Frederick Douglass and The Price of Progress

The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just.  For a man who does not value freedom for himself, will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others West India Emancipation Speech, August 3, 1857.

The words in the above passage are from Frederick Douglass. This is a powerful and compelling argument regarding the defense of freedom.  The irony is that his words are reflection of his life.  Douglass cherished individual liberty. He fought for his freedom and progress of all Americans.

Mr. Douglass was a social reformer, preacher and writer. The phrase “if there is no struggle there is no progress,” comes from this specific speech. From the perspective of Douglass, agitation is essential in maintaining liberty.

This position is consistent with both the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution.  Thomas Paine’s The Crisis has a similar opinionMartin Luther King also echoed this sentiment in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Douglass was a fervent believer in America. He struggled with the American narrative of freedom. The concept that all men are created equal was inconsistent with the institution of slavery. When Americans celebrated the Fourth of July, Douglass spoke out in defiance against this hypocrisy.

He persuaded President Lincoln to allow Black men to fight in the Civil War.  Also, he was an advocate of universal suffrage. The work of Frederick Douglass established the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. He used his intellectual talents and eloquence to fight injustice.

We take our freedom for granted. Frederick Douglass used his power of self-expression for freedom and equality.

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