Category Archives: Civil Rights

Frederick Douglas 2.14.13 Thought of the Day

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

A sketch of Douglass, from the 1845 edition of...

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born on this day in Talbot County, Maryland, USA in 1818. Today is the 195th anniversary of his birth.

The exact day and year of his birth is unknown, but he decided on February 14th, 1818.  He never met his father, a white man,  and almost never saw his mother.  He lived with his grandparents in their cabin west of the Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography he wrote:

“I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.” [Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Written by himself. (1851)

At seven he was sent to Wye House plantation near Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. Soon he was sent to Hugh Auld a Baltimore carpenter. Auld’s wife, Sophia,  taught him to read until the master (her husband)  stopped her. Hugh Auld thought teaching slaves lead to rebellious slaves. Frederick practiced reading and writing in secret. When he was in Baltimore he heard about Abolition for the first time, and in 1831 he  read an article “on John Quincy Adams’s antislavery petitions in Congress” [Frederick Douglass Timeline]

At 13 he was sent to the shipping town of St. Michael’s, Maryland to work for Thomas Auld. When Auld discovered that Frederick was teaching other slaves to read he rented him out to a brutal slavebreaker, Edward Covey.”The treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.” “ [PBS.org]

In 1838 he was back in Baltimore hired out to work as a caulker in a shipyard. He made his escape to freedom by…

Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass. [Ibid]

Douglass became active in the Abolitionist movement. He became a “licensed preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.” [Frederick Douglass Timeline] In 1841 he spoke at an antislavery meeting in New Bedford about his life in Maryland. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a speaker.

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people didn’t believe that a former slave could speak so eloquently and assumed Douglass was a fraud. In response to that criticism he wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 1845 he toured England and Ireland to raise money to buy his freedom. (Auld  manumitted him for $711.66.) Douglass used the remaining money from the Great Britain tour to buy a printing press and began to publish the North Star, a weekly Abolitionist paper. The paper later became the Frederick Douglass’ Paper and is joined in 1859 by the Douglass’ Monthy.

In 1855 he published his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. During the American Civil War Douglass was a recruiter for the all African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

After the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which outlaws slavery) Douglass continued to fight for civil rights and woman’s rights. A fringe political party, The Equal Rights Party nominated Douglass as its vice-presidential Nominee in 1872.

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrativ...

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1881 he published his final autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

He was appointed to the post of US Marshal of the District of Columbia and the Recorder of Deed of the District of Columbia before becoming Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti in 1889.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frederick Douglass died on February 20th, 1895 of heart failure.

The gravestone of Frederick Douglass located a...


Rosa Parks 2.4.13 Thought of the Day

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” –Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks getting fingerprinted after her arrest.

Rosa Parks getting fingerprinted after her arrest. [Image courtesy  abcnews.go.com]

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on this day in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1913. Today is the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Rosa’s father James was a carpenter and her mother Leona was a teacher. Her parents separated when Rosa was 2, and she moved with her mother a little brother Sylvester to Pine Level, Alabama (just outside the capital, Montgomery) to live with her maternal grandparents. He mother taught her to read. The segregated one room school-house she attended seldom had enough desks  or other supplies. At 11 she went to the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, an institution a laboratory school set up by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes and founded “liberal-minded women from the northern United States. The school’s philosophy of self-worth was …to ‘take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were.'” [Achievement.org] She dropped out of the school to care first for her grandmother then her mother.

At 19 she married Raymond Parks and moved to Montgomery. Raymond encouraged Rosa to finish high school, and she earned her degree in 1933.  The two were active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Raymond had been an active member when they met.) They worked to raise money to help defend the Scottsboro Boys and were members of the Voter’s League. Mrs. Parks managed to get her voter’s card (it took her three tries because of the Jim Crow laws in Montgomery.)

English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Mar...

English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. (ca. 1955) Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she unwillingly began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). Source: Ebony Magazine Ελληνικά: Φωτογραφία της Rosa Parks με τον Dr. Martin Luther King jr. (περ. 1955.) Español: Fotografía de Rosa Parks con Martin Luther King jr. (aprox. 1955). Français : Photographie Rosa Parks (ca. 1955) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rosa served as the chapter’s youth leader. And in 1944 she became the secretary to NAACP President E.D. Nixon—a post she held until 1957. (She recalls that they needed a secretary, she was the only woman there, and she was too timid to decline.)

“I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP,” Mrs. Parks recalled, “but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. We didn’t seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.” [Rosa Parks quoted on Achievement.org]

On Thursday, December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. …As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, “Why don’t you stand up?” to which Rosa replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” The driver called the police and had her arrested. …The police arrested Rosa at the scene and charged her with violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code. She was taken to police headquarters, where, later that night, she was released on bail. [biography.com]

Booking photo of Parks

Booking photo of Parks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the day of her trial the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association (with its new leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) organized a Bus Boycott.  The

13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. …The bus boycott demonstrated the potential for nonviolent mass protest to successfully challenge racial segregation and served as an example for other southern campaigns that followed. In Stride Toward Freedom, King’s 1958 memoir of the boycott, he declared the real meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott to be the power of a growing self-respect to animate the struggle for civil rights. [Stanford.edu]

“At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this, … It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.” –Rosa Parks

After her arrest Parks lost her job  as a seamstress in a department store. “her husband was fired after his boss forbade him to talk about his wife or their legal case.” [biography.com] The couple was unable to find work and eventually they moved to Detroit, Michigan with Rosa’s Mother.

In Michigan Rosa Parks worked U.S. House of Representative John Conyer as a secretary and receptionist. In 1987 she helped found the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development which runs bust tours  to civil rights and Underground Railroad sites for young people.

Rosa Parks receives an award from Bill Clinton.

Rosa Parks receives an award from Bill Clinton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She published a biography, Rosa Parks: My Story and a memoir, Quiet Strength in the 1990s. In 1996 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 93. She was honored by lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC.

Today, on the centennial of her birth the US Postal Service is releasing a Forever Stamp with her likeness.

[Image courtesy USPS]

[Image courtesy USPS]

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… and other people would be also free.” –Rosa Parks


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