Reading Frederick Douglass: My way of honoring black history month

February 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm (God thoughts, Politics thoughts, Random thoughts)

It’s February and we all know what that means…That’s right it’s Black history month. I’m not quite sure when it started but somewhere in our bizarre culture somebody decided that certain skin color’s deserved their own month.

Well I am generally pretty cynical when it comes to manipulation of the masses (Things that bother me the most are “bosses day” and “administrative professional day” and “valentines day”). So I have never taken an active role in doing anything special for “black history month”.

February of 2007, all that changes. OK well I will still probably be cynical in two weeks when I take my wife out to Rubios for Valentines day, but my cynicism will be cloaked in a desire to expand my limited knowledge of the positive historical influences that have been made by Americans of a darker skin tone. I will be reading the autobiography of Fredrick Douglass throughout the month of February and posting interesting little facts about his life and ministry on this blog.

First I give you a quote from this amazing man, this quote is so good it ought to be shouted from the rooftops.

“I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.”

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31 Comments

  1. Pablo Honey said,

    It is a great quote, though I am sure many people would argue if the GOP is still “the party of freedom and progress.”

  2. Matt S said,

    Here is how I always come out on issues like this:

    These people that do these things like “black history month” or whatever are doing it in hopes of curbing racism and bringing people of all races together with a spirit of equality.

    However, I feel that they, in fact, create a more racially divided country because of their actions. If you do not want to segregate society and you want all men to be thought of as equal then don’t segregate yourselves by having a month to honor a particular race!

    The same premise applies to what is going on right now during the Super Bowl. All the talk is about the first two black coaches to ever coach in the Super Bowl. Just by mentioning it and by making a big deal about it you create a more racially divided culture. Instead there should be no mention of the color of their skin and no attention given to the issue of race but only to their coaching ability and that would help move society forward toward thinking about all men being equal.

    Amazing that in the 21st century we are still having these issues, but alot of it is self-inflicted.

  3. danielbalc said,

    Rather then blaming the black community for this “self-infliction” I blame myself for looking down on the black community for their influence in promoting segregation. I do think it’s significant that for the first time in NFL history a black coach will win the Super Bowl. Black people have had to suffer tremendously. They have had a lot less opportunities then white people historically.

    This does not mean I think anyone deserves special treatment for their skin color. I simply look at it, acknowledge it and move on. This time last year I would look at it, scoff the liberal media and minority agendas and get hung up on it. No more!

    And since we have a month that honors the accomplishments of a certain segment of society I will no longer scoff at it, but rather use it as an opportunity to further my knowledge.

    I hope one day that the world will take notice of the Christian community and have a month dedicated to the broad range of historical advances made in the name of Christ.

  4. Matt S said,

    Dude, I am not “scoffing” at the black community for their promotion of their history. If they want to promote their history then I say go right ahead, I have no problem with it.

    But do not expect that it will in any way make racial divisions any less. I am contending that it will actually make the division greater because all they are doing is drawing attention to how they are “different” from other people instead of creating unity by making no distinction between black, white, asian, hispanic, etc. history.

    BTW Do you really think that owners in the NFL purposely refuse to hire black coaches? Is it necessary to have the rule about interviewing a selected number of black coaches before making a hiring decision? Maybe a different topic for a diifferent day, but I hope and believe that as a country we are beyond that.

  5. danielbalc said,

    I disagree with that rule very much. Like I said I don’t promote rules that give advantage to someone because of race.

    I don’t know if you are scoffing or not, I am saying I used to. Recently in fact (still have to fight it). Whether that is because of their doing or my own I don’t know, but I know I can do my part to undo it and that means taking the log out of my own eye first.

  6. itsasecret2u said,

    I was raised by a feminist, hyper-multi-cultural father. You may catch hints of the feminism at times, though I do not subscribe to those beliefs at all. It is just so deeply ingrained that sometimes it rears its ugly head.

