Tag Archives: Frederick Douglass

“WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS THE FOURTH OF JULY?”

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America.is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th 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.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

WHY ARE AFRICAN-AMERICANS SO ANGRY WITH AMERICA? AN EXPLANATION FOR WHITE AMERICA

Far too often, we find the explanation that we so desperately seek for contemporary issues in the experiences of those who have come before us. The current pessimism of so many African-Americans in regards to America is such an occasion.

Encouraged by an understandably limited vision clouded by many blind spots regarding racial matters, the white community continues to ask the centuries-old query of, “Why are blacks so angry?” In yet another example of why it is so important to read everything that you can get your hands on, the most lucid explanation for African-American anger comes from what many would consider one of the least likely sources; the dreamer, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unfortunately for the sake of racial reconciliation, the path to seizing a solid understanding of “Why are blacks so angry?” requires the white community to do the impossible, forgetting everything they think that they know about both Black America and American racial matters. Until such a Herculean task is accomplished whites will never be prepared to understand an African-American viewpoint of America that vacillates between skepticism and a growing sometimes uncontrollable hatred.

Experience has taught me that most Americans are either historically illiterate or tend to forget historical occurrences that conflict with the worldview they desire. These realities sit at the core of white America’s view of current race relations, particularly their tendency to advise African-Americans of the path that their ancestors traveled to first-class citizenship and access to the American dream. Despite whites most fervent attempts to restructure the historical record, according to Dr. King, African-Americans did their absolute best to integrate with an overtly hostile America during the highly contentious Civil Rights Movement. According to King,

Negroes of America had taken the President, the press and the pulpit at their word when they spoke in broad terms of freedom and justice . . . The word was broken, and the free-running expectations of the Negro crashed into the stone walls of white resistance.

In many ways, African-Americans foremost gripe regarding America is found in its failure to in the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass to “leave the Negro alone” as he diligently attempted to work toward the elusive American dream. It was whites inability in both the private and public sector to “leave the Negro alone” that birthed frustrations, despair, and disappointment among a population of individuals who placed their hope in the myth of meritocracy, the belief that if you worked hard enough, the American dream would eventually be achieved.

It was the alluded to rising frustrations during the Civil Rights Movement that made the adoption of Black Power politics by African-American activists not only predictable but also totally understandable for reasonable minded people.

It is within the context of rising racial tensions that Dr. King reminded his white contemporaries that the arrival of Black Powerites was directly attributable to America breaking its vaunted promises. According to King,

Many of the young people proclaiming Black Power today were but yesterday the devotees of black-white cooperation and nonviolent direct action.… If they are America’s angry children today, this anger is not congenital. It is a response to the feeling that a real solution is hopelessly distant because of the inconsistencies, resistance, and faintheartedness of those in power.

Disappointment produces despair and despair produces bitterness, and that the one thing certain about bitterness is its blindness…When some members of the dominant group, particularly those in power, are racist in attitude and practice, bitterness accuses the whole group.

This continuous pattern of America breaking its promises regarding what many believed to be basic principles led to the continuing pleas of moderate Civil Rights Leaders for a continuation of patience falling upon deaf ears. James Robert Ross comments on this unfortunate position when he remarks that

Each time the black people in those cities saw Dr. Martin Luther King get slapped they became angry, when they saw little black girls get bombed to death in a church and civil rights workers abused and murdered they were angrier; and when nothing happened, they were steaming mad. We [Civil Rights Leaders] had nothing to offer that they could see. Except to go out and be beaten again.

It is most certainly not a stretch to attribute much of the past and present anger within Black America, particularly among males, to frustrations regarding their lack of access to much-ballyhooed American principles and Horatio Alger stories. Make no mistake about it, the referenced anger is a logical by-product of the broken promises that have undergirded the black experience in America. White America should not look for the cessation of such emotions until the path to freedom and justice is cleared of unnecessary obstacles and they take Douglass’ advice and “leave the Negro alone” when they see him progressing forward.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

 

WHY WE MUST IMMEDIATELY SHUT DOWN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: TRUMP AND HIS ENTIRE CABINET DESPERATELY NEED IT

Dr. Anthony Quinn, also affectionately known as Tony, is undoubtedly one of my closest friends in the entire world. And I will tell you, if there was a poster child for what a man, regardless of Race, should be for his family, he is the gold standard. I consider him the Barack Obama of black fatherhood. Considering his past history, I was most certainly not surprised to hear that he had already purchased tickets to visit the National Museum of African-American History and Culture a full 8 months prior to a planned trip to Washington D.C. He is quite simply that type of fellow, a homey-type of responsible Negro.

So I hope that you can understand that the following request regarding the National Museum of African-American History and Culture has little to do with Tony and everything to do with the safety of the nation. Although I am most certainly not against the Quinn family visiting this historic museum, I am hoping that they and the droves of others who are planning a visit will give great consideration to my request that they delay their visit for at least a full calendar year as the museum needs to be closed to the public for at least that amount of time.

Tony, I love you, however, I hope that you can understand that it is imperative that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture be closed to the public for at least the next year because I am certain that it will take that long to educate the entire Trump administration about the contributions that African-Americans have made to this nation.

