Amidst the national uprising for racial justice, ’Hamilton’ star Daveed Diggs and a collective of Black artists created this evocative video inspired by Frederick Douglass’ ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’
Happy birthday, Frederick Douglass! (February 14*, 1818)
*Douglass’ actual date of birth is unknown, but he chose to celebrate his birth on the 14th.
A fiery and articulate voice of the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass was one of the most important leaders of the movement in the years leading up to the Civil War. Born into slavery in Maryland, Douglass experienced an early life of brutality and cruelty, serving several masters before escaping slavery in 1838, making his way to New York City. Douglass became well-read and well-spoken, making a name for himself as an activist and agitator. Douglass published his autobiography, which was acclaimed and widely-read, and the abolitionist newspaper known as the North Star. Douglass associated with abolitionists such as John Brown, as well as the early figures of the women’s rights movements. After the Civil War, Douglass continued to agitate for equality for Black Americans and women, and in 1872 was the first Black man nominated for Vice President, on the ticket of the Equal Rights Party. Douglass continued his activism into the final years of his life, always supportive of equal rights for Black people and for women, and an ally of anti-colonial struggles. He would die in 1895, leaving behind a wealth of writings and speeches which continue to inspire and influence activists to this day.
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”
I love this image of Frederick Douglass. It gives me a sense of how incredibly handsome he was and the power of his giant satellite dish level charisma. It's no surprise to me that he was the most photographed man of his era.
Apparently, when he showed up for one of his speeches, Fred's Fainters, his army of White female fans, lost their ever-lovin' minds. Like they had just seen Elvis, or John, Paul, Ringo and George get off the plane in New York City.
Well, the brutha was hella fine. You gotta admit that. Hell, I'm a no toppings added chocolate flavored heterosexual serial monogamist, and even I can see that he was hot!
S***! if this country wasn't still straight up crazy into racism and White Supremacy, the brutha would already be all over the $100 bill.
There are 160 portraits of Frederick Douglass that have survived from the 19th century. That's thirty more than there are of Abraham Lincoln. And White male historians always want to make it out like it was Frederick Douglass's doing that there were so many images of him in circulation. Please. Like I said, Fred's Fainters lost their ever-lovin' minds. They probably just still mad about it. - rp
After several weeks of hard stitching, I've finished my black voices cross stitch project. I'm ridiculously pleased with the results, all of which will fit nicely into standard 5x7 frames.
As has been the plan all along, I will be donating a portion (60%) of the proceeds made from the sale of these pieces to a charity for black artists. I have chosen to support The Black Art Futures Fund (BAFF) (https://www.blackartfutures.org), which is a collective of emerging philanthropists promoting the elevation and preservation of Black arts & culture.
Interested in purchasing one? Let me know! They are $50 each, which includes shipping and handling, and I will pass along to you the confirmation of donation once it has been sent.
Thank you all so much for your support and kind words while I've been working on this project. I wouldn't be the artist I am today without your support, and with your continued support we can help other artists find their feet and practice their passion.
“Slavery has existed in this country too long and has stamped its character too deeply and indelibly, to be blotted out in a day or a year, or even in a generation. The slave will yet remain in some sense a slave, long after the chains are taken from his limbs, and the master will yet retain much of the pride, the arrogance, imperiousness and conscious superiority, and love of power, acquired by his former relation of master. Time, necessity, education, will be required to bring all classes into harmonious and natural relations…
Law and the sword can and will, in the end abolish slavery. But law and the sword cannot abolish the malignant slaveholding sentiment which has kept the slave system alive in this country during two centuries. Pride of race, prejudice against color, will raise this hateful clamor for oppression of the negro as heretofore. The slave having ceased to be the abject slave of a single master, his enemies will endeavor to make him the slave of society at large.”
-Frederick Douglass, December 28, 1862, Rochester, New York, Speech at the Spring Street AME Zion Church
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; one day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hallow mockery; your prayers and hyms [sic], your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), from a speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852.