The Wisdom of Frederick Douglass, continued

We continue our meditations on the courage and accomplishments that emanate from the holiness of Frederick Douglass. 

The Rev. Al Sharpton introduces a brief biopic on the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. HISTORY

The following teaching has by no means grown old.  

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to suppress, rob and degrade them, neither person nor property will be safe.

Politicians of our time who seem bereft of shame might consider this observation from Douglass: 

All human experience proves over and over again, that any success which comes through meanness, trickery, fraud and dishonor, is but emptiness and will only be a torment to its possessor. 

The insight shared here seems obvious and speaks to the real meaning of redemption: Redemption is for everyone, but one must confess that one needs it–otherwise, the trickery and fraud persist.

Mini-documentary on the friendship between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln that led to Lincoln becoming the “abolitionist president.” National Geographic

Douglass was not naïve about power and politics. He says:

Power and those in control concede nothing…without a demand.  They never have and never will.

What to do?  

Each and every one of us must keep demanding, must keep fighting, must keep thundering, must keep plowing, must keep on keeping this struggling, must speak out and speak up until justice is served because where there is no justice there is no peace.

His support of women and the women’s movement is evident in these words: 

A woman should have every honorable motive to exertion which is enjoyed by man, to the full extent of her capacities and endowments.  The case is too plain for argument.  Nature has given woman the same powers, and subjected her to the same earth, breathes the same air, subsists on the same food, physical, oral, mental and spiritual.  She has therefore, an equal right with man, in all efforts to obtain and maintain a perfect existence.

Frederick Douglass With Sojourner Truth: Reenactment produced by the late activist in race relations, Dr. Lana Walton.

Douglass met with Lincoln on three different occasions, including one month before his assassination. Douglass was a big backer of the Emancipation Proclamation and of getting black soldiers into the war.  He summarized his experience of Lincoln this way: 

Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great man—too great to be small in anything.   In his company, I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.

See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.

And Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

Banner Image: Frederick Douglass with Helen Pitts Douglass (seated, right) and her sister Eva Pitts (standing, center), c. 1880. Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

What observations by Frederick Douglass from this meditation seem most pertinent to our troubles today?  “Where there is no justice there is no peace.”  Do you agree?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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5 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Frederick Douglass, continued”

  1. Avatar

    I think that Frederick Douglass would rejoice that not only black men are full citizens with agency but also that his radical inclusion of black women as free agents in the body politic also took root. The US has black men and women in academe, government and the judiciary. But Douglass might also be dismayed by the current internal existential threat to American democracy, and democracies around the world. If he was here, what speech would Douglass give to the United Nations?

  2. Avatar

    “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to suppress, rob and degrade them, neither person nor property will be safe.” These words apply to the followers of The Big Lie and more generally to those who still follow the former president. Many if not most of them have been left behind. Their income in relation to cost of living has fallen and the government has not shown that it cares. As Bernie says, almost all new money has gone to the top 1%. Besides that, many of the men are afraid and confused because women are gaining power; and while in the past white men didn’t have to compete for jobs and benefits with women and people of color, they do now and that is understandably panicking them. Public schools (for various reasons since Bush II) are failing us and ignorance is rampant. For all these reasons and more, many white men feel suppressed, robbed, and degraded. And so, neither person, nor property, nor democracy is safe. Some understanding of them and help for them is appropriate.

  3. Avatar

    YES!!! The cause and struggle of Justice & Peace have always gone together in human history. There have been many spiritual warriors in human history, and we’re being Lovingly reminded of a few of them like Frederick Douglass in the past few DMs during Black Month. Sister Dorothy and Alexei Navalny, contemporary martyrs, have also recently been acknowledged and praised. It’s very inspiring for our eternal Souls that there will always be unique and courageous spiritual Souls compassionately serving GOD’S SPIRIT of LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE… PRESENT within All of Us to help Humanity evolve and Co-Create to help manifest Our SOURCE~CREATOR’S QUEENDOM~KINGDOM on Earth as IT IS in HEAVEN….

  4. Avatar

    We must never give up working for justice. It is especially important today when we have so many in government and religion that seem to be turning away from freedom and rights for ALL peoples. May the courage and wisdom of Frederick Douglass inspire all of us.

  5. Avatar

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