Sean Coons: Frederick Douglass -- New Tea Party Hero?!Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: slavery, Salon, Frederick Douglass, Tea Party, Sean Coons
Sean Coons is a writer and teacher in Los Angeles.
Last week, Frederick Douglass — who escaped slavery at 20 years old and whose words would help bring an end to the institution — was honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s and ’70s, far left activists like Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party and Angela Davis of Communist Party USA incorporated Douglass’ call to agitation in their various causes’ platforms. Yet in a fascinating turnaround, the brilliant abolitionist, writer and orator is developing a new – and perhaps, unexpected – political identity: Tea Party hero.
The recent rise in interest in Douglass by conservatives stems from their belief that his life epitomizes the self-reliance they champion, and his writings help provide justification for small government. It may be surprising to some that the fiery, black radical abolitionist of the 19th century, who once called Fourth of July celebrations “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages,” could be inspiring to a Tea Party patriot. Or that social conservatives could find common cause with the man who bitterly attacked America’s Christianity as “a lie.” But that is exactly what is happening.
Though Douglass famously referred to himself as “a black, dyed in the wool Republican,” there is more to his current appeal among conservatives than party affiliation.
I recently spoke with K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative who is a popular speaker in the Tea Party circuit. Smith considers himself a Frederick Douglass Republican. He told me, “Douglass is a bridge that will reignite America’s passion for liberty.” Regarding the timeliness of last week’s Douglass statue dedication in the Capitol, he said, “There’s a reason why it’s now – because the state of our country is in such an uproar in terms of the economy and social issues. We have a runaway federal government. It was Douglass who helped Lincoln save a country that was divided. And we need to look at Douglass again. Douglass is key.”
And Smith is not alone....
comments powered by Disqus
- Trump administration says joint UNC, Duke Middle East Studies program portrays Islam too positively
- What White Kids Learn About Race in School
- Frederick Douglass photos smashed stereotypes. Could Elizabeth Warren selfies do the same?
- Chronicling New York’s Muslim History
- New Documents Illuminate The University of Texas’s Secret Strategy to Keep Out Black Students
- Women Scientists Were Written Out of History. It’s Margaret Rossiter’s Lifelong Mission to Fix That
- Allen C. Guelzo Reviews Sidney Blumenthal's Latest Installment of His Biography of Lincoln
- What Reconstruction-Era Laws Can Teach Our Democracy: The NY Times Reviews Eric Foner's Latest Book
- Should historians read their own book?
- Cokie Roberts, Pioneering Journalist Who Helped Shape NPR, Dies At 75