tv Abraham Lincoln Frederick Douglass CSPAN June 2, 2021 5:02pm-6:06pm EDT
>> as you'll see in your program, was scheduled to give remarks about the dissertation award and stacy unable to be with us today, so you're stuck with me again. so again, michelle, chairperson of the board of the abraham lincoln institute. so what i'm going to read are stacy's remarks, slightly edited. as a board member of the abraham lincoln institute, i'm delighted to share the news of the 2019 dissertation award. each year, the abraham lincoln institute in partnership with the abraham lincoln association in springfield, illinois, presents this award to a dissertation that breaks new ground in lincoln scholarship. we look for dissertations that offer fresh interpretive approaches to lincoln's life, career and legacy, or legacy, that examines new evidence or that reevaluates old themes in exciting new ways.
four dissertations this year drew extensive praise. the award was dr. thomas d. mackie junior from western michigan university for his dissertation entitled a shrine for president lincoln and analysis of lincoln museums and historic sites, 1865 to 2015. so for the person who had the question about when do lincoln museums start, that's the dissertation to read. you'll know all about it afterwards. dr. mackie accepted the award at the abraham lincoln association's annual symposium last month in springfield. in his acceptance speech, he'll note the idea for the search came from what he called his own checkered background in public history. he is currently an adjunct
professor of history indiana university east and informed by museum operations. he wrote his dissertation from the vantage point from his experience as a tour guide, intern, architectural historian, trustee, and a director in a variety of history museums in michigan, new york, virginia, ohio, and most notably, as the director of the abraham lincoln library and museum in tennessee. matthew was, of course, joking by calling his experience in public history a checkered past. but i think there does exist, unfortunately, a divide between academic and public history, which tends to undervalue public history. abraham lincoln is our most beloved president and miss of people each year are drawn to the various lincoln sites across the country. just as they are drawn here to ford's theatre or the lincoln
memorial. they flock to these sites because they want to learn about the man and his times in ways you can't always get from a book. they want to walk where lincoln walked, see what he saw, and they want to draw inspiration from his life and legacy through those tangible experiences. for me, speaking as stacy mcdermott, mackie's dissertation offered the historic context and analysis to explain how that power works. congratulations to dr. thomas mackie for his work and thank you for all of your support of the abraham lincoln institute which helps make the dissertation award possible. so on behalf of stacy mcdermott, the ali and the committee from the abraham lincoln association, thank you very much. [ applause ] >> hello again, i'm jonathan
white, president of a. lichlt , a.l.i. and here to make a special announcement on the lincoln group of district of columbia. we've been promoting lincoln since 1935. the mission of the lincoln group is to study, to educate, and to engage new generations in understanding the life and significance of our 16th president. the education work of the lincoln group enjoyed a significant boost under the leadership of its most recent past president, dr. john t. eleth. john died suddenly last august. he was a scholar and a dear friend to those who shared his enthusiasm for all things lincoln. john was born in washington, dc and grew up in illinois. he graduated phi beta kappa, earned ph.d. from harvard university and taught at barnard college and brandeis university. his career of government service began in 1975 and ended with his retirement in 2010. he served on the staffs of both
the senate intelligence and judiciary committees, move to the defense department and retired after advising the fbi national security branch on intelligence matters. dr. eleth was a frequent writer and lecturer on the life and times of abraham lincoln. the commemoration of the first and second lincoln inaugurals with programs at the national archives. on the boards at the lincoln forum and association and volunteered with the national parks service as a speaker and guide here at ford's theatre. john was generous and kind and devoted his time to furthering our knowledge and insight into our favorite president. he spoke with the authority established by his years of study and his inherent intimacy with the subject derived from his illinois roots. one of his friends spoke for many saying i am a better person and lincoln scholar because of john eleth.
