(Extensions of Remarks - May 23, 2013)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E750]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           FREDERICK DOUGLASS


                               speech of

                        HON. SHEILA JACKSON LEE

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, May 21, 2013

  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. Con. 
Res. 16, which authorizes the use of Emancipation Hall for the 
unveiling of a statute of Frederick Douglass. It is fitting and proper 
that Emancipation Hall is the venue for the dedication of a memorial to 
one of this nation's greatest abolitionists and orators, and one of the 
closest friends and advisors of the Great Emancipator himself, Abraham 
  Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey near 
Easton, Maryland, on February 18, 1818, and lived the first 20 years of 
his life as a slave before escaping to freedom in 1838 through the 
Underground Railroad. With the assistance of abolitionists, he 
resettled in New Bedford, Massachusetts and changed his name to avoid 
recapture by fugitive slave bounty hunters.
  Frederick Douglass had no formal education but he recognized the 
power of education and taught himself to read and write. He would go on 
to become the publisher of ``The North Star,'' a leading abolitionist 
newspaper, whose motto was ``Right is of no Sex--Truth is of no Color--
God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.''
  Frederick Douglass also authored one of the seminal works in American 
history, the influential autobiography ``Narrative of the Life of 
Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,'' which explained with 
unsurpassed eloquence how slavery corrupts the human spirit and robs 
both master and slave of their freedom.
  Frederick Douglass devoted his life to the struggle for freedom, 
human dignity, and the full measure of civil and human rights for all 
men and women, famously observing that ``where there is no struggle, 
there is no progress; power concedes nothing without demand. It never 
has and never will.''
  Frederick Douglass was also one of America's greatest orators. He was 
the only African American to attend the first women's rights convention 
in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, where he spoke powerfully and 
forcefully in favor of women's suffrage. In his moving address, he said 
that he could not accept the right to vote as a black man if women 
could not also claim that right and suggested that the world would be a 
better place if women were involved in the political sphere:

       In this denial of the right to participate in government, 
     not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a 
     great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of 
     one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the 
     government of the world.

  On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered the address for which 
he is perhaps best known. The theme of that address to the Ladies of 
the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society was ``What to the slave is 
the 4th of July?'' In that speech, he described in stark and vivid 
detail the gap between America's principles and practices, its 
aspirations and the actual condition of people's lives, especially 
those persons of African descent. In answering the question, ``What to 
the slave is your 4th of July,'' he said:

       [A] day that reveals to him, more than all other days in 
     the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the 
     constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your 
     boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, 
     swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and 
     heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted 
     impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow 
     mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and 
     thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, 
     are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and 
     hypocrisy--a thin veil to cover up crimes which would 
     disgrace a nation of savages.

  But Frederick Douglass was not bitter at America, he was determined 
to make her better. And he did through his writings, lectures, 
speeches, and civic activism. Most of all, the bond of friendship he 
forged with President Lincoln helped the nation summon the will to 
accept civil war as the price to be paid to abolish American slavery 
and emancipate from bondage millions of slaves and their descendants.
  On April 14, 1876, the eleventh anniversary of the Lincoln's 
assassination, Frederick Douglass was the keynote speaker at the 
dedication of the Freedmen's Monument in Memory of Abraham Lincoln in 
the City of Washington, in which the Great Abolitionist spoke for all 
former slaves in paying tribute to the Great Emancipator:

       Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him; we saw him . 
     . . in the light of the stern logic of great events, and in 
     view of that divinity which shapes our ends, . . . we came to 
     the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption 
     had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln. [He] was at 
     the head of a great movement, and was in living and earnest 
     sympathy with that movement, which, in the nature of things, 
     must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever 
     abolished in the United States.

  After the Civil War, Frederick served as U.S. Marshal for the 
District of Columbia and later as the first African American Recorder 
of Deeds. In 1888 at the Republican National Convention, he became the 
first African-American to receive a vote for nomination as president of 
the United States by one of the major parties. From 1889 to 1891, 
Frederick Douglass served his country as Minister-Resident and Consul-
General to Haiti. He died in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1895, at 
the age of 77.
  Mr. Speaker, the life of Frederick Douglass affirms what is great 
about our country. Here was a man who overcame the conditions of his 
birth and the disadvantages of his race to become one of the towering 
figures of his age. His life proves that Margaret Mead was right when 
she said:

       Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed 
     citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing 
     that ever has.

  With the unveiling of the statute in memory of Frederick Douglass, 
fittingly located in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol, the story 
of this great man who led such a consequential life will be made known 
to all who visit for generations to come.