Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity

“Reality always rests with the minority,” the lonesome and ostracized Kierkegaard fumed in his journal in 1850, “since the minority is normally formed by those who really have a viewpoint, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no viewpoint.”

Across the Atlantic, another visionary of unusual lucidity and countercultural guts was getting to the exact same conclusion by an extremely different path, making it his lifes work to awaken a conflicted and young country to this tough, essential truth of maturation. That same year, the thirty-two-year-old Frederick Douglass (1818– 1895) declaimed in a powerful anti-slavery speech, included in his important Selected Speeches and Writings (public library):.

Frederick DouglassIn a letter to a pal, penned in the same era as his modern Margaret Fuller was laying the structure of American feminism while promoting for prison reform and black ballot rights under her animating values that “while any one is base, none can be totally free and worthy,” Douglass reported on a series of antislavery rallies across Pennsylvania, where he and his fellow Garrisonians were consulted with hostility. With a swell of gratitude to the handful of local fans who had actually withstood the majority of their own community to attend and support the conferences– a living testimony to Albert Camuss insistence that “genuine kindness toward the future lies in providing all to today” and to James Baldwins admonition that “we must attempt to [take it] upon ourselves to become the majority by changing the ethical environment [for] it is upon this bulk that the life of any country actually depends”– Douglass wrote:.

Enhance with James Baldwin on withstanding the mindless majority and Octavia Butler on how (not) to pick our leaders, then revisit this beautiful illustrated celebration of Douglasss friendship with Susan B. Anthony and the obscure, enormous role astronomy played in his advocacy.

Years later, from the hard-earned platform of a far-reaching and long life, he would revisit the topic in his final autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (town library):.

Early in his career as an amateur itinerant speaker for William Lloyd Garrisons antislavery activism motion, Douglass had actually been especially impressed, in both senses of the word, by the example of the white females who so concertedly opposed the gush of evil– females who taught him the true meaning of solidarity by paying the price of severe ostracism to play a main role in the motions recruiting, fundraising, and arranging; ladies who reserve their own suffrage to use up the cause of abolition and in effect were not enfranchised as complete citizens of their own country till almost half a century after black males got the right to vote; women among whom Douglass would eventually fall in love with and wed.

Frederick DouglassIn a letter to a buddy, penned in the exact same period as his contemporary Margaret Fuller was laying the foundation of American feminism while advocating for jail reform and black voting rights under her animating values that “while any one is base, none can be totally complimentary and noble,” Douglass reported on a series of antislavery rallies throughout Pennsylvania, where he and his fellow Garrisonians were satisfied with hostility.

When the true history of the antislavery cause will be written, female will inhabit a large area in its pages, for the cause of the servant has actually been peculiarly females cause.
[…] Observing ladys agency, devotion and performance in pleading the reason for the servant, gratitude for this high service early moved me to offer beneficial attention to the topic of what is called “Womans Rights” and caused me to be denominated a females- rights-man. I am delighted to say I have actually never ever been ashamed to be thus designated.

There are times in the experience of almost every neighborhood, when even the humblest member thereof might correctly presume to teach– when the smart and excellent ones, the appointed leaders of the people, exert their powers of mind to make complex, dumbfound, entangle and obscure the easy truth– when they exert the noblest presents which paradise has actually vouchsafed to man to deceive the popular mind, and to corrupt the public heart,– then the humblest may stand forth and be excused for opposing even his weakness to the gush of evil.

Our couple of friends because place, who are not the sort to be dissuaded … filled me with adoration, as I saw them occupying their honorable position; a couple of women, nearly alone in a community of thousands, living and asserting realities out concepts at the same time hated and feared by nearly the whole neighborhood; and doing all this with a composure and tranquility of soul which would well compare with the most skilled champ and standard bearer of our cause, Friend Garrison himself. Heaven bless them, and continue them strength to hold up against all trials through which their concepts might call them to pass.