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Frederick Douglass Archives - Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Commentary, Articles and Essays by Dr. Maulana Karenga

Questioning the Country with Frederick Douglass: Judgment, Not Joy on July 4th

By Dr. Maulana Karenga

By Dr. Maulana Karenga — If we are to honor and rightfully appreciate our history and struggle to liberate ourselves and expand the realm of freedom and justice in this country, we must stand with Frederick Douglass at Rochester, New York in 1852, at every Fourth of July celebration. To stand with Douglass on this day is not only to read, discuss and study his July 4th speech, but to…

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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Statue Torn Down on Anniversary of Famous July 4 Speech

By News & Current Affairs

The landmark 1852 speech by the Black abolitionist was titled, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” By Chris Walker, Truthout — A statue of Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved Black abolitionist in the mid-1800s who helped to transport other enslaved people seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad, was removed from its pedestal in a park in Rochester, New York, by vandals over the weekend. The statue was…

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Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Railed Against Economic Inequality

By Editors' Choice

The great abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass died 125 years ago. Jacobin published never-before-transcribed articles from Frederick Douglass’ Paper denouncing capitalism and economic inequality. By Matt Karp  — Everyone knows that Frederick Douglass, who died 125 years ago today, was a fierce opponent of slavery and a powerful champion of freedom, justice, and equality for all. But when it comes to Douglass’s concrete political views, things are more complicated. For…

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Del. Wanika B. Fisher

Lawmaker Wants to Open a Dialogue About Reparations in Md.

By News & Current Affairs, Reparations

Del. Wanika Fisher (D-Prince George’s) wants the state to consider reparations for ancestors of Maryland slaves. By Hannah Gaskill, Maryland Matters — Maryland’s 250-year history of legal slavery came to an end when the practice was abolished on Nov. 1, 1864, nearly a year before the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Del. Wanika B. Fisher (D-Prince George’s) says it’s finally time for Maryland lawmakers to have a talk…

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Former enslaved people in a Southern town shortly after the end of the Civil War, circa 1865.

American Slavery and ‘the Relentless Unforeseen’

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

This essay is an adaptation of the fourth annual Philip Roth Lecture, delivered at the Newark Public Library on November 4, 2019. The lecture began with an appreciation of Roth’s merging of fiction and history. An admirer of great historical writing, Roth understood that, to be truly great, it had to grapple with what he called, in The Plot Against America, “the relentless unfolding of the unforeseen.” Flipped on its…

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From left to right: Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib

Do We Want the America of Frederick Douglass or Donald Trump?

By Commentaries/Opinions

By Walter G. Moss — One version of America is that of President Trump, whose recent tweets led the U. S. House of Representatives to condemn his “comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans.” His slogan “Make America Great Again,” his attempts to limit voting, and his pandering to Christian evangelicals are not-so-subtle signals that he perceives himself as defending the fortress of white, primarily male and Christian, dominance…

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American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, circa 1855.

The History of Frederick Douglass’ Searing Independence Day Oration

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

By Olivia B. Waxman,Time  — After the Independence Day military parade in the nation’s capital on Thursday, President Donald Trump will give a speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the most recognizable memorial to his predecessor’s leadership during the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. And yet, alternative Fourth of July commemorations across the United States often draw attention to a different side of that story, with readings of the…

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Frederick Douglass, 1850.

What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? By Frederick Douglass

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

The entire speech by Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852 — Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the…

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Frederick Douglass

Slavery and the Family Tree

By Reparations

By Whitney Stewart, Black Perspectives — How do you make a family tree when you may not know your family history? Beyond the very real physical and emotional toll on enslaved individuals, slavery’s violence also lay in its determination to erase or prevent the creation of family histories. As Frederick Douglass asserted in his 1855 autobiography, “Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves.” In other words, the constraints of slavery made assembling and representing…

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Commentary, Articles and Essays by Dr. Maulana Karenga

Beyond the Bondage of Plantation Politics: Crafting Our Own Presidential Platform — Part 1

By Dr. Maulana Karenga

Part. 1. By Dr. Maulana Karenga — During both the Holocaust of enslavement and the era of segregation, leaving the plantation was a metaphor, mental process and actual practice of freedom. It was a freeing oneself mentally and physically, thinking freedom and then acting in ways that led to its achievement as did Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer, Messenger Muhammad and countless others in their rejection of and resistance to…

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