    The same is true of the hyper-multi-culturalism. What I mean by this is my sister and I were taught to be SO sensitive about race, culture, creed, whatever, that it turned us into eggshell-walking self-haters. I remember feeling personally responsible, as one of European descent, for the displacement of the Native Americans. I think I even cried about it several times. I had a slightly easier time with slavery, only because the southern half of my family came to America after slavery was abolished. I even used to hate checking the “Caucasian” box on standardized tests because I associated being white with terrible injustices of the past. Ugh. It’s actually why it took me so long to respond to this post. Anything having to do with race still makes me shut up really fast, for fear of being insensitive.

    I can certainly appreciate what my dad tried to do. He grew up in a tiny Midwestern town where gross racism is still very much alive and out in the open. I can remember visiting for the first time about 7 years ago and my aunt whispering to me, “This is the MEXICAN side of town… they’re practically taking over!” Wow. However, I do believe I have taken a different approach with my children. We don’t talk about it at all. We will, of course, talk about the history of slavery, the displacement of Native Americans, why these things were right or wrong, etc. But all in good time.

    I was reading to my oldest recently. In order to understand the plot of the story we were reading, he needed to understand that one of the characters was being discriminated against because she was Polish. He was so confused by this concept that it was laughable. How innocent! He said, “How could they tell she came from another country?” I told him that, in this story, they knew because her father had a thick accent and her last name was very different from theirs. This puzzled him too. “They all had the same last name?” I told him that sometimes people from other countries look different, too. His response? “Different than what??” He has been around people of different races his entire life. He doesn’t think anything of it. I had to point out to him some of his friends who were of different ethnic backgrounds. I even had to point out his own great-grandfather who is full-blooded Sicilian and very dark-skinned. He had never noticed.

    I know that this is partly just his nature. He is naturally non-discriminatory. He plays with girls, no problem. He’ll play with children much younger or older than he is, no problem. But I wonder if we couldn’t just stop making such a big deal one way or the other if our nation wouldn’t actually head in the direction of true equality – not recognizing race one way or the other. Know your heritage, by all means! Study it, embrace it. Know other cultures and complete history. Study it, learn from it. But why so much public distinction between the races that exist in our nation?

    Wow, this is long. I feel like Echo…

  7. danielbalc said,

    Only think I disagree with is this idea that we should “embrace” our heritage.

    Why?

    I simply have not understood this concept.

    I am so bothered by the attachment of anything in front of the title “American”.

    I remember hearing an interview where a black hockey player from Canada was being interviewed and they asked him what it was like being an “african-american” in a white dominated sport. Shouldn’t he have been called “African-Candian” instead?

    If a person is from Africa I’ll call them African. From Asia I’ll call them Asian. But if you were born in America than you are American with nothing attached. Your heritage is what it is, you can be proud of your family and all that, but once you put another country in front of America you are pretty much saying you would fight for that country over ours and I consider you to be a sub-citizen.

    Maybe this is just me being proud of my American heritage though.

  8. Albino Hayford said,

    I, and my family, fully enter into Black History Month because I sing, dance, preach and play basketball as if I were black.

  9. Matt said,

    Only in February?

  10. itsasecret2u said,

    My “embrace” I didn’t mean that. I meant know your culture. I am VERY disturbed by youth who, when you ask about their heritage, say “uhhh… white?” That’s just me though. I love my family’s history. I love that I know the story of my grandparents and great-grandparents, and so on. But if you ask me what I “am?” Shoot, I’m American!!! But if you ask me what my ethnic background is, I’m Italian, Welsh, and English. Do I identify myself with these cultures? No. I was not born in Italy or the U.K. I was born in sunny S.D. If anything at all, I would associate myself with Californian culture and the culture of the south because those were the two predominate cultural influences in my house growing up. But if one is afforded the opportunity (of course, everyone is not), then I see no problem in learning about your family’s history.

    P.S. Not all black people come from Africa. I’ve never understood this. What about Jamaican people? Maybe way back when they came from Africa, but Jamaican culture is different, wouldn’t it be more accurate to identify those people as such? Whatever.