the board of the lincoln group decided to honor john's memory in a program that unites his passion for lincoln education and love for ford's theatre. the board today is announcing the creation of the dr. john t.eleth scholarship to support tuition for educators at the annual ford's theatre summer seminar. the scholarship will make the excellent programs here at ford's more accessible to teachers across the country. the lincoln group will make this scholarship a focus of its ongoing efforts to raise support and money for lincoln education. for this first year, four scholarships will be granted to teachers who will be selected by ford's theatre staff for the honor. i am pleased to acknowledge the work of our late colleague and congratulate the lincoln group of the district of columbia for its support of lincoln education programs here at ford's theatre by creating the john t. eletl scholarship. thank you so much. douglass wasa
brilliant speaker, a gifted >> frederick douglass was a brilliant speaker, a gifted writer, a stunning persuader and a man hard driven throughout his life by the cause of black america. he preached fire and brimstone with a passion and righteousness of an old testament prophet and he saw the civil war as both god's retribution on the wicked and the portal to new awakening for his people. although i was somewhat acquainted with frederick douglass, i got to know him better while researching the great and nearly forgotten black nationalist martin delanie, but i never had a true sense of the many sides of the man until i
read david blight's exceptional new biography, frederick douglass, prophet of freedom. dr. blight is the professor of american history and director of the center for the study of slavery, resistance and abolition at yale university. he serves on the boards of various museums and historical societies and in 2012, was elected to the american academy of arts and sciences. last month, he became the recipient of the 2019 gilder larman lincoln prize. the books he won and various honors he has received. i cannot tell you how pleased we are to have him as a guest speaker at this year's symposium. please join me in welcoming dr.
david w. blight. >> thank you, ron, and to the leadership of the lincoln institute. i have numerous friends here, particularly the previous speakers. it's hard to follow richard, nina. whether it's about humor or the movies. i am going to talk on douglass' relationship with lincoln, less about the actual relationship than with the meaning of the two lives for and against each other, especially in the great crisis of the election of 1864. if any of you were waiting with bated breath for me to have perhaps found the fourth time lincoln and douglass actually met, i'm afraid that invitation
to tea that douglass received from president after the second inaugural but before what happened here didn't come off. but let me begin with this. reminiscence recorded by the wpa famous oral history narratives. in 1937, a former slave named cornelius garner was interviewed at the age of 91. he's asked if he had fought in the civil war by the interviewer. garner replied to his black interviewer. did i fight in the war? well, if i hadn't, you wouldn't be sitting there writing today. he described the corner in his native norfolk, virginia, where slave auctions used to be conducted on new year's day.
that day, new year's day, says garner, should be kept by all the colored people. that is the day of freedom. the day of freedom. and they ought to remember frederick douglass too, says garner. frederick douglass told abe lincoln, give the black men guns and let him fight and abe lincoln would say, if i give him a gun, when he come to battle, he might run. frederick douglass said, try them. and you'll win the war. and abe said, all right. i'll try him. that's a lot of history carved into one little paragraph, reminiscent in the mind of an old man but it does begin to help us understand the nature of
the give and take, particularly in rhetoric or in words between lincoln and frederick douglass. the other douglass. in addressing this relationship, we, of course, are talking about two towering personalities and two mythic figures as nina's previous talk certainly showed us. their relationship, i would say, is as much in language, particularly from douglass' side and what he had to say about lincoln than it was in the actual meetings, although they are important. they are men of very different temperaments of course, although not completely dissimilar backgrounds. both are raised in poverty. one a slave and the other son of an indiana dirt farmer. both seized on a similar array of books as they were coming of
age. we know more about the exact books, i think, that lincoln read and used in salem and a little bit above, and knew exactly which books douglass focused on, although we know for sure he did a great reading of the king james version of the bible and he particularly made tremendous use of that little book, not little, actually. the manual of oratoryoratory. compiled in 1797 and that indeed, that elocution manual was one of the books lincoln mentioned that he in particular had also read. this was a book that consisted of many orations and speeches fromquity but also the enlightenment era and
particularly, this book that douglass called the rich treasure when he was 12 years old in the streets of baltimore, it had a 20 page introduction that was indeed a manual on oratory and to douglass, he had no more precious possession as a slave. and that little book, i keep calling it little. it's not that little. the introduction tells the reader how to position the arms, the shoulders, the neck, how to modulate your voice from lower tones to higher tones, how to reach crescendos and particularly taught the orator how to reach the moral heart of an argument in your audience. both of them somehow have been influenced by that little book. i'm going to run very quickly through those three very
