Insight: What would Frederick Douglass think?

The legendary abolitionist would be shocked at modern America's attitudes on race

  • 3 min to read
Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Of the two giants the United States produced in the 19th century — Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln — the former, were he to come back to life, would be impressed by the fact that the first African American president had recently been elected, but angered that his successor thought Douglass had not died yet.

On the other hand, his curiosity about the year of his birth would finally be satisfied. In Maryland, where he was born in 1818, the date of birth of a slave was not considered worthy of note, and Douglass always thought he was probably born in 1817.

Robert Felgar is head of the English department at Jacksonville State University, where he teaches surveys of African American literature and a course in black American literature of the 20th century. His latest book is an annotated edition of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” published by Praeger.

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