Who’s Frederick Douglass? Learn more about civil rights leader and movement


Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879. Photo by George K. Warren. (National Archives Gift Collection)

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Born a slave in the early 1800s, Frederick Douglass escaped as a young man and went on to fight for the right of African-Americans to be free.

Douglass rose to serve in several prominent positions in government, ran an abolitionist newspaper, fought Jim Crow laws and wrote three autobiographies that have become classics. He spoke publicly in favor of rights for women of all races.

He had the ear of President Abraham Lincoln but sometimes complained that Lincoln was moving too slowly on emancipation. He went on to call Lincoln the nation’s “greatest president.”

On Monday, the first day of Black History Month and more than a century after his death, Douglass was honored with the Google Doogle of the day.

Douglass’ struggle still resonates. As the nation’s first black president’s time in office come to a close, the issues of police treatment of African-American men and women, economic opportunity, the prison system, inclusion in K-12 schools and higher education, and even the Oscar nominations are subjects of discussion and debate.

If you want to learn more about the roots of #blacklivesmatter, #sayhername and #oscarssowhite, here are some good places to start.

Learn about Douglass. Don’t you want to know more about the man who spoke during the 1888 Republican National Convention and the first African-American in a major party roll call vote to have his name put forth for president? His autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American” is a good place to start.

“Ain’t I a Woman?” Former slave Sojourner Truth told of the horror as an African-American woman in slavery in “Ain’t I a Woman?” the speech she gave in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Her landmark book, “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth,” details her journey from slave to abolitionist and feminist preacher.

The radical King. Want to delve into the real Martin Luther King Jr., who attacked poverty and war in his speeches and books? “The Radical King” goes beyond the King Day holiday speeches to delve into his politics. The book has 23 selections, including “Letter from a Birmingham jail” and “Beyond Vietnam.”

Get your children involved. Middle school students can learn about the remnants of Jim Crow and the civil rights movement in “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Jacqueline Woodson’s stunning 2014 National Book Award winner.

Even younger children. Younger children can learn more about African-Americans who fought for civil and human rights, and learn how to stand up for justice. The stories of King, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson as children who grew up to become extraordinary people are told in age-appropriate ways in Brad Meltzer’s “Ordinary People Change the World” series.

By Katia Hetter, CNN

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