important meetings that douglass has with lincoln and then focus, as i said, on the election year of 1864. i do this in particular because it's so important to douglass. lincoln's reelection. but also because i know i've spoken before numerous lincoln groups before on those three meetings with douglass and i don't want to repeat myself. you might all accusing me of telling the same stories over and over. none of us ever do at a lincoln gathering. the first meeting, of course, is august 10th, 1863. one of the great things about speaking to any lincoln group is you all know so much and i don't have to fill in all the details. that's also the scary part about speaking to a lincoln group. somebody's going to catch me here and you're going to email me and i know you are because you do, you always do. one of the risks of actually
having your book read fairly widely now. you get a lot of emails from people with opinions who also scrutinize your footnotes. a couple of you in the audience. we've already talked, i know. i've got a list of revisions to do for the paperback. anyway, the first is august 10th, 1863 and a meeting, of course, douglass sought out with england. douglass had never been in washington, dc. particularly the unequal pay
problem. his oldest son lewis has been moved north to new york from charleston and battery wagner and soon to be in new york city at his son's bedside for approximately two weeks. he wanted to protest the discriminations. more than 45 minutes with the president and didn't shift his views and reminded me how difficult his job is.
sounds like the teenager who just met his, i don't know, baseball hero or something. i felt big there. the second meeting a year later, not quite to the day, but almost, august of '64, of course, was this time at lincoln's invitation. the war has taken many, many turns as you all know about but the worst of the turns is the lack of a turn. it's the stalemate in virginia and in georgia. and it's election year. more on the election in just a moment. in august of '64, invites the greatest spokesman of black people in the united states to come to washington to try out a couple of ideas on him and if he can, enlist douglass' support,
rhetorically at least through newspapers, although douglass, by this time, stopped editing his famous and important anti-slavery newspaper after 16 years. this meeting was a bit longer. much more forthright and araham lincoln looked frederick douglass in the eye and asked him to be the principal agent of a scheme or douglass would go back and start calling in letters a band of scouts that would try to funnel as many slaves out of the upper south behind union lines into the north, into some level of legal freedom before election day in november, because there was a good reason to believe lincoln would not be reelected. he might be defeated by mcclennn and the democrats. august by that summer. there was no certainty of lincoln's reelection and in fact, there was a great deal of uncertainty about it.
this scheme was lincoln's way, apparently, of saying to douglass, all right. emancipation has become the great aim of this war. let's get as much of it done before i lose this election. if i lose this election. exchanged ideas on other things. we can go into that later. now, it's worth pointing out right here that one of the things that makes this relationship so interesting is that both of these men had this extraordinary much written about capacity for intellectual and ideological growth. both. where they started in 1861 and where they come to by '63 and especially '64, '65 is the extraordinary part, of course, of the story. the first year of the war, even year and a half of the war in
'61 and into '62, at least through august of '62, douglass was one of the fiercest critics abraham lincoln had in the north among anti-slavery advocates. at one point, when the lincoln administration started to try to recruit douglass to be their colonization czar. he called abraham lincoln an itinerant colonization lecturer. early on in the fall of 1861 when it appeared that the policy of the lincoln administration and the war was to return fugitive slaves to escape into union lines, a policy that was not easy to sustain. douglass at one point called abraham lincoln the most powerful slave catcher in
america. he said even worse things. it was the preliminary emancipation proclamation and especially the final emancipation proclamation that changed douglass' tune decisively on lincoln. in the wake of the final proclamation, douglass did what he always did. he went back after the incredible celebrations in boston that he attended on emancipation night, january 1st, 1863. he went back to rochester. he not only published the wonderful little editorial he had already written before he left rochester called a day for poetry and song, meaning emancipation day. he went to his desk to write down his thoughts. i'm convinced about douglass of many things and other things i'll never quite figure out, like any biographer. because there are ways in which frederick douglass was not so knowable just like lincoln was
not so knowable. even for a man who wrote 1200 pages of auto biography, my god, is he hiding a lot. but nevertheless, he went to his desk and wrote a new speech. it was called the proclamation and the negro ernie and took it on the road, as he always did. across the midwest. gave it dozens of times, became the speech in which he worked up his ideas as a recruiter of black troops and in that speech, he, among other things, this proclamation frees us up, it frees the entire country, he said. it frees the white union soldier. it frees the white confederate soldier. it frees the black soldier. it frees black people, it frees white people. it frees us all. douglass understood the emancipation proclamation beyond its own text. as did many.