I am calling for the use of an American Christian tradition called the “lock-in.” A “lock-in” is when Christians are locked into the church for at least one night so that they can be immersed in the Gospel; the “lock-in” is most certainly beneficial to backsliding Christians.

It is time that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture be put to good use by “locking-in” newly elected President Donald Trump and his entire cabinet. I ask for one thing in association to this “lock-in.” Whoever is entrusted with locking America’s new President inside of the building, I hope that they place the chain outside of the entrance doors to ensure that any attempt to escape much-needed knowledge is aborted. Considering the cast of characters that we are seeking to educate, I think that it is necessary that we not only chain the doors but also have the Fruit of Islam circle the building as an extra security measure to prevent anyone from escaping this much needed educational experience; only the Lord knows the lengths that Trump and his roving band of imbeciles will go to escape enlightenment.

Now I am certain that there are a few of you who consider such actions a waste of taxpayer money. However, I would remind them of the cost of having the nation directed by an ignorant Commander in Chief. Trust me when I say that monetary costs should be the least of our concerns as we are all in peril with Trump and his band of nitwits making crucial decisions that they have little understanding of.

I am quite certain that you are well aware of Trump’s Black History Month gaffe that led him to speak about the venerable Black Abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the present tense as if he were still alive; the Commander in Chief was oblivious to the fact that Douglass died over a century ago in 1895. More recently, the latest addition to Trump’s roving band of idiots, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took to twitter to share words of wisdom by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, the greatest intellectual the American academy has ever created. The Department of Education twitter account shared the following words by the Harvard Intellectual,

“Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life.”

(W.E.B. DeBose)

Yes, you are reading that correctly, they misspelled DuBois’ name. And just when you thought that things could not get any worse for the U.S. Department of Education, they issued the following correction.

Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo. — US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017

Unbelievably, during their attempt to issue a correction for a misspelling gaffe involving W.E.B. DuBois, they misspelled apologies with ‘apologizes.’ What a scary world we are living in at this present moment as we are being governed by a President who has no idea that Frederick Douglass died over a century ago and a Secretary of Education who has similar weakness in African-American history that are dwarfed by an inability to either spell or monitor those who are speaking for the government agency she now heads.

On second thought, maybe we should push the pause button on locking Trump and his cabinet inside of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. It appears that we may need to start their enlightenment at a local elementary school, preferably a public school so that Secretary DeVos can add such experience to her barren qualification sheet, which will give them a solid footing in the basics. At least it is a start. And as with all Herculean efforts, we must start somewhere.

May God bless America because she and her citizenry most certainly need it.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017.

Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Frederick Douglass

A TALE OF TWO MEN: THE DIFFERING VIEWS OF DONALD TRUMP AND GREG POPOVICH ON AMERICAN RACIAL MATTERS

I must tell you that I have always shied away from blanket statements that indict an entire race as being monolithic and therefore possessing some draconian view of African-Americans or racial matters. Life has taught me that there is a wide-range of experiences that goes into forming what we believe, what we “know”, and who we become as adults.

The above realizations serve as constant reminders that not only do I as an individual have an opportunity to choose what I will and will not believe, others have the same decisions to make in their lives. It is this reasoning that facilitates my understanding of the irreconcilable positions of President Donald Trump and San Antonio Spur basketball icon Greg Popovich.

I am certain that you have heard Donald Trump’s incoherent ramblings regarding Black History Month. The alluded to moment will go down in history as definitive proof that America’s new President knows absolutely nothing about Black America as he insinuated that the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, was still in the land of the living. Despite the protestations of supporters, the Commander in Chief is indicative of what occurs when privileged Americans exist within a bubble that shields them from the many challenges and issues facing non-elite Americans.

Fortunately for this nation, there is a sizable population of whites whose experiences have led to a much more illuminated understanding of American racial dynamics. San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich has repeatedly proven to possess a quite impressive understanding of American race relations. During a recent interview session, Popovich offered the following words of wisdom regarding America’s most significant social cancer.

But more than anything, I think if people take the time to think about it {racism}, I think it is our national sin. It always intrigues me when people come out with ‘I’m tired of talking about that’ or ‘Do we have to talk about race again?’ And the answer is, you’re damned right we do. Because it’s always there, and it’s systemic in the sense that when you talk about opportunity, it’s not about ‘Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard, then you can have the American Dream.’ That’s a bunch of hogwash.

If you were born white, you automatically have a monstrous advantage educationally, economically, culturally in this society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, whether it’s in a judicial sense, or a neighborhood sense with laws, zoning, education — we have huge problems in that regard that are very complicated but take leadership, time, and real concern to try to solve. It’s a tough one because people don’t really want to face it.

In many ways, it is astounding that Trump and Popovich were raised in the same nation. However, it is this diversity in thought that provides definitive proof that all is not lost in regards to having honest discussions regarding American race relations or the securing of some level of racial justice. If only we were able to arrange for the development of more Greg Popovich’s the world would be a far more enlightened place.

At least it is something to hope for.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III