Frederick Douglass: from Slave to Statesman

He was one of the most revered Americans of
the 19th century. His story of personal triumph—humble origins
to national prominence—is equal to or greater than that of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln,
or Ulysses Grant. He never became a politician, but he spoke
to presidents as an equal. His name is Frederick Douglass. Born a slave, Douglass never knew the exact
date of his birth, never knew his father, never saw his mother after the age of seven. This wasn’t uncommon at the time. Slave owners often made a point of separating
families. Breaking family bonds increased dependence
on the slave owner. Discipline was maintained through simple fear
and destroying self-esteem. A slave could be punished for not working
hard enough, but also for working too hard—or even for suggesting labor-saving ideas. Douglass experienced all of this and rebelled
against it. As a teenager, he taught himself to read. This created a desire for freedom. When his owner discovered this disturbing
development, he sent him to live with a local farmer, Edward Covey, who made extra money
breaking the will of unruly slaves. Covey beat Douglass every week for six months,
often for no reason. And it worked. Soon young Frederick gave up all hope of being
free. “The dark night of slavery closed in upon
me,” he later wrote. That all changed one hot August day in 1835. When Covey struck him, Douglass fought back. Where he found the courage, he couldn’t
say. The two men struggled until Covey stumbled
away exhausted. Covey never laid a hand on Douglass again. The teenage slave had stood up for himself. He considered this the most important lesson
of his life. Years later, he would tell this story when
urging black men to enlist in the Union Army to fight the Confederacy. “You owe it to yourself,” he said. “You will stand more erect . . . and be
less liable to insult. . . . You [will be] defending your own liberty,
honor, manhood, and self-respect.” Douglass made his escape from slavery in 1838,
slipping into the North disguised as a U.S. Navy sailor. At any point along the rail journey, his flimsy
cover could have been blown. Displaying a confidence he didn’t actually
feel, he bluffed his way past suspicious conductors and runaway-slave hunters. Once in the North, he joined the radical abolitionist
movement and was quickly recognized as a powerful speaker and writer. The movement’s leader, William Lloyd Garrison,
burned the Constitution at his July 4th speeches. In Garrison’s view, it legally protected
slavery and was therefore irredeemable. But Douglass came to reject that. He believed that the Constitution was fundamentally
opposed to slavery. “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted,”
Douglass said, “the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.” Not surprisingly, Douglass was a strong supporter
of the Republican Party—the new anti-slavery party—and of the Union cause in the Civil
War. Initially, he had doubts about Abraham Lincoln. He didn’t think Lincoln was truly committed
to ending slavery. But he warmed up to the Great Emancipator
as the conflict wore on. Lincoln, on the other hand, always admired
Douglass. “Here comes my friend Douglass,” Lincoln
said when he saw him at his second inaugural in 1865. The Union victory ended slavery. But as the Democratic Party re-established
itself in the South in the 1870s and ‘80s, a new kind of racial oppression arose in the
form of Jim Crow laws and, even worse, widespread lynching. This was a bitter pill for Douglass to swallow. But he never gave up the struggle and spent
the last three decades of his life agitating for civil rights. “Freedom,” he was fond of saying, “depended
on three boxes: the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the cartridge-box.” For Douglass, it was self-evident that black
Americans, as citizens, were entitled to full freedom and full legal protection. At a speech in 1893, when white hecklers began
booing him, Douglass set his speech aside and spoke extemporaneously. “There is no Negro problem,” he roared. “The problem is whether the American people
have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their
own Constitution.” He also believed that true liberty would only
come for black Americans—as it comes for anyone—when they took full responsibility
for their own fate. Ultimately, hard work and education would
secure blacks the rights they deserved. “There can be no independence without a
large share of self-dependence. . . . This virtue cannot be bestowed. It must be developed from within,” he declared
in his most popular lecture, appropriately titled “Self-Made Men.” Douglass defended equality and freedom until
the day he died—literally. He passed away in 1895, on his way to a political
convention. He had well understood the deep prejudice
that existed, but he never accepted it as an inherent part of American culture. “My cause,” he wrote, “was and is that
of the black man; not because he is black, but because he is a man.” I’m Timothy Sandefur, author of Frederick
Douglass: Self-Made Man, for Prager University.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019


  2. Frederick Douglas was a strong supporter of the Republican party. But he wouldn't be today. Not with an idiot like Trump as the best the republicans could do.

  3. If Frederick Douglass was alive today, he would see that jim crow and slavery still exist and is flourishing. Jim Crow lives in profiling, injustice, double standards and it's old friend, bigotry. Slavery never left, it just removed the chains from the body and used them to restrict the minds. Instead of Black Americans only, slavery has all the races in America and the majority of Americans aren't aware of their enslavement.

