearning to learn in Douglass and began to teach him to read. Once her husband found out about this, he immediately put a stop to the lessons and forbade his wife from continuing to teach Douglass. The system of slavery required as a fundamental principle that slaves be kept in ignorance, lest they begin to challenge the injustice that was being pressed on them.

Douglass, who even as a child realized that the secret to his ultimate freedom was knowledge, found clever ways around the reading ban. The most successful ruse involved recruiting the young white boys he befriended around the neighborhood. Many of them were hungry, while Douglass had free access to a pantry full of bread supplied by his enslavers. Douglass would always take a book out with him when he was sent on errands, and when he encountered a young friend, he would ask for help reading the words. Although some may have been initially reluctant to help him, they usually became quite eager to help once they realized Douglass had bread to share.

Douglass, like any great entrepreneur, saw a means of exchanging a thing of value to others (bread) in order to receive something that was much more valuable to himself (knowledge). Douglass’ entrepreneurial approach to learning ultimately helped him gain his freedom (when he ran away from the plantation, he knew how to make his way to Baltimore because he had voraciously read and completely memorized maps and road signs). This simple yet powerful lesson is instructive of the personal power we all have to rise up from whatever personal or social circumstances that may be preventing us from achieving our dreams.

Frederick Douglass deeply despised the system of slavery that was the law of the land in America. He met with President Lincoln on at least three occasions to discuss the matter, which he saw as one of our nation’s great moral challenges. He not only felt slavery was bad for African Americans (the prevailing narrative was that slaves were generally better off under conditions of slavery than many free citizens), but bad for America’s soul. Slavery caused otherwise humane, kind and devoted Christians to become covetous, deceitful and cruel. Slavery, Douglass argued, was a serious impediment to America’s ability to realize its manifest destiny. During Black History Month, Frederick Douglass and a host of other notable black historical figures receive special notice, whether it is Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, or more obscure figures like Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., the first black American to achieve the rank of General Officer in the U.S. Army. This year, partly due to the media furor around Trump’s minor verbal slip, Douglass has received special interest. Bookings for visits at Cedar Hill, Douglass’ home now converted to a Museum of his life in Washington, are reportedly at an all-time high. But there is irony in only studying the example of Frederick Douglass during a month set aside for Black History – because Douglass was so much more than just an American who happened to be black. Douglass is a true American hero in the same vein as more conventional luminaries such as Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. His writings and biographies about him should be studied within the context of American history writ large.

Douglass was a notable early leader of the Republican Party. He championed the woman’s right to vote at a time when it was not politically popular. He also served as Washington D.C.’s first Post Master General – entrusted by the President to manage the most sensitive correspondence during the height of the Civil War.

Douglass was also one the best and most sought after orators of his day. He traveled around the country extensively talking about the ills of slavery and oppression. His stance as a pro-abolition speaker and activist at the time took courage and conviction. Douglass was fond of saying, “The man who is right is a majority. We, who have God and conscience on our side, have a majority against the universe.” The alternative view is that it is great that he is being recognized more and more. (1 image)

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#1. To: A K A Stone (#0)

Great article. Thanks!

Vicomte13  posted on  2017-02-13   15:24:24 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: A K A Stone (#0)

He also served as Washington D.C.’s first Post Master General – entrusted by the President to manage the most sensitive correspondence during the height of the Civil War.

Huh???

The first Postmaster of Washington, D.C. was appointed by President George Washington. Frederick Douglass was never the Postmaster of Washington, D.C.

http://www.dcstampclub.org/pdfs/hechtsDCpostalhistory.pdf

Dr. William Jones
Reappointed by President James Buchanan on March 30, 1858. This was a favor bestowed by the President.

Lewis Clephane
Appointed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 1861. His duties were especially arduous because at the beginning of the Civil War Washington City became a distributing post office for the vast army stationed around it. Clephane resigned on March 15, 1863.

Sayles J. Bowen Appointed by President Lincoln on March 16, 1863, but his appointment became effective on April 1. He resigned during July, 1868, to become ma yor of Washington to which office he had been elected by popular vote.

Frederick Douglass was never the U.S. Postmaster General, a Federal office situated in Washington, D.C. The first Postmaster General was appointed by President George Washington. The first Postmaster General appointed as a cabinet member was appointed by President Andrew Jackson.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Postmaster_General

Horatio King, Maine, February 12, 1861, Buchanan
Montgomery Blair, District of Columbia, March 5, 1861, Lincoln
William Dennison, Ohio, September 24, 1864, Lincoln, A. Johnson
Alexander W. Randall, Wisconsin, July 25, 1866, A. Johnson

nolu chan  posted on  2017-02-13   18:43:49 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: nolu chan (#2)

There is a Fredrick Douglas post office in Washington DC.

http://postofficefinder.org/dc/district-of- columbia/washington/20020/frederick-douglass/

I don't think Williams would make up the story. I wonder what it is based on.

A K A Stone  posted on  2017-02-13   18:53:09 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: nolu chan (#2)

Looks like he was the third assistant postmaster. Probably the first black person in that position. Williams was probably going from memory and got a little confused.

(3) Manuscript Letter Signed “W.H.H. Terrell” as Third Asst. P.M.G., 2p, 8” x 10”, separate sheets. Washington, D.C., January 28, 1873. On stationery imprinted “Post Office Department, / Officer of the / Third Assistant Postmaster General.” To Frederick Douglass, Jr., Esq., Business Manager, National New Era, Washington, D.C. Mounting remnants at perimeter on verso. Fine condition. In full, “In reply to your letter of yesterday you are respectfully informed that the Department is positively prohibited by an act of Congress approved July 12, 1870, from incurring any expense whatever unless an appropriation has already been made to cover the same. You are not authorized, therefore, to insert the Postal Card advertisement on any condition.” With an original 8.5” x 3.75” envelope, “Post Office Department / Office of the Third Assistant Postmaster General / Official Business,” franked “W.H.H. Terrell,” addressed in another hand to “Publisher / ‘New National Era’ / Washington, D.C.” Torn open at right edge. Mounting remnants on verso at perimeter. Fine condition. William Henry Harrison Terrell (1827- 1884) was Adjutant General for the State of Indiana during the Civil War with the rank of Colonel. In May 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Third Assistant Postmaster General, where he served until 1873.

www.universityarchives.co...n-Item/Results-List/Item- Detail.aspx?ItemID=56771

A K A Stone  posted on  2017-02-13   18:56:37 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: A K A Stone (#4) (Edited)

Manuscript Letter Signed “W.H.H. Terrell” as Third Asst. P.M.G.,

No, it looks like W.H.H. Terrell was Third Asst. P.M.G. "William Henry Harrison Terrell (1827- 1884) was Adjutant General for the State of Indiana during the Civil War with the rank of Colonel. In May 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Third Assistant Postmaster General, where he served until 1873."

Terrell sent correspondence to "“Publisher / ‘New National Era’ / Washington, D.C.” Frederick Douglass was with the New National Era.

nolu chan  posted on  2017-02-13   19:06:42 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: nolu chan (#5)

Ok. I read that a couple of times after I posted it and wondered if I read it correctly.

A K A Stone  posted on  2017-02-13   19:08:53 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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