Saturday, July 05, 2014

Frederick Douglass: America - Through the Eyes of a REAL Black Man



Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Frederick Douglass: America - Through the Eyes of a REAL Black Man

Frederick Douglass
February 1818 – February 20, 1895
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Now, THIS was a rapper!!! He rapped lyrics of eloquence and truth that will reverberate across the ages. As long as there's a such thing as humanity, his words will be recited by posterity. He had to escape slavery to educate himself, and then went on to become one of the most knowledgeable, and brilliantly eloquent writers and speakers that this nation has ever known - that MAN has ever known. He showed the world what we were made of, and every Black person in this country, and beyond, should familiarize themselves with his story, and his legacy.
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Again, he went from an abused slave, to rubbing shoulders with presidents. As I suggested before, look at the seriousness and fierce determination in that brother's eyes. That's the look that EVERY Black child should have when they walk out their parent's door into adulthood. I look into this brother's eyes every single morning before I pickup my pen and begin to write, because that brother's eyes reflect who we are as Black people, and bringing that side of our nature to the surface, defines my mission.  Because those are the eyes that will look upon freedom, justice, and equality.

Eric L. Wattree
Playthell Benjamin - Author/ Scholar/ Historian 
Frederick Douglass
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?
"I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages!"
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And we thought that Malcolm X was militant in the 1960s. Well, Douglass told America that he considered their Fourth of July celebration a "mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy - a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages!" in 1852 - nine years BEFORE the Civil War. Back then, even "nice" White folks would lynch a brother if given sufficient cause. So how's that for keeping it real, and speaking truth to power?  The brother came straight from the shoulder, and without any hesitation or equivocation. That's what manhood is about, not struttin' about on stage, a thousand miles and a century away from the nearest rope, lynch mob, and Poplar Tree.
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Douglass would be of particular interest to many young Black men today if they would simply take the time to read about his fascinating character, because over one hundred and fifty years ago he was everything that many of today's young Black men try to pretend to be today.  He epitomized what it meant to be cool, but with one big difference - it wasn't contrived, and he had a powerful, focused, and very serious mind to go along with his suave demeanor. He, this former slave, had the kind of powerful intellect that would allow him to sit with presidents as a peer. He convinced Abraham Lincoln to enlist Black troops into the union army, and helped to organize the famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment.
Yet, he was also both a musician, and a ladies man, and he was sought after with affection by many of the sophisticated and highly placed White women of the time.  Historian and scholar Playthell Benjamin describes Douglass in his, Commentaries On The Times, as "six foot four and over two hundred pounds, with a the well muscled body of a blacksmith and the handsome countenance of a leading man of the theater, a gift for language – historian and biographer Benjamin Quarles says Douglass seemed incapable of writing a bad line – and blessed with a marvelous vocal instrument which, when wedded to his mastery of rhetoric, had the power to move masses to action in behalf of his cause, a cause that included the emancipation of women, Frederick Douglass was a sexual magnet to the ladies, especially educated white ladies." 
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Benjamin goes on to say, "And none was more enchanted with Douglass than Ottilie Assing, who described him as “magical.”  Ottilie Assing was  "a self-confident intellectual who spoke several languages, an accomplished writer, a learned critic of the visual arts, literature and theater, a seasoned radical forged in the Young German and Free Thinker’s movements that were part of the failed German revolution of 1848, an actress and musician who accompanied Douglass on piano while he played his beloved violin, a feminist, militant atheist and passionate abolitionist, Ottilie was Fred’s kind of girl."
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So what we have in Douglass is a handsome, suave, and debonair Black man, living in pre-Civil War America, yet, had the knowledge and intellect to command enough respect to live life the way he saw fit. He counseled the President of the United States, he 'dated' who he felt like 'dating' (Black or White), and  he had the courage to tell White America that their celebration of the Fourth of July was "a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages!"
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But in spite of Douglass' in-your-face outspokenness, which certainly would have gotten a lesser Black man lynched,  he received several presidential appointments:
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"Douglass served as advisor to presidents. Abraham Lincoln referred to him as the most meritorious man of the nineteenth century. In his later years Douglass was appointed to several offices. He served as U.S. Marshal of the District of Columbia during Rutherford B. Hayes' administration and President James Garfield appointed him the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds. In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison appointed him to be the US minister to Haiti. He was later appointed by President Grant to serve as secretary of the commission of Santo Domingo. Douglass had hoped that his appointments would open doors for other African-Americans, but it was many years before they would follow in his footsteps." (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/exhibits/douglass_exhibit/douglass.html).
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So Douglass was one hell of a guy, and young Black men of today could learn a lot about what it means to be a true Black man by studying his legacy. In order to command the kind of respect that Douglass enjoyed during a time when other Black men were looked upon as scarcely more than animals, he had to be a unique man among men, with some serious 'street creds.' Because he lived life the way he wanted to live, and said exactly what he wanted to say - and without looking down at his feet. He dealt with every man eyeball-to-eyeball, and he didn't care who they were. Yet, he had no posse, no crew, and absolutely no backup. It was just Fred, and his manhood, against the world. But obviously, that was enough.  
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So one of the important lesson that today's young Black men can learn from Douglass is what it means to be a Black man. Today, many of our young men are all swagger and no substance, while Douglass, was all substance and no swagger. That's what it means to be a man. Swaggerin' is a device designed to hide a BLACK of manhood, so you'll find a wimp behind most swagger. Douglass didn't have to swagger. The resolve, and serious sense of purpose that the world could see in his eyes, said it all. 
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass’ Last Home
Frederick_Douglass_House II
From Slave cabin to fine mansion looking down upon Washington
 
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
                                                                                      - Frederick Douglass
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Eric L. Wattree
Http://wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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