  4. I'm a History major and in my US History to 1877 class, we were taught that despite popular belief, Abolition wasn't as big a movement in the North and that most people viewed Abolitionists as radicals. Most people were Free Soil supporters, meaning they opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, but could care less for places where slavery was already well established, i.e. the South. We were also taught about William Lloyd Garrison and how he burned the Constitution on the Fourth of July and called it "a contract with the Devil" and he was living in Boston.

  5. We need so many more people like Frederick Douglass. It seems like freedom is on the decline in recent years with pro-communist hordes rioting unopposed to push for the silencing of whatever voices do not bow down and worship their false gods.

  6. Frederick Douglass (as well as Lincoln) would undoubtedly despise and denounce the modern Republican party, and prefer by leaps and bounds the modern Democratic Party. The parties are not what they were at the time of the Civil war. Learn history.

  7. Lies, we all know blacks can't compete with whites. Why else would we need affirmative action and welfare?
    Per Democrats they can't even figure out how to get photo IDs or take personal responsibility.

  8. Fredrick Douglas, George Washington Carver, its too bad Blacks don't enshrine these names like they do MLK or Malcom X.

  9. 0:32 "Slave owners often made a point of separating families. Breaking family bonds increased dependence on the slave owner."
    Now it could say "The democrat program of welfare separates families. Breaking family bonds increases dependence on democrat run government."

  10. “The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honour enough, patriotism enough to live up to their own Constitution.”

    Best ever!!

  11. Fredrick Douglas knew about the attack on Harper's Ferry and helped with its planning. He was a traitor to America. He should have been hung for treason. He was no hero. He was a traitor!

  12. "There can be no independence without self-dependence". That is why Democrats have pushed black people into relying on the government for aide. Because they were finally becoming independent.

  13. That is the first time I have heard about some black proeminent on 19th century on US. We have lots of them in our brazilian history, like André Rebouças (engineer), Machado de Assis (the greatest writer from our country), José do Patrocínio (journalist), and there is a man call Luis Gama, who had born free, then sold as slave, and then thought himself to read and became an succesful lawyer anti-slavery!

    Thank you, PragerU

  14. We hear not a word from modern black liberals about this truly great black hero. The false lying progressive narrative just does not allow for the likes of men with integrity like Douglass.
    How our country would be transformed for the better if blacks embraced the virtue and world-view of Douglass. Instead we get Nike and black rap violence, hatred, and objectification of women.

  15. When it comes to slavery, American slavery was one of the smallest compare to other big slave trades.
    ALSO. If you live in America, Slavery was abolished BY White man, THE FIRST ABOLISHMENT OF SLAVERY WAS IN 1780s Austria Hungary and Denmark.

  16. Google/YouTube should ban this video. It provides the truth. It promotes personal responsibility, the rise of an independent man. Not to mention what it says about Republicans and Democrats. Or that you can learn more in 5 minutes with a PragerU video than you can for $70k+ per year for 4 of them at a Liberal/Leftist Ivy League University. (Primary example #AOC)
    We can't have this.

  17. Along with 'up from slavery' by Booker T Washington, 'my bondage and my freedom' should be on everyone's reading list.

  18. "Separating family bonds increased dependency on the slave owner." Don't look at them divorce/single mother rates today, corporations and the welfare state are your masters now.

  19. Since Hollywood is producing all of these slave movies…why don't they make one about this man? Maybe Matthew Henson or even Ben Carson, you know stories of triumph not despair.

  20. "There can be no independence without a large share of self-dependence".
    This. So true. This is a hint to why there is no such thing as "free education" or "free healthcare". Hell, this is why goverment education makes you less independent than when you pay from your pocket. You don't shift your responsibility to the goverment that is not interested in giving you proper education in first place, you own to your responsibility because "if you want something done right, do it yourself", so they say.

    Shame that in my country people don't understand that. They adore USSR for "free education", "free healthcare", "free housing" and so on without a thought about the cost. I never saw them thinking where it comes from, why is it "free" (or "why is it not free", to be accurate).

  21. You guys should do a video on William Carney the first black American to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was a slave who was then liberated to fight for the union army and never let the American flag the Betsy Ross flag touch the ground even being shot several times also in the face

  22. In our country of opportunity, the cream will rise to the top. It depends on your character. Attitude is part of your character.

  23. Should be a national holiday for this guy. Probably one of the most important historical figures in our country and definitely the most important black historical figure.

  24. More interesting one. Moses Dallas– black Confederate Navy ship pilot. Google "Moses Dallas".

  25. Under Trump everyone can be and become great, but the racist lib Dems want to enslave all of us and shut us up, keep our kids brainwashed and on drugs to control them. Vote Trump 2020 to keep us free

  26. Defending your liberty, honor, manhood and self respect, these are used to be liberal values of America but lost in the hands of modern progressives..

