Black History Month: Black Libertarians II
Friday 17 February 2012
The ex-slave Frederick Douglass reveals that reading speeches by English classical
liberal politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression
(1882) It is no wonder that slave owners did whatever they could to prevent
slaves from learning to read. As Frederick’s Douglass’ autobiography shows
he was able to put words and ideas to his love of freedom and his hatred of
oppression by reading English authors like Sheridan and politicians like Pitt.
of these speeches added much to my limited stock of language, and enabled
me to give tongue to many interesting thoughts which had often flashed through
my mind and died away for want of words in which to give them utterance.
The mighty power and heart-searching directness of truth penetrating the
heart of a slave-holder, compelling him to yield up his earthly interests
to the claims of eternal justice, were finely illustrated in the dialogue;
and from the speeches of Sheridan I got a bold and powerful denunciation
of oppression and a most brilliant vindication of the rights of man. Here
was indeed a noble acquisition.