Each Valentine’s day I remember the life of St. Valentine. I also remember the life of Frederick Douglass. Today is the day he chose as his birthday. As one born into enslavement he never knew his real day of birth.
Prophets, woman or man, have always been preachers, poets, and social critics. They speak in the language of lament and hope to give voice to love and justice. Douglas was no exception. Our world would be different without his witness. In a society where politicians want to ban his work and censor him from US history books, I’m grateful for the records that tell his story.
Banning and censorship is nothing new.
U.S. newspapers, North and South, were critical of Douglass’ speaking about slavery in Britain. They wanted him to remain silent. But a man named Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune, offered his support. In a letter Douglass wrote to him, he said,
“I am one of those who think the best friend of a nation is he who most faithfully rebukes her for her sins—and he her worst enemy, who, under the specious and popular garb of patriotism, seeks to excuse, palliate, and defend them. America has much more to fear from such than all the rebukes of the abolitionists at home or abroad.”“General Correspondence 1846” (page 30)
Not only did Douglass speak prophetically to the governing authorities, he spoke to White Christians and leaders. Concerning the Fugitive Slave Law he said:
“I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it. At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness.”“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” delivered to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, in 1852
I’m grateful for his birth.
Fred – thank you, as always. I love your wisdom and insights.