One of my heroes is Frederick Douglass. I have a list of folks whose stuff I regularly read on and read about and Frederick Douglass is one of them. Words in today’s world have grown to be an interesting sensation. I believe in the power of words via teaching, preaching, blogging, writing, etc. At the essence, I do believe in the adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” I just think that claim is tested today like never before because in our digital and social media world, it’s easy to be posers, pretenders, and well, people full of words and lacking in the deeper context and story of meaning, substance, labor, pursuit, perseverence, and conviction. What am I saying? Words are nice but actions need to accompany words.
Why do I admire Frederick Douglass? It’s not just his words but it’s his life and struggles and his perseverance, courage, and faith in the midst.
Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) was an American abolitionist, women’s suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer. Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in African-American and United States history. In 1872, Douglass became the first African American nominated as a Vice Presidential candidate in the U.S., running on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States.
There are others whose voice and courage are incredibly noteworthy including Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and even contemporary voices such as Cornel West. But Douglass, for me, stands out. His faith came from his convictions as a follower of God and thus, sought to love God with his heart, soul, body, and mind and took to heart the call to love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly. He was also a licensed preacher and wasn’t shy of calling the church out on its hypocrisy. This quote is a must read for all Christians, leaders, and pastors:
I find, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation. What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the “slave holding religion” of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slave holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed.
I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members.
The man who wields the blood clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families,–sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers,–leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.
We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the POOR HEATHEN! ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF SOULS! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other –devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.
Here are couple more Frederick quotes I have on my wall in my home office:
- “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
- “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- “One and God make a majority.”
- “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”
- “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”
- “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
- “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.”