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Saturday, February 20, 2016
For All the Saints: Frederick Douglass
From last All Saints Day until the next, I'm selecting noted people from among four church calendars, and thinking about their legacy. On the Episcopal calendar, Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895) is honored today as a prophetic witness. Born in slavery, Douglass was taught to read and write by a kindhearted slaveowner's wife and continued to teach himself literacy prior to his escape from slavery in 1838. By 1845 he wrote his bestselling autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. This book, and his 1855 book My Bondage and My Freedom greatly promoted the abolitionist cause in the U.S. He worked against slavery and also supported women's suffrage and the equality of all; for instance, he foresaw the need for equality for Asians who were beginning to emigrate to the country's west coast. He was widely known as a powerful orator and writer, both in the U.S. and abroad. After Lincoln's second inaugural address, Douglass came to the White House and was disallowed entry because of his race, but Lincoln ushered him in and sought his opinion of the speech. Douglass' final autobiographical account was the 1881 Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.