  11. itsasecret2u said,

    BTW, Daniel, I saw on my ZooNooz calendar today that you can “adopt an animal for your Valentine” online at the SD Zoo’s website. Don’t you think that would make a lovely gift for your beautiful wife on Valentine’s Day? This would be in addition to the Rubio’s dinner, of course. I IMMEDIATELY thought of you when I read it. Just a thought…

  12. RubeRad said,

    How’s this for a bold, conversation-stimulating (over)statement:

    Racism will not truly be over until we can also have a white history month

    Do they get a white history month in South Africa or Zimbabwe?

  13. danielbalc said,

    it is bold, and over, but who said it?

  14. danielbalc said,

    This is what happens when you “embrace your heritage”.

    GA Mayor converts to Islam

  15. itsasecret2u said,

    Yes, this is SO what I meant!! *sigh*

  16. Echo_ohcE said,

    Aw, dang, Rube took my idea. But now I must 1-up him. So here’s my 1 up.

    Black history month promotes viewing blacks as lower forms of human life than whites. Follow me on this. While I agree with almost everything said above about pointing out skin color only makes distinctions that shouldn’t be made, there is another reason why black history month promotes viewing blacks as lesser people.

    What is the reasoning behind black history month? Wouldn’t its advocates tell you that white people have all the other 11 months, and so giving blacks a month to honor their history in is only fair? But I say, no, it isn’t fair, because it makes the statement that white people are 11 times as deserving as blacks to have months that honor their history. I mean, I don’t think that white history is honored 11 months out of the year, but advocates of black history month do, and they instituted it to help bring about balance. But how is it balance if we have 11 months and they only have 1? And how respectful is it to give them the shortest month of the year, and the month that for most of the country contains the worst weather? It almost automatically rules out street demonstrations and parades.

    Every time someone says that so and so is the first black…whatever, fill in the blank, it is a condescending statement toward blacks. This year, there are two black coaches in the Superbowl, so finally a black coach will win the Superbowl. Isn’t this kind of like little kids making it to their first birthday? It’s an insult. It treats them like lesser human beings. It OVER celebrates their acheivements as if they were surprising. Well, in a lot of ways, it is surprising to most people, because most white people DO look at blacks like lesser human beings. It’s like telling a little kid that their picture is good when you can’t even figure out what it’s supposed to be. When we celebrate the first black coach winning the Superbowl, we treat them like children, unless we also talk about whites in the same way, which we don’t. When a white coach wins the Superbowl, we don’t say that the whites have acheived something, we say that the coach has acheived something.

    …and today, a white kid crossed the street all by himself. The President declared a holiday.

    Black history month is the same thing. It’s like blacks need special recognition for having a history; as if having a history were an acheivement in and of itself. But we treat them as if we’re surprised that they have a history. Wow, you mean there are some important black people who lived on earth? Wow, that’s so surprising that we’ll set apart a whole month to honor that fact, since it astonishes us so much! I don’t understand why blacks don’t see it this way. Rather than demanding to sit at the adult table, we are forcing them to sit at the kids’ table, but allowing them to come stand by us while we thank God for the food. “Now go back to YOUR table.” And then when dinner is over, they get to come by and give a 5 minute speech about what they learned in school this year. “Now go back to YOUR table. The adults are talking. You’ve entertained us for a moment, now life is going to continue.”

    It’s insulting. I don’t know why they put up with it.

    And I’m not one of those people who blames the blacks for their current position in society. Nor do I blame the whites, or the Mexicans or the Asians. Nope, it’s nobody’s fault. Ok, I’m full of it, it’s EVERYONE’S fault. It’s our fault for treating them like lesser human beings in the first place, because that’s what whites believed for a very long time. This allowed them to justify stealing them from Africa and bringing them here to be slaves. And ever since, white people have conspired to keep them down. I admit it freely. But blacks too have played their role, and are at least partly to blame. Not all blacks have a low station in life. Many of them overcome even what the clever white man can throw against them. And many more should. Easier said than done. But there’s a lot of blame to go around for everybody, especially nowadays. But that’s no surprise in a fallen, sinful world full of hatred and idolatry. Everybody’s wrong.

