This coming Sunday is St. Valentine’s Day. In addition to it being the biggest sales day for Hallmark, it’s also the day that Frederick Douglass was born…at least in his own words. And that’s where I’ll go with this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Frederick Douglass.
How I first came across this Black History subject? My introduction to Frederick Douglass was in Mrs. Sears’ 4th grade class at Elyton Elementary. She was issuing out assignments for a Black history paper we needed to write. It was actually her colleague—Mrs. Hatch, if I remember correctly—that suggested I be assigned Frederick Douglass. And that’s exactly what happened.
What it meant to me then? Of course, I looked him up at the school library and one of the first images I saw was the featured image. I was actually quite shocked. I didn’t know a whole lot about slavery at that time but I remember thinking that for a slave, that guy looked well dressed in a suit and bowtie. The white hair also threw me for a loop. My initial thoughts were this guy was probably really smart. I quickly learned why Mrs. Sears’ smoking buddy suggested I be assigned Douglass: he was like a unicorn amongst Blacks of his time in the same way I was amongst 4th graders at Elyton. I was able to easily put together a 1-page paper…and truthfully, I could’ve easily put together 10 pages on him. Through my research, I found him to be a very interesting dude. The older I got and the more the month of February came around, the more I learned about him. On the occasion of my 18th birthday, my first love actually gifted me with the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. To this day, it remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
What it means to me now? It’s been 26 years since I was first introduced to Frederick Douglass. In that time, I’ve actually read all three of his autobiographies and learned that he was a very gifted orator. Back during my 1st stint in the National Capital Region, I got a chance to visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the Anacostia section of DC. That was a very interesting place. I’ve also learned over the years that he was actually very well-respected even amongst Whites while slavery was still legal and definitely after it was abolished. Of special interest to me personally, as a diplomat, is that he was the Consul General to Haiti. That’s incredible.