Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
February 1818 – February 20, 1895
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.
Playthell Benjamin - Author/ Scholar/ Historian
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!"
But in spite of Douglass' in-your-face outspokenness, which certainly would have gotten a lesser Black man lynched, he received several presidential appointments:
"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).
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.
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.
From Slave cabin to fine mansion looking down upon Washington
- Frederick Douglass
Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse (CARMA)