Much respect due to iconoclast Samuel Morse (who has a head nod plaque on lower 7th Street NW), trailblazing Cuban-singer Celia Cruz, suffragist Alice Paul, and the most decorated hero of WWII, who with his brothers-in-arms went to hell and back and lived to tell, Audie Murphy, but our vote is going to Frederick Douglass.
Voting to select one of these five historical figures to be the subject of a special Robert Weingarten produced portrait closes next Saturday. VOTE HERE (FD needs some votes…your vote!)
Rightfully headlining Douglass as an, “Orator, Activist, and Bad, Bad Man,” Christopher Wilson, Director of Daily Programs and the Program in African American Culture at the National Museum of American History, offers a refreshing take on the Lion of Anacostia that is worth special attention.
We generally don’t remember Douglass as we should. His stoic and stately presence and unimpeachable words stand out like a chiseled, motionless effigy. The Frederick Douglass we meet today in films, museums, and popular culture is generally a black “founding father,” with the attendant uninspiring, respectful persona of most depictions of Washington or Jefferson. I think of the portrayal of Douglass in the film Glory in which he dryly, properly, and very firmly offers his prediction of how the black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts will honorably fight. I think of actors at museums and Civil War reenactments proclaiming the amazingly eloquent words that captivated audiences, but without the fire that made Douglass famous.
This overly honorific public memory of Douglass belies a life entirely defined by action—sometimes action-hero type action. Frederick Douglass was a fighter.
Well said, well said. And cot damn right.