    E

  17. Echo_ohcE said,

    Secret,

    I’m proud of you that you wrote such a long post and thought of me. Now that you know what it’s like a little bit to be me, perhaps you can forgive me my long posts.

    E

  18. Danielbalc said,

    How is this for a whole new way to celebrate black history month?

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,249939,00.html

  19. itsasecret2u said,

    ACK! Daniel that scares me. Seriously, what is wrong with people??

  20. danielbalc said,

    How big a deal was it that for a first time a black head coach raised up the Lombardi trophy as world champion last night? The question we had all anxiously been waiting for was about to be answered.
    Would he say how great an achievement this was?
    Would he codemn the challenges he faced as an impoverished youth?
    Would he blame society for the unfair pressures that influenced his sons suicide?
    Or would he say he was MORE proud of his Christianity then his skin color?

    Watch for yourself…. http://sportsline.com/video/player?id=131589s&channel=nfl

  21. Matt said,

    Hopefully Dungy asked for forgiveness for not being in church on Sunday, but instead going to work, eh Echo. 🙂

    That was awesome to see!

  22. danielbalc said,

    OK I promised updates on the life of Frederick Douglass as i read through the book. the first big thing that has jumped out at me so far…

    His description of Mr. Severe (an overseer of the slaves) went like this…

    “Mr. Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel man… He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity. Added to his cruelty, he was a profane swearer. it was enough to chill the blood and stiffen the hair of an ordinary man to hear him talk. Scarce a sentence escaped him but that was commenced or concluded by some horrid oath… From the rising till the going down of the sun he was cursing, raving, cutting, and slashing among the field, in the most frightful manner.”

    Thus far every villainous slaver owner or task master has been characterized by their vulgar and profane language. Why is this so significant to me? 2 reasons, first of all I hate cussing. I admit to letting words slip in my anger that are neither wholesome nor tolerable, but I strive to make certain that they do not become commonplace in my vocabulary. I am afraid that this desire is loosing it’s priority in even the Christian community sighting “liberty” as the cause. Secondly when i look to find the most heinous and profane lyrics in todays music and films I will always find it in the hip-hop music genre. This is a sad testimony to the ignorance of those “entertainers”. even sadder still is their predominate skin color happens to be black. If Mr. Douglass were alive today to hear the lyrics of the hip hop community he would certainly be repulsed by their vulgarities as well as violent content and see that the slaves have now taken the tendencies of the slave owners.

  23. Echo_ohcE said,

    hmmm…

  24. itsasecret2u said,

    Oh dear… Echo is thinking…

  25. Echo_ohcE said,

    as opposed to…?

  26. itsasecret2u said,

    Ummmm… the rest of the time?

    Haha, just kidding, Echo.

  27. Echo_ohcE said,

    Aww gee! that’s mean!

    hahaha

  28. danielbalc said,

    Update:

    (Ok my updates are way outdated because I am pretty much finished with the book but I wanted to periodically let my blog readers know of interesting points. If I made them all at once it probably wouldn’t be as interesting so I try to space them.)

    One of the incredible themes of the book is the negative impact that is made, not only on the life of the slave, but on that of the slave holders as well. His main subject to prove this is Mrs Hugh. He was the first slave owned by Mrs Hugh and she was unaccustomed to owning a slave. She didn’t know how to treat him so she treated him as if he were another human being. FD’s initial evaluation of her character was as follows; “a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when i first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another…. She was a pious, warm and tender-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not a tear. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach.” She was beginning to teach him to read..

    This all changed….

    “Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under it’s influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamb-like disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness.”

    He believes the downward spiral to have begun when her husband demanded of her to not teach little FD. Her husband reasoned with her that, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell (that is a unit of measurement approx 45 inches). A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now if you teach that nigger how to to read, there would be no keeping him. it would be unfit for him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.”

