Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Frederick Douglas

I just came across this magnificent speech, after watching this beautiful video:

This was written in 1862 (in the middle of the Civil War).

Excerpt: What shall be done with them [freed black slaves]?

Our answer is, do nothing with them; mind your business, and let them mind theirs. Your doing with them is their greatest misfortune. They have been undone by your doings, and all they now ask, and really have need of at your hands, is just to let them alone. They suffer by ever interference, and succeed best by being let alone. The Negro should have been let alone in Africa — let alone when pirates and robbers offered him for sale in our Christian slave markets — (more cruel and inhuman than the Mohammedan slave markets) — let alone by courts, judges, politicians, legislators and slave-drivers — let alone altogether, and assured that they were thus to be left alone forever, and that they must now make their own way in the world, just the same as any and every other variety of the human family. As colored men, we only ask to be allowed to do with ourselves, subject only to the same great laws for the welfare of human society which apply to other men, Jews, Gentiles, Barbarian, Scythian. Let us stand upon our own legs, work with our own hands, and eat bread in the sweat of our own brows. When you, our white fellow-countrymen, have attempted to do anything for us, it has generally been to deprive us of some right, power or privilege which you yourself would die before you would submit to have taken from you. When the planters of the West Indies used to attempt to puzzle the pure-minded Wilberforce with the question, How shall we get rid of slavery? his simple answer was, “quit stealing.” In like manner, we answer those who are perpetually puzzling their brains with questions as to what shall be done with the Negro, “let him alone and mind your own business.” If you see him plowing in the open field, leveling the forest, at work with the spade, a rake a hoe, a pick-axe, or a bill — let him alone; he has a right to work. If you see him on his way to school, with spelling book, geography and arithmetic in his hands — let him alone. Don’t shut the door in his face, nor bolt your gates against him; he has a right to learn — let him alone. Don’t pass laws to degrade him. If he has a ballot in his hand, and is on his way to the ballot-box to deposit his vote for the man whom he think will most justly and wisely administer the Government which has the power of life and death over him, as well as others — let him alone; his right of choice as much deserves respect and protection as your own. If you see him on his way to the church, exercising religious liberty in accordance with this or that religious persuasion — let him alone. –Don’t meddle with him, nor trouble yourselves with any questions as to what shall be done with him.
The great majority of human duties are of this negative character. If men were born in need of crutches, instead of having legs, the fact would be otherwise. We should then be in need of help, and would require outside aide; but according to the wiser and better arrangement of nature, our duty is done better by not hindering than by helping our fellow-men; or, in other words, the best way to help them is just to let them help themselves.

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