Frederick Douglass

Recent Articles

We have not waved a white flag!

Why do White and Black leaders assume the Black community has waved a white flag of submission? However, we do raise questions about what is being planned for us as if we had, as seen during the various “summit” decision meetings (see my columns of May 1 and 15, 2014). We are a community under siege: inadequate education, few jobs, no meaningful plans for the future beyond endless planning meetings of Black and White do-gooder talk leaders on how to continue obstructing our access to equality and opportunity, on how to set us aside to make room for others, of how to plan the kind of genocide/extinction “round ups” discussed at decision “summits.”

We celebrated our nation’s independence July 4th. Frederick Douglass, arguably the most famous fugitive slave of his day, asked in a historic speech, July 5, 1852: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass gave a ringing affirmation of America’s ideals of freedom and liberty, left stalled and unfinished while slavery and racial discrimination existed. Being neither despairing (he was hopeful, due to the principles laid out by the founders in the Declaration and the Constitution that he saw as affirming the truth of liberty and equality) nor was he unduly negative (slavery was a fact and the slow pace of abolishing slavery was maddening). Continue Reading →

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‘What is your fourth of July to me?’

Frederick Douglass, July 5, 1852

Oration delivered in Corinthian Hall

 

Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national alter and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? What to an American slave is your Fourth of July? Continue Reading →

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Shá Cage brings the story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly to Park Square Theatre

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

Shá Cage has emerged as one of the Twin Cities’ most powerful proponents for strengthening the image and celebrating the hearts and souls of Black women. The accomplished actor, performance artist and spoken-wordsmith began this initiative in the late ‘90s, co-founding the still regrettably unsung MaMA mOsAiC, Minnesota’s first ensemble of color projecting women’s consciousness. Cage reflects, in an MSR interview of few years back, “Signe Harriday, Jeany Park and I founded [it], which was the beginning of my professional career as one who creates theatre for, by and about women and aimed at employing women behind the scenes.”

These days, lauded by no less a personage than Cornel West as “inspiring and evocative,” there is nothing unsung about anything she does from projecting consciousness to heading up the internationally renowned Minnesota Spoken Word Association with husband e.g. bailey, a venerated artist in his own right; to acting at prestigious venues like Mixed Blood Theatre, Intermedia Arts and, currently, Park Square, where she continues her commitment in the cast of Tazewell Thompson’s Mary T. & Lizzy K.

Mary T. & Lizzy K. looks at the friendship between Abraham Lincoln’s wife and her seamstress, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly, a freed slave who, it turns out, did a great deal more in life than put pretty clothes on Mary Todd Lincoln. Shá Cage plays Elizabeth Keckly. Asked what she finds most rewarding about portraying Keckly, she says, “I appreciate that this plays makes room for [her] story to be told. Continue Reading →

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MPS revising Black history curriculum

 

Mahmoud El-Kati calls for a ‘radical’ change to educating youth
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

 

Following two recent incidents that occurred at Minneapolis high schools — a Black doll hung by the neck from a string at Washburn High School and a cafeteria fight at South High School — Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Chief Communications Officer Stan Alleyne said, “There is a new level of intensity and urgency” around the importance of teaching Black history in the schools,

The two incidents are “about misunderstandings and about ignorance” of Black culture, said Mahmoud El-Kati, who has taught Black history classes at North High School for 18 years. “All children should learn the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, [W.E.B.] DuBois, Mary Church Terrill, Ida B. Wells and Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin [Luther King, Jr.] and Malcolm [X], and God knows how many [other] people we can call on who are very important in American democracy. These children haven’t heard their names, [as well as] too many adults.”

Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson was unavailable for comment, but Alleyne pointed out, “The superintendent has spoken numerous times on how important it was to take another look at what we are doing. We have to make sure that students are learning things that are important for them to learn.”

The current Minnesota K-12 Social Studies Standards has four key components: citizenship and government, geography, economics and history. Students in kindergarten through third grade are required “to master fundamental understandings” of social studies, then study North America geography (grade four), North American history (grade five), Minnesota studies (grade six), U.S. Studies 1800-present (grade seven) and global studies (grade eight). Continue Reading →

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How is Dred Scott connected to MN history?

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Many people don’t know that for a time, Dred Scott lived in Fort Snelling, where he met and married his wife, Harriet Robinson. Local community member Frank White and others are working to see this knowledge becomes more widespread with various community events that will begin this coming spring. The Dred Scott case and its impact on this country too often have been undervalued in U.S. history. Scott was a Black man born around 1799 and had moved with the Peter Blow family from Virginia to St. Louis, Missouri. Continue Reading →

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Black History Month Calendar of Events

Black History Month Calendar of Events
Through Wed., Feb. 6
 

Thursday, January 31
 

6:30-7:30 pm — My Soul Looks Back, Sumner Library, 611 Van White Mem. Blvd., Minneapolis

Celebrate Black History Month with songs, poetry and stories that give voice to the journeys and contributions of African Americans in American history. All ages welcome. This event is free; registration is requested. Continue Reading →

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Emancipation Proclamation and our collective history

 

By Benjamin Todd Jealous

Guest Commentator

 

The Emancipation Proclamation, which set our nation on the path to the end of slavery, was signed 150 years ago this month. This year, we should resolve to teach our children the story of our collective history. The past century and a half offers countless tales of bravery and sacrifice to inspire the next generation. Only by sharing our history will we be able to continue our progress over the next 150 years. President Lincoln’s wartime proclamation in 1863 read that “all persons held as slaves” in rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” This was a noble idea and certainly a brave gesture. Continue Reading →

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Spielberg’s Lincoln begs the question: Where is Fred?

 

 

By Marc Morial

Guest Commentator

 

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” — Frederick Douglass. No doubt many of you will take the opportunity during the holiday break to see the movie Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s much-acclaimed dramatization of Abraham Lincoln’s determined and ultimately successful 1865 fight for the passage of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. I came away from the movie impressed with its gripping depiction of the legislative maneuvering and horse-trading that Lincoln employed to win passage of the amendment. However, I am concerned that the movie leaves the false impression that the fight to end slavery was waged solely by White men in Washington and White (as well as a few Black) soldiers on the battlefield. Continue Reading →

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Lincoln, the movie: What’s missing?

By Gary L. Flowers

Guest Commentator

 

“‘Negro History’ is the missing segment of world history.” — Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson was right when he essentially said that Black history is the missing pages of world history. Never was such so true than in the movie Lincoln. While I, as a “weekend historian,” was impressed by Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of the 16th president of the United States, my knowledge of history begged questions: “Why were Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman not portrayed or mentioned?” or “Why was the ancient Egyptian mathematical formula attributed to the Greek mathematician Euclid?”

The movie Lincoln is politically presidential, yet porous on people who influenced the end of the American Civil War. The holes in the Steven Spielberg’s epic film are rooted in Hollywood’s tendency to omit key historical personalities and events from biopics. History reminds us that Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth all played significant roles in the American Civil War, and thus in the decisions of President Lincoln. Continue Reading →

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