You are interested in Frederick Douglass quotes, and you have come to the right place.
Daniel L. Katz, in the interesting book Why Freedom Matters, quotes the letter escaped slave and then-abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote to his former master, Thomas Auld. He writes: “For audacious correspondence, it’s hard to beat Frederick Douglass’ (1815-1895) letter to his former master.” He ain’t lyin’! This is one of the most interesting things I have ever read. If you are interested in rare or unique Frederick Douglass quotes, you’ve come to the right place. Think about it: a slave endures the full measure of cruelty that was the custom of the upper class in the South for hundreds of years, then bravely escapes, makes his way north, evades capture, learns to read, marries, has four children, becomes a great writer, and grows into one of the most famous, eloquent, and forceful abolitionists. Below are the Frederick Douglass quotes that are the most interesting of the entire, long letter.
It can sting and evoke shame in me, a white person – and one whose maternal side did some slaveholding (I once saw a receipt my second cousin had retained that referred to “Five hundred dollars for James, a negro boy.” I also think about the culture of the South, where I live, and not only look back with repugnance on how things used to be, but see the remnants still. More than a few conservatives cannot easily make the connection between then and now; it flies in the face of their worldview which holds that things are relatively fair now and that the past is no real influence on the present. They wish to believe that it is an even playing field, and that we have overcome the vast majority of our inequalities and systemic barriers to success. They tend to see the disenfranchised as more or less deserving of their fate. Such is the view of rugged individualism and the Horatio Alger myth that they are guided by. I’m not trying to be insulting, just stating how I see it.
I know they would argue I misunderstand, but when they sometimes miss the salient facts, such as imprisonment, the drug war, what rioting means, the nature of social welfare, disparities in health and income and wealth and education, and the disintegrated family, the proof is in the pudding, as it were. I see a clear line between acts of barbarity and cruelty and elitism perpetrated against Native Americans, African slaves, Chinese laborers, and virtually every ethnicity of immigrant. It is disheartening but enlightening to read first-hand Frederick Douglass quotes from this letter in which he recounts what he experienced, his meteoric rise to nobility, and his choice words for Captain Auld.
We ought to remember, and really grasp, what social justice means and take a good look at how the country is dealing with race. The rise of the radical right and the disgruntled white majority since Trump’s campaign (and to some degree, the advent of the Tea Party) is serious business that should draw the attention of every center-left individual. It is quite possible that America has not changed as much as the owning class and the masses of center-right whites would like to believe. One thing is true, though, and that is that then, as now, the lines can very easily be drawn not vertically – between different races and religions and locations and lifestyles – but horizontally – between those who own capital and have power, and those who do not. That is a reasonable theory as to why white Americans feel resentment as the number of non-whites grows and the country faces stark economic changes. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it, the great philosopher George Santayana wrote.
And now, the Frederick Douglass quotes from his letter dated September 8th, 1848:
Since I left you, I have had a rich experience. I have occupied stations which I never dreamed of when a slave. Three out of the 10 years since I left you, I spent as a common laborer on the wharves of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was there I earned my first dollar. It was mine. I could spend it as I pleased. That was a precious dollar to me. You remember when I use to make seven or eight, or even nine dollars a week in Baltimore; you would take every cent of it from me every Saturday night, saying that since I belonged to you, my earnings did also.
You, sir, can never know my feelings. As I look back on them, I can scarcely realize that I have passed through a scene so trying. Bad as they were, and gloomy as was the prospect, thanks to the Most High, who is ever the God of the oppressed, at the moment which was to determine my whole earthly career, His grace was sufficient; my mind was made up. I embraced the golden opportunity, took the morning tide at the flood, a free man – young, active, and strong – is the result.
I have selected this day on which to address you because it is the anniversary of my emancipation; and knowing no better way, I am led to this is the best mode of celebrating that truly important event. Just 10 years ago this beautiful September morning, yon bright sun beheld me a slave – a poor, degraded chattel – trembling at the sound of your voice, lamenting that I was a man, and wishing myself a brute.
At this moment, you are probably the guilty holder of at least three of my own dear sisters, and my only brother, in bondage. These you regard as your property. They are recorded on your ledger, or perhaps been sold to human flesh-mongers, with a view to filling your own ever-hungry purse. Sir, I desire to know how and where my dear sisters are. Have you sold them? or are they still in your possession? What has become of them? Are they living or dead? In my dear old grandmother, whom you turned out like an old horse to die in the woods— is she still alive?
You’ve kept [my sisters] in utter ignorance, and have therefore robbed them of the sweet enjoyments of writing or receiving letters from absent friends and relatives. Your wickedness and cruelty, committed in this respect on your fellow-creatures, are greater than all the stripes you’ve laid upon my back or theirs. It is an outrage upon the soul, a war upon the immortal spirit, and one for which you must give account at the bar of our common Father and Creator.
Check out this scintillating example of Frederick Douglass quotes: Sir, a slaveholder never appears to me so completely an agent of hell, as when I think of and look upon my dear children. It is then that my feelings rise beyond my control.
The three oldest of my children are now going regularly to school— two can read and write, and the other can spell words of two syllables. Dear fellows! they are all in comfortable beds, and are sound asleep, perfectly secure under my own roof. There are no slaveholders here to rend my heart by snatching them from my arms, or blast a mother’s dearest hopes by tearing them from her bosom.
The transition from degradation to respectability was great indeed, and to get from one to the other without carrying some marks of one’s former condition is truly a difficult matter.
I had not long enjoyed the excellent society to which I have referred before the light of its excellence exerted a beneficial influence upon my mind and heart. Much of my early dislike of white persons was removed, for their manners, habits, and customs, so entirely unlike what I had been used to in the kitchen-quarters on the plantations of the South, fairly charmed me, gave me a strong dislike for the coarse and degrading customs of my former condition.
After remaining in New Bedford for three years, I met with William Lloyd Garrison, a person of whom you have possibly heard, as he is pretty generally known among slaveholders. He put into my head that I might make myself serviceable to the cause of the slave by devoting a portion of my time to telling my own sorrows, and those of other slaves, which had come under my observation. This was the commencement of a higher state of existence any to which I had ever aspired.
I intend to make use of you as a weapon with which to assail the system of slavery— as a means of concentrating public attention on the system and deepening the horror of trafficking in the souls and bodies of men. I shall make use of you as a means of exposing the character the American church and clergy— as a means of bringing this guilty nation, with yourself, to repentance.
I hope you enjoyed these Frederick Douglass quotes. More quotes by him or by other abolitionists and additional proponents of justice, human rights, and liberty can be found in the Wisdom Archive. Free, as always. Enjoy.
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