From slavery to freedom Essay
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Ironically, Fredrick Douglas all but snatched the Emancipation Proclamation from Abraham Lincoln’s hands to make of its flat rhetoric a sharpened call for freedom and equality. Douglass had never regarded the ending of slavery as enough, either for himself or for his people; it had to be the beginning of an embrace of the black individual’s fullness as a person, a beginning that would point straight toward an end, within quick reach. “For Douglass, each gain in the struggle, and the Emancipation Proclamation decidedly was one of the greatest, simply meant that America must move on to the next gain.
” (Mcfeely, 1991) Douglass’s commitment to abolitionism, black elevation, and women’s rights outstripped his commitment to other social reforms. His major social reform passions — black liberation and women’s liberation — underscored his egalitarian humanism. The logic and motivation for his social reform odyssey derived essentially from his quest for morality, order, and progress. Even though his interrelated social reform enthusiasms were integral to his vision of a moral, orderly, and progressive civilization, he nonetheless evinced a keen sense of the need for priorities among them.
(Martin, 1984) In retelling his journey from slavery to freedom in the middle of the decade, less than a year after the Cleveland emigration convention, Douglass was responding implicitly to the arguments of Delany and other pro-immigration supporters that in the foreseeable future blacks would remain slaves, or de facto slaves, in the United States — arguments that would appear to have gained added currency with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.
Central to Douglass’s continued hopefulness about blacks’ prospects in the United States, despite such obviously negative developments, was a renewed commitment following his 1851 break with Garrison to the informing ideals of the nation’s original revolutionary documents. In many ways during this period, Frederick Douglass became the prototypical American success: a peerless self-made man and symbol of success; a fearless and tireless spokesman; a thoroughgoing humanist. The most striking and enduring aspect of Douglass’s heroic legacy in his day — its classic, even archetypical aura — has persisted down to the present.
Although often viewed and used differently by others, the heroic and legendary Douglass clearly personifies the American success ethic. The key to his eminently evocative essence is twofold. Douglass’s influence had a far reaching affect. In April 1855, Uriah Boston, a prominent figure in the black community of Poughkeepsie, New York, wrote a letter to Douglass in reference to his newspaper. Boston expressed concern over the increasingly separatist tone of prominent black abolitionists like William J. Wilson and James McCune Smith.
Responding to pieces they had written in the black press, Boston criticized the two for “urging the colored people to preserve their identity with the African race. ” He feared that any claim of distinct national identity on the part of black people might lend credence to “the propriety and necessity of African colonization”—the dreaded scheme of the American Colonization Society. For Boston, blacks could never constitute a nation within the nation. “You cannot mix nationalities,” he wrote. “No man is a proper citizen of one certain country while he claims at the same time to be a citizen of any other country. ”