before and after it was written. but that '64 meeting, of course, comes at an incredibly difficult sensitive moment. because of this election year. now, the third meeting, of course, is at the second and i'm not going to go into that. douglass was right out in the crowd, off to lincoln's left. here i am not going into it. he was right down there. lincoln gave the second inaugural and after it was over, douglass tells us he had no invitation to go to the white house reception but he simply walked over to pennsylvania avenue over there and just followed the presidential carriage back to the white house. insisting, you got in line, asked if he could come in, first they said no, gave his card,
said tell the president i'm here. didn't take long. came back and said, come on in. they did have an encounter, i guess, probably in the east room where lincoln insisted douglass said what he thought of that speech. the greatest speech given by an american president and douglass, i think, had so long wished he had written that speech for lincoln. the great thing about him is that lincoln wrote it. lincoln wrote the third paragraph of the second inaugural. every drop of bloodshed by the last shall be repaid by bloodshed by the sword. possibly lincoln's greatest anti-slavery statement of the meaning of the war, let's back up to that election year. now, a little background, first
time a republic tried to hold the general election in the midst of the civil war? not an easy thing to do. lincoln, of course, won't be on the ballot in the south. we all know that. the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery, had passed the u.s. senate in the winter of '64, but not passed the house as required two-thirds majority. the republican party by the spring and summer campaign when it's not clear that lincoln would get the renomination over the renewed efforts of some of the more radical republicans conceived as more radical. the 13th amendment was already, the republican party was the party of the 13th amendment now. whether they want to be or not. they're the party of abolishing slavery. what do the democrats do? exactly what political parties do in all elections. they stamp the republicans right in their forehead.
emancipation and worse. it became, i always tell my students, the 64 campaign became the most racist election of american history until the next one. because '68 was in many ways even worse. grant's first election. the democratic party employed utterly explicit used of white supremacy everywhere, every day in all kinds of media methods. they painted lincoln as, abraham lincoln, the first. they called him the widow maker. they called him the n word lover. and worse. the republican party stood for nothing but, they said, a word many of you know this, literally coined and makes it into the american dictionary that year.
republicans were the party of racial mixing, if you elect these republicans again, it's just going to mix the races and destroy the gene pool, all the rest. now, i'm leaving out the worst. i mean, the cartoons that were put out, the lithographs that were put out about balls held at the lincoln clubs all over the country. there were no balls and no clubs, but it didn't matter. it was the way they were portrayed. but the republicans, lincoln is going to get to the nomination, the renomination, testy process to say the least. frederick douglass flirted for a little while supporting fremont. he backed away from that in june of '64. the problem now was and by the time douglass visits lincoln at the white house, august '64, the
republicans are trying to kind of sidestep and dip and do a dipsy do on the emancipation issue. even lincoln proposed a letter that he asked douglass about face-to-face. should he publish this public letter? he asked douglass saying, you know, i can't free the slaves unless the people really want it. it was just namby-pamby idea that douglass took about one second to say, mr. president, don't publish that letter. whatever you do. anyway. worst of all, members of lincoln's cabinet. usher, the secretary of interior and especially william h. seward, secretary of state, made statements about how, you know, emancipation is not the centerpiece of our war effort just yet. we're willing in the long run, he said, to leave this to the
adjudication of the courts. what does that mean? nobody knew. it was an executive order saying all the slaves in rebellion are henceforth and forever free and must be freed by the army and navy and black soldiers are recruited into the army and navy. you're going to leave it to the courts? douglass was deeply disappointed and frightened by what he was hearing from official republicans very frequently but he was once again, for the second time, awed by the fact that lincoln invited him this time and said, would you help me set up this scheme to free as many slaves as possible? now, douglass went home to rochester, new york. barely two weeks is all he had, recruited people to help him be part of his band of scouts, agents who were supposed to do this. started recruiting fellow recruiters of black soldiers to do this. trends and abolitionism.
