Frederick Douglass: “What I Would Do If I Were President”

Library of Congress

More than a century before Barack Obama was elected the first black President of the United States of America, the most prominent black man of the 19th century jotted down his thoughts on the matter, “What I Would Do If I Were President.”

It seems a little absurd for one in my position to be asked, or to answer the question as to what I would do or not do if I were President of the United States, since no such contingency has even one chance in sixty-million to be realized. But if that chance should happen, it would probably be my experience and my misfortune to make as many blunders and give just cause for as much criticism as any one, who has ever occupied the Presidential chair. One thing how-ever I would do or try to do. I would employ every means supplied to the President by the constitution of the United States, to secure to every citizen of the United States, without regards to race, color, sex or religion, equal protection of the law. No citizen, however poor or despised, should be able to say at the close of my administration that he had suffered any injustice or had been in any way oppressed or injured by any act of mine while acting as President of the United States.

Frederick Douglass

Although Congresswoman Norton (D-DC) has shown no interest or intellectual rigor in truly honoring Frederick Douglass’s legacy of advocacy in Washington, D.C. that doesn’t mean you can’t. The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress are easily accessible online which include thousands of correspondence, ephemera of daily life, and some of his best known and lesser known speeches.

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