Dr. Benjamin Quarles speaks on Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass [Christian Science Monitor, 11 February, 1974]

Image result for benjamin quarlesSo intense was Douglass’s devotion to the fight for human equality that both historians [Blassingame and Quarles] consider him perhaps the most versatile of all black leaders, past and present. …

Says Dr. Quarles: “Mr. Douglass’s technique of protest is as relevant today as it was when he lived. He subscribed with Lincoln to the Declaration of Independence. He was a freedom fighter in the complete sense. Any movement that claims to fight for freedom and equality for everyone embraces the ideals of Douglass.

“He was more than a black leader,” Professor Quarles continues, “for he moved across racial lines in his quest for freedom. He was one of the only men who took part in the first women’s convention in Seneca, N.Y., in 1848. Wherever there was injustice he would raise his voice in protest.

“Why the day he died in 1895,” says Dr. Quarles, “he had come to Washington, D.C. to address a women’s rights meeting.”

Douglass is a timeless figure, unlike so many other leaders who have followed him, Professor Quarles says. There is no movement of the ’60’s and ’70’s – student, racial, women, peace – in which he would not have been involved.

One of the achievements of Frederick Douglass, Dr. Quarles conteds, was the man’s sense of direction exemplified in his ability to rise from humble begginings to a status where he won the respect of the kings and presidents, remaining ever mindful of from whence he came and how much further all mankind has to go to achieve freedom.

The antecedents of Douglass all adopted or embraced some form of his philosphy as their own, Dr. Quarles says. …

Narrower concentration, however, is what Dr. Quarles feels separates Frederick Douglass from those who follow him. Some leaders, he says. concentrated on one reform and their best to assert their own personalities.

“In black life there are so many different ways to be black and be a reformer, the professor explains.

“Douglass,” he says, ” took on a wide range of interests, moving often among whites. He was more spacious.” …

“Douglass will recede in importance when our other great American heroes recede,” he says. “Even though Douglass addressed himself, as many of the others, to a 19th-century world, the principles for which he stood are eternal. It’s human spirit at its best, not at its medicore.

“History is a living thing,” he continues. “Frederick Douglass lives today because his ideals are our ideals. We still want to fight injustice and inequality in the order of things.”


selected excerpt of “Frederick Douglass: As Black History Week commences, …”. The Christian Science Monitor. February 11, 1974. Written by Jeannye Thornton.

Vertical Files, Frederick Douglass. Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland Room.

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