written to as many as 20 people to get this scheme going but i don't think douglass had a clue how he was supposed to do this. all he was told is the war department will help you. yeah? well, he didn't have to worry about it after two weeks. and the reason, of course, was the fall of atlanta. it was battlefield victories and not just the fall of atlanta in the first week of september when sherman took atlanta, as everyone here knows, one of the most important turning points of the war, militarily, but also politically, and what it did for northern but then there's sheraton successes in the shenandoah valley and last week of august, admiral took mobile may. i think it's august 25th, the largest naval engagement of the entire civil war. a huge event when mobile fell to
the union navy. the scheme of freeing these slaves out of the upper south was basically disbanded. and the election campaign was on. douglass wanted to campaign for lincoln. and the republican party wouldn't let him. they're out there trying to duck and dodge on the emancipation issue. the last thing they want is sending out frederick douglass to give his barn-burning speeches about abolitionism in all the wrong places. the truth is, he will campaign for every republican president the rest of his life. they wouldn't let him take the stump in '64. he was outraged, angry, but he had no choice. what he did do is he went to syracuse, new york, in october to a big black convention. the famous tradition of the black conventions. delegates from all over the
country including five southern states. he gave a barn-burner of a speech about the right to vote. not just about completing the war for emancipation but the sacred quality of the suffrage. and he declared that the war would never be over until every treasonous slave owner was dead or in custody. it's the war propaganda once again in douglass. out there doing this now, not entirely sure, yet as late as this date, how to trust that republican party. the election, of course, came and on election night, and by the way, i found a little source for this. i only have one source, but by god, i went with it. these are some of the clippings you find and you think, thank you god, thank you god.
private collection. has everything to do with why i wrote this book. this little clipping and everyone in this room was a lincoln scholar and noticed everybody who had ever met lincoln, seen lincoln, imagined they'd seen lincoln imagining they'd be with lincoln somewhere. the same thing went on with douglass by the 1880s. and early 1890s. not unlike the scale. all the way i did this with douglass or saw douglass do that. little reminiscence published in 1881 by the man who claimed to be the poll worker on the night of the election of 1864 and that he had put douglass' ballot in the ballot box, by god. i decided to believe him because the best part of the story is he lived right near douglass. he's a real person and he and douglass were welcomed back into town. they lived a mile from downtown
and welcomed back late at night. about 10:00 to go to the telegraph office and learn all the national returns of the election night. and while they come back to the center of the city, says this man, four drunken white thugs come out of the alley way and called him the n word over and over and there was a little clash between them but then this testifier says the drunken white thugs want nothing to do with douglass and they scurried back into their holes and douglass had a physical and a political triumph. now, i don't know if that really happened but why not. here's the key. i'll end with this little two-part story.
douglass then did what he had done so many times in rochester. the sunday after election, obviously, lincoln was reelected. decisively, way over decisively in the electoral college but particularly decisively in the popular vote, particularly because of the soldier vote. douglass went to the local black church on the sunday after the election, spring street, episcopal church. four part series lectures on sunday afternoons all the time in the 1850s during the war years. he'd go to spring street ame. he went to spring street ame the sunday after the election. how important was lincoln's reelection? douglass opened the speech by reading from genesis.