    Consequently Mrs. Hugh bought this and became a cruel woman.

    i think sin works the same way. It lies to us, convinces us that faith in Christ will make us discontented and unhappy. It hardens our heart until it is stony and impenetrable. All the while making us believe that our hard hearted state is beneficial to us, pleasing to us, even necessary for our survival (all things that the slave owners believed). The reality is the the thing we thing we have control over (sin) actually becomes our master.

  29. danielbalc said,

    Don’t give away your secrets!

    Thats one big lesson that Frederick Douglass makes in his book. When it comes to the chapter where you expect him to reveal how he escaped to the north you find no details, no names, no secret passageways or underground railroads. No way. He certainly would have nothing to do with that. Frederick Douglass was a wise man. The intent of his book was to bring to light the atrocities that the slaves were living under, not to put a greater burden on them. He realized that even the slightest revelation of his escape would jeopardize the future escape plans of many others. I wonder if such a thing can be paralleled into the church dynamic. Jesus sent out his disciples telling them to be “shrewd as snakes” (Matthew 10:16). Certainly anyone who has studied the preterit interpretation of the book of revelation understands the allegorical style of the book and the reason for such style. I wonder how much the church, in our effort to deliver people from the slavery to sin, jeopardizes their escape by publicizing our plans. The church in China has been thriving for the past 50 years all while being persecuted and forced underground. many would say the opposite has happened to the highly public and politically influential church in America. I wonder if Satan “reads our mail” so to speak. I am fairly certain that satan/demons have no ability to read our minds, so they in essence, can’t prevent or deter something they are unaware of. Clearly the general public knows how to “read our mail”. I saw a book at the book store the other day and for some reason I can’t remember the title, but it was written by a liberal woman who was describing the “dangerous” movement of teenagers coming to Christ and abandoning the liberalism of the 60’s and 70’s. It was really interesting, the girl had followed some type of Christian music concert and interacted with all the teens and was was afraid that their “radical” ideals would ruin all the hard work secular humanism had been doing in the universities. If anyone knows the book please let me know. But the point is she, like the rest of anti-christian proponents only benefits from the public Christian concerts, displays, activities etc, because she learns how to fight against it. I’m not drawing any conclusions in this comment, just thinking out loud (oops).

  30. danielbalc said,

    My final entry comes here on the last day of “black history month”. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a much deeper interest in black history then ever before. My last point regarding Frederick Douglass has to do with his name being changed. As a means of securing his freedom it was deemed necessary that he change his name. He was born “Frederick Augusts Washington Bailey”. At first he had changed his name to “Frederick Johnson” but found there were far too many people named “Johnson” for this name to work. One of them men who helped him get established in the north, a man named “Johnson” was given the privilege of selecting his name and chose “Douglass” from a poem entitled ” Lady of the Lake”.

    I find there is so much significance and difficulty in changing a name. One of the most tedious and annoying tasks of this past year has been working with Athena to change her name on things like her drivers license, social security card, Insurance forms etc. It seems like it never ends. We have been married for 5 months now and just yesterday we had to do another name change thing for taxes. UGH. But its worth it, because she has a new identity. She commented to me the other day that a co-worker of hers is never going to know her as “Athena Zuill” but only “Athena Balcombe”. Those who knew her previously may still get confused and think of her with her old name, but that will fade with time. Those who are just meeting her will never know and probably never care to know her old name. The same principle applies to FD. No one has ever heard of Frederick Bailey, no one cares about him. His slave masters that knew him by that name have been buried for 150 years. His friends and family who knew him by that name are equally as dead. Frederick Baily doesn’t exist, but Frederick Douglass helped change the world. Frederick Douglass is a legend. Athena Zuill? Don’t know her. Athena Balcombe, most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world.

    This is a beautiful truth that can apply to everyone of us.

    “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.” II Corinthians 5:17

    “to him who overcomes… I will give a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

    “I will give them an everlasting name” Isaiah 36:5

    “The nations will see your righteousness and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow” Isaiah 62:2

    “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.” Revelation 3:12

    Hallelujah! Come Lord Jesus!

  31. The End of Black History Month « Daniel’s Den said,

    […] Frederick Douglass  […]

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