I originally wrote this piece for Righteous Anger.
Douglass, as most of us were taught in grade school, was a former African-American slave who fought for the abolition of slavery. We aren’t often told that he was also one of the very few men who also fought for women’s rights. While the female abolitionists were almost all women’s rights activists, as well, most of the males were not. In fact, when Lucretia Mott and other women attended an 1840 worldwide anti-slavery convention in England, they were refused seating. Douglass not only fought for the freedom of his African-American men, but also for the women–white and black–who fought beside him and lived as chattel of white men.
Beyond his fight to end the lives of African-Americans and women as property, his speeches should give strength to anyone who fights to end injustice of any kind. In the speech he delivered in Rochester, New York on July 4, 1852, he had the following to say:
“I will not equivocate, I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just….
The words of Douglass speak to my manner of approaching injustice. I am not one to plead. I am not one to beg. I am not one to cajole. I am one to express moral outrage where moral outrage is required. It’s my firm belief that this is the only way to win “hearts and minds”. People are moved to act when they see something they simply cannot accept for one minute longer. Logic and discussion have their places, but Righteous Anger is what inspires people.