and the dove came into him in the evening and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off. so noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth. that was his text. douglass told the story to his well churched mostly black audience of noah's ark. noah sent the dove out. dove returns. olive branch in the beak. something's growing out there. noah sent the dove out there and the dove does not return and in the story, the great old testament story, noah decides to take the tarp off the ark and lo, the world had been renewed.
as a text, as a place to put his audience on the meaning of this election, it wasn't just about lincoln but now means, yeah, this war now is going to be prosecuted to its ugly horrific bloody end but it's going to mean black freedom. he went to the oldest rebirth story in western civilization. that's classic frederick douglass. when he needed a story and he does this dozens and dozens and dozens of times, when he needed a story or he needed a metaphor, he went to his king james. he went to the great stories of the old testament. variations on exodus or variations on many other stories but he wasn't finished. and that same speech, he announced that the following sunday he was going to go to baltimore for the first time ever since he escaped from
baltimore as a slave. in 1838, he'd actually been through baltimore on the railroad getting to dc c. but he never got off. i'm going do baltimore next week and going to my native soil of maryland, the reason because maryland just held a referendum on november 1st to decide whether to become a free state in the midst of war. they had just held a referendum and the vote had been, this is almost hard to believe but had been 30,700, passed by like 300 votes by 60 some thousand. narrowly voted to be a free state and douglass said i'm going home to the free state of maryland. and he did a week later,
returned to baltimore. paparazzi in tow, equivalent in the 19th century. good press coverage of this one. he returned to the bethlehem church on dallas street in fells point. there's a fells point expert here today that's going to correct any part of this i get wrong. he returned to the bethel ame. one he attended as a teenage slave. what happens? at the front entrance, he encounters his sister whose name was eliza mitchell. an older sister, about three years older. he hadn't seen her since 1836. eliza had managed, a fascinating long story. she had managed to purchase her own freedom. she'd also had some 7 or 8 children. she had named a daughter for her
famous brother by giving her the middle name douglass. she remained illiterate but followed the fame of her brother. not absolutely clear douglass even recognized her at first but whatever. he grabbed her by the arm and he and eliza walked up to the center aisle of the bethel and the altar surrounded by american flags and one of the local papers called him the illustrious exile. and he opened the speech again with noah's ark but with a twist. he told them noah, sending the dove out of the ark and comes back, branch in the beak. sends the dove again. dove does not return. douglass says, noah takes the tarp off the ark and lo, the
world is renewed but today, i am the sign. i am the dove. i have returned to the free soil of maryland. i am the dove. to put yourself into the noah's ark story and get away with it. but it was his way of personalizing this great ancient old deeply mythical story. it's classic douglass putting himself into the biblical tale, putting his people into the biblical tale and putting his nation into the biblical story. let me end with this. if you go ahead to the spring of '65 where he will meet with
lincoln again, douglass had a new speech, taking on the road this winter and spring. he called it black freedom, the prerequisite of victory. in this speech, another biblical story. needed a metaphor, back to the significance of story telling and douglass was a genius not only with words but with stories. this was the parable of lazarus and the rich man from luke 16. douglass believed the emancipation and the defeat of southern slave holders, americans witnessed what he called the fulfillment of the tale of a quote, certain poor man who laid at the gate of a rich man. inspired black spiritual and
famous modern song, rock my soul in the bosom of abraham. rich man closed in purple and fine linen and sumptuously every day, douglass. a poor beggar. perfect, i don't even need the five minutes. a poor beggar named lazarus, full of sores from leprosy, laid at the gate desiring to be fed crumbs from the rich man's table. dogs lick the poor man's wounds. both men die. the beggar is carried by the angels into abraham's bosom, while the rich man is buried and descends into hell. as he begins to burn, the tormented rich man sees lazarus afar off.
