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The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

The Student News Site of Ocean Lakes High School

The Current

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Frederick Douglass: abolitionist, author and reformer

Nathanial Swindle
Junior Marlie Smith, who idolizes Douglass, holds a copy of his autobiography, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” on Feb. 12, 2024. Marlie and her other journalism classmates selected black history figures that have made significant strides in the arts, this year’s Black History Month theme.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” said Frederick Douglass during his “West India Emancipation” speech in 1857, where he anticipated the imminent Civil War.

Born in 1818 as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, Douglass spent 20 years as a slave on Maryland’s eastern shore, only escaping after two failed attempts.

Douglass was active in the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements and used his experiences as a prior slave to fight against slavery and spread awareness of his suffering, according to the White House Historical Association.

Although Douglass contributed much to the political world of his time, he honored the arts with his extensive published work, including his autobiography, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” which illustrated his life as a former slave and gave detailed accounts regarding the cruelty of slavery.

“He brought his life to print,” said history teacher Erika Connolly. “He also brought incredible awareness as a speaker.”

Douglass similarly used his literacy skills to write poems such as “A Parody,” “Liberty” and “Poem on the Departure of a Friend,” where he discussed topics such as the irony of religious people treating slaves poorly.

Douglass is also considered the most photographed man of the 19th century, with Douglass included in more than 160 pictures and portraits, according to the National Park Service. During his lectures, he used these images to present himself as someone deserving of respect, as usually only white men could afford to be photographed.

“He inspired a group of people who were ‘activists,’ but were maybe a little too stationary,” said Connolly. “He caused them to think about how the Fourth of July and Independence Day had to mean something for everyone in our nation.”

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About the Contributor
Nathanial Swindle
Nathanial Swindle, News Editor
Nathanial Swindle is a junior, second-year journalist and the news editor for The Current. He enjoys helping out his mom at his local VFW post, volunteering and taking care of his two golden retrievers. Nathanial wants to study business at Notre Dame and become a financial advisor after college.

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