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Frederick Douglass (September 2018): Conclusion

By Duncan R. Jamieson


Frederick Douglass lived through slavery, Jubilee, and the early days of segregation, dying just as the Supreme Court endorsed separation with its Plessy v Ferguson decision. Sadly, it seems as if his legacy has followed a somewhat similar trajectory. Immediately following his death a few biographies appeared, written by contemporary African American luminaries. This was followed by decades of silence during the depth of the segregation era. With the coming of the Civil Rights Movement, both the academic community and the public at large developed a renewed interest in the man who brought the largest audiences to the abolitionist movement. Unlike other abolitionists, Douglass embraced the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as anti-slavery documents that guaranteed liberty to all regardless of race. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, while the interest in Douglass and his life and work continues, the gains made toward equality seem to be fading as more and more blacks are victimized by law enforcement and the judicial system. It is appropriate at this time to recall the words of Frederick Douglass: “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.”