resting and this is the way douglass is telling the story, although he's got, whatever accurate means to the bible here. far off, resting in comfort and security and ababraham's embrac. the poor man in abraham's embrace and cries out. the rich man. father abraham, have mercy upon me and send me lazarus to dip finger in water and cool my tongue. as the rich man engulfed in flames, abraham or god in this case answers that the tables have turned and it's too late. he scolds the rich man for never listening to moses and the prophets. in this case, douglass brilliantly employed the parable and his auditors seemed to love it, wherever he gave it. everybody is calling for lazarus
now at the north and the south, douglass announced in this speech. we all know who the rich man is in this country and who the poor man is, or has been. the slaves were the, these are douglass' words, lazaruses of the south but come to pass, said douglass in his best king james paraphrases that the poor man and rich man are dead for both have been in a dying condition for some time. elicited great laughter and applause from audience after audience, but january into april of '65, he concluded that the poor man is said to be very near in abraham's bosom and crying out. father abraham, send lazarus. by april, in boston, douglass
confidently applied the story to lincoln and the end of the war. richmond had just slave- confederates were in flight. those arrayed in purple, in silk and satin with breasts sparkling with diamonds were defeated and pleading to have their lazaruses back. send lazarus back called the rump of revolution and the army. douglass provided new answers. but father abraham said if they hear not grant nor sherman, neither will they be persuaded though i send lazarus unto them. with an arm gesture to the sky, douglass shouted the
transformation. i say we are way up yonder now, no mistake. and with his audience shouting for approval in quote great merriment said a reporter, douglass had recrafted a piece of scripture to fit the moment of impending victory for the federal union and for black freedom. just how much the mortal father abraham's bosom or the united states could hold and comfort the free people as they came back to life was now to be determined and very soon the mortal father abraham was gone. thank you. all right. questions. yes, sir? >> david, given how strongly
douglass felt about the war, and given the number of hits he took over his actions, how do you feel he justified to himself his refusal to actually take part in the war? >> uh-huh, thank you. oh, he had many justifications. actually like any biographer, i can't speak for all of us, but i think any biographer always wishes they could have their subject in a seminar room for four or five hours with no bathroom break, doors are locked and get to have at them. not at top but near the top of my list of questions i'd have for mr. douglass is, mr. d., what did you say to your two sons when you -- lewis and charles when you recruited them into the 54th massachusetts at
20 and 19, mr. douglass what does a father say to his sons to send them into a war where they not only could die but be enslaved. did they go for your reasons or theirs? were they your surrogates. i really hammer him on this one, every time i try he just slithers out somehow. douglass knew his skill, the word, spoken and written. he had a third son of course who went into the mississippi valley, frederick jr., his young est, no the middle son, recruit and up north as well, 55th massachusetts. entire douglass family went to war, daughter rosetta married a former soldier, terrible
marriage, awful marriage and kind of had huge impact on rosetta's life. he was accused of not joining as soldier but he's in his mid-40s. he said it many times, in wake of the john brown raid, i've never been known as a warrior, i'm known as a man of words, i'm much better as an orator. i'm better at fleeing from slavery than going back to fight it. which induced a famous cartoon of him, i have it in the book, of him fleeing over lake ontario with his trunk on his shoulder, leaping over the river, fleeing the john brown raid. best answer is he knew his best skills and they were not as a warrior. and after all, in what way would he have served? is he going to be a
noncommissioned something or other? he did serve though, recruited 100 members of the 54th mass and lot of other people to be recruiters of black soldiers. yes, sir. >> you just gave a lead-in to my question. >> oh, good. >> could you compare lincoln and douglass's view of the john brown raid? >> oh, oof. in a few sentences? sure. well, ironically in the long-term, not that far apart. that's what was so extraordinary to douglass sitting there in august of '64 and lincoln asking him to create a kind of legal above ground john brown's raid to upper south and funnel the slaves out. at one point douglass had called