  27. I highly advise Blacks to study this individual….the narrative displayed here will quickly come into question. #BGTOW #BlackFlight

  28. "Breaking family bonds increased dependence on the slave owner" This is exactly what the Dems are doing with minorities now and it's been working.

  29. The life of Douglas would make an excellent movie. I dont know why someone hasnt made it yet. It's got everything you need to make a great drama- no need to Hollywoodize anything. There would be so many interesting characters besides Douglas- John Brown, Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman, et al.

  30. but but but… the parties switched sides…. at some point… maybe 1850s, or 1910s, or 1940s, or 1960s, or 2000s (every time the Republicans passed a major civil rights law or Amendment)…. The left never knows when they "switched sides" as part of their bogus claim, but their basis is that every single time it was actually Democrats sitting as Republican majority that actually did it, which is 100% false.

  31. Great lesson! Responsibility, hard work and courage. Admirable actions and characteristics for anyone to respect. I personally think the label "Uncle Tom" is more offensive than the N word. Today's culture glamorizes the latter.

  32. "He was one of the most revered Americans of the 19th century. " Well, at the time he wasn't, especially from individuals considered conservative or "on the right" in certain parts of the country…

  33. "That all changed one hot August day in 1835. When Covey struck him, Douglass fought back." So the hope wasn't completely lost then, or just at that time he didn't care any more about being punished due to depression…

  34. "Covey never laid a hand on Douglass again." Yep, because there are plenty of others who could and did… Saying 'courage' was all that slaves needed is a very inaccurate view of the situation.

  35. "Displaying a confidence he didn’t actually feel" Well, you mean he didn't think right? Because confidence by definition is a feeling…

  36. Very good as usual but, with respect he learned to read from the wife of one of his later owners not self taught.
    However it does NOT diminish his accomplishments in any way.
    Thank you for your time.

  37. "Lincoln, on the other hand, always admired Douglass. “Here comes my friend Douglass,” Lincoln said when he saw him at his second inaugural in 1865." A politician calling someone a friend doesn't necessarily mean they were genuine friends. Just take over half the cases of 'friends' Donald Trump has cited…

  38. "a new kind of racial oppression arose in the form of Jim Crow laws and, even worse, widespread lynching." Well no, it wasn't 'new', just shifted to be 'legal' at the time… Because if you don't think slaveowners and hunters did this or worse to their slaves, you are gravely mistaken.

  39. "My cause was, and is that of the black man; not because he is black but because he is a Man"
    A sentiment lost on today's left.

  40. Slight change to reflect modern times. "Breaking family bonds. Increased dependency on the"…GOVERNMENT. This is exactly what the Left is doing. The goal of the Left is to make everyone a slave of the government. "Discipline is maintained by fear, destroying self-esteem. Being to soft or suggesting better ways that are not compliant with the Left will get you punished by getting Labeled. Stand up and rebel. Watch PragerU videos to gain the ammo you need to fight the Left. Many other republican presidents have caved to the Left. Trump is one who has the courage to stand up to the Left. Taking their whips, their blows, and various other assaults. Each time, he stands his ground. Hopefully future republican presidents will look to Trump as having the courage to stand against the Left. And the citizens follow behind and, themselves, stand against the Left. And hopefully we too will break the Left, the modernized slavery.

  41. I will use this video to help educate left leaning people (that I encounter in my daily life) who think the Republican party is racist. More proof that the Republican party spearheaded the very first human rights movement in this country. God Bless America!

  42. My god "..not because he is black but because he is a man." That's beautiful and should be instilled in everyone. Reach out and help unlucky people beyond your immediate relation.

  43. So many fought so hard for so long for the freedoms that we have. Now we in the west are on the verge of trading those freedoms for government handouts.

  44. This seems like another one of prager's "oh wow this guy's so cool" video. I do have to wonder why prageru likes andrew jackson so much though.

  45. The common trait of all these great men was that, despite whatever shortcomings they had, they all valued and aspired to live up to the Declaration and Constitution.

  46. I absolutely love Douglas. Great man. The race hustlers and regressives hate this guy because he stood for exactly the opposite of what they push for today. As a black man, one of the biggest problems, and aggravating, problem I see with the black community, and quite frankly much of our society now, is the lack of accountability and responsibility. These two things are no longer good in this society and have been replaced with pride, hubris, victimhood, and such other qualities that render truth and progress stale and hindered. I hope we can look to history like that of Douglas, who stood for what was right and true and upheld what American values truly are, in order to prosper as a country. Unfortunately the left wishes to do no such thing, and the majority of Republicans will either let them degrade the country or work directly with them in their nihilistic goals for this country.

  47. One of the great men in American History. It’s sad that some many people have forgotten his words or never been taught them in the first place because of bias and fallacy ridden ideology.

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