Frederick Douglass

“Our national sin has found us out.”

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
After making his escape from slavery in Maryland, Douglass first rose to prominence as a speaker for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the start of a public career that would span decades and continents.

Through his antislavery newspaper, Frederick Douglass’ Paper–which had begun as The North Star–Douglass kept the pressure on the Union leadersihp throughout the early months of the war, tirelessly insisting that the real issue being decided was the existence of slavery.

He also pressed to allow black men to enlist in the Union army from the war’s earliest days, later becoming a recruiter for the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment. A committed Unionist as well as a pragmatic politician, he believed that losing the Southern states would isolate its slaves and remove even the hope of eventual freedom.

Though an outspoken critic of what he considered Lincoln’s timidity and waffling over the slavery issue at the war’s outset, Douglass would become one of Lincoln’s most steadfast admirers, able to view him in the context of his time and background.

On Blacks Not Being Allowed to Enlist in the Union Army

“Would to God you would let us do something! We are ready and would go, counting ourselves happy in being permitted to serve and suffer for the cause of freedom. We lack nothing but your consent.”

“‘Men! men! send us men!’ they scream. What on earth is the matter with the American government? Do you really covet your own ruin? What are you thinking about, or don’t you condescend to think at all?”

“The national edifice is on fire! Every man who can carry a bucket of water is wanted. Why does the government reject the negro? Is he not a man? Can he not wield a sword like any other?”

The Case for Emancipation

“We strike at the effect, and leave the cause unharmed. Fire will not burn it out of us—water cannot wash it out of us.”

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