Frederick Douglass and Black History Month

Last evening I had the privilege of going to a celebration of Fredrick Douglass.  It was on the South side of Chicago at 47th and MLK Drive.  I didn’t know a lot about Frederick Douglass other than he was raised as a slave, and escaped.  I also knew he was a leader in the abolition movement.  It was arranged by Ebony and Jimmy Tillman.

Fredrick Douglass was an interesting guy.

After escaping slavery, he went to the Caribbean, then England.  He didn’t need to come back to the US.  He was self educated.  But, he felt a calling.  He put himself at risk and came back.

There was a re-enactment of meetings between Douglass and President Lincoln.  Interestingly, the two men found a lot in common with each other.  Lincoln was born poor and stayed poor for much of his life.  He was self educated.  Lincoln rose from the prairie, not the elite circles on the East coast.  The two had some differences of opinion, but on the whole found much to agree on.  Douglass clearly had an influence on Lincoln’s approach and the public policy he promoted to free the slaves.

Douglass had been in the trenches fighting for a long time.  His speech in 1852, 8 years before the Civil War started is really one of the great speeches in American history.  There really were two Americas back then with huge roadblocks to change.  Today people talk about two Americas.  Certainly, there are differences but we have more in common than people think.  Plus, the road to change has already been paved.

Afterwards, some of the people talked about how Fredrick Douglass related to what they were doing today.  This was where things got pretty interesting for me.  Each person that spoke said things that were unrehearsed.  They spoke about why they were doing what they were doing.

One woman was from Englewood.  If you don’t know Englewood, it’s one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago.  She said that African-American’s had lost their moral compass.  We need to help them find it again.  Their families are broken, and individually they have lost hope.  It’s more than just education.  It’s deeper than that.

Interestingly, when I look at a lot of America I see parallels in other communities besides African-American communities.

How do you solve for it?  It certainly isn’t simple but this women is fighting the good fight every day of her life and we have to support her.

Another woman spoke about education.  She said, “People will tell children they must graduate from college.  But, college isn’t for everyone.  You can earn money in the trades by working with your hands.  You can be a craftsman working with material.” She is organizing a trip for kids to go to Europe.  They will see where Carrera marble is quarried-and then see the statues that were made out of it.  They will see where fine leather is tanned-and then see the leather goods that are made from it.

Then she said something interesting.  She said, “People that don’t know how to build things with their hands cannot build a nation.”

I met Douglas Love.  He spoke passionately about what he was doing.  He started a website called Think or Die.  I’d urge you to go there and interact with it.  Mr. Love wrote a book “Logic: The Truth About Blacks and the Republican Party”.  I haven’t read it but my guess is the perspective is pretty unique and unlike other things you might read.

It was interesting to meet all the people.  It was a great perspective.  What a difference between what I experienced and what they are going to be forced to experience at New Trier High School.