“Five Myths About Frederick Douglass” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and John Stauffer - 2. 15. 17

“Five Myths About Frederick Douglass” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and John Stauffer

A recent article published in The Washington Post by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and John Stauffer outlines five myths about Frederick Douglass after President Trump suggested Douglass was still alive at a Black History Month event earlier this month.

MYTH NO. 1

Frederick Douglass was an American patriot.

Douglass wanted blacks to fight for the Union in the Civil War, and after President Abraham Lincoln allowed them to serve, Douglass became the president’s loyal supporter and friend. Following the war, Douglass became the first African American to receive a federal appointment that required Senate approval and was an official emissary to Haiti. It’s no wonder that the Colored Republican Association of New York called Douglass “a patriot and a hero ” upon his death in 1895 or that he is often listed in collections of American patriots: A monograph from the 1990s, for instance, was called “Frederick Douglass: Patriot and Activist .”

Yet Douglass never defined himself as an American patriot — indeed, he was highly critical of the United States. In 1845, as a fugitive slave, he fled to the British Isles for two years, almost settling permanently in England. For the first time in his life, he said , he experienced “an absence, a perfect absence, of everything like that disgusting hate with which we are pursued” in America. Only a sense of duty to his fellow African Americans and a desire to fight the scourge of racism and slavery persuaded him to come back. “I have no love for America, as such,” he announced upon his return. “I have no patriotism. I have no country.”

Sixteen years later, on the eve of the Civil War, he planned a visit to Haiti to entertain permanent emigration to the black republic. “The North has never been able to stand against the power and purposes of the South,” he concluded. If Haiti met his expectations as a “light of glorious promise,” then he would remain in that country and call it home.

Read the rest of the article here.