the underground railroad an overground railroad, thought the underground stuff was overestimated. douglass was a vehement supporter of john brown until -- and i have an entire chapter on this in my book and i believe i located nine occasions in which douglass and john brown met over 11 years they knew each other, but where douglass parted ways with john brown is when he learned the raid was going to be at harper's ferry, the largest arsenal in the united states. he still went down to, as you know met with john brown in stone quarry for 48 hours to try to talk brown out of it. what douglass was attracted to -- i'll get to lincoln in a second -- what douglass was attracted to was john brown's long, vague discussion -- sorry for the john brown sainthood
club, i turned in my key to that a few years ago, but -- douglass supported brown when the plan was what brown had once called subterranean passageway, which was supposed to be this series of forts somehow manned by lots of men, a kind of militarized underground railroad. douglass was so desperate then, he continued to raise money for it. but found out harper's ferry, out of it. lincoln response was republican, condemned the acts, argued that john brown deserved to be hanged. but at the same time lincoln and
republicans would focus the issue back to issue of slavery, if we don't do something about the problem we'll have more violence and john browns. that's the republican move of course that scared the you know what out of southerners who were already scared of lincoln and the republican party. so in a sense they're not that far apart. although there were no letters from abraham lincoln in john brown's trunk which there were for douglass why there was a posse trying to capture him. >> would you think it's fair to say they both feared effects of the raid getting the south to dig in heels further and move it further towards secession? >> possibly lincoln feared that more than douglass did. douglass had long yearned for
some kind of break, action, something to force a collision and conflict between north and south to lead so some kind of sanctioned violence. ironically the war that actually comes, like it or not, was douglass's fondest dream, and when it did come, the war propagandist came out in him in some of the ugliest and vehement ways you'll ever read war propaganda. i suspect lincoln had greater fear, how do you hold this thing together in the wake of john -- well lincoln's first test is to get elected. goes to give the cooper union speech in the wake of john brown's raid. lincoln has a whole different problem on his hands, as does the whole republican party. in the wake of john brown. thank you. yes. last question. come on, you get one more.
go for it. here we go. all right. >> well traveled man, frederick douglass. >> yes, possibly more miles than anyone in the 19th century. >> did he have a green book? >> yes, and no. it wasn't a green book. abolitionists from the 1840s on, when he joins the garrisonian itinerants, stayed wherever they had friends, wasn't unlike the green book. stay in private homes, taverns and hotels, wherever they found friendship. early on in his career, this was always a difficult issue. douglass and this itinerant group he traveled with particle
in early 1840s, three to five abolitionists including abby kelly, the woman star of the abolition movement. douglass's first couple of years out on the circuit, he was second fiddle to abby kelly, until he wasn't. they would stay with friends but often go into towns and leaflet the town, we'll speak over here if somebody will let us in. often couldn't speak in certain churches. wouldn't let them in, they were too dangerous, so forth. enormous speaking tours after the war, year after year, thousands of miles at time, three and 4,000 miles at a time. two, three months. all kinds of places and friends. if he went to wisconsin, a family would put you up, iowa city, family would put you up.
also stayed in hotels as well, got him into jim crow situations. douglass was jim crowed more times than you can count and with time processed it through humor. can i end on one quick story? sure. again, jim crowed so many times. early years, would react with outrage, physical outrage. when he was thrown off trains, out of hotels. later on if he was stopped in a dining room of a hotel somewhere, this is in the north, and he was told you can't eat in the dining room, you must eat in the kitchen. he would stand up as loudly in booming baritone as he could, where do you feed your dogs? where are the dogs? i'll eat with the dogs. and pretty soon everyone in dining haul coming to his aid,
mr. proprietor let the man eat. no i'll eat with the dogs. pretty soon the way he told it, whole place was a chorus of let him eat here, let him eat here. didn't always work. didn't work on steamers. on a steamer out somewhere, isn't anywhere else to go but the lower deck. you know. anyway. yeah. he had a kind of green book without it being green. so thank you. weeknights we're featuring american history programs as preview of what is available
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