Who is Frederick Douglass in African- American History?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass is an important figure in American History and in African- American History.  His place in African- American History has to be in the upper echelon of important figures.  His place is one that represents the pain and suffering of slavery as well as the resistance and defiance that results from it.  Douglass lived in slavery and experienced it at its very worst.  He escaped and became a leading voice in the American abolitionist movement. Douglass' writings occupy central importance in both the historical progression of the American narrative and in the canon of American Literature.  It is in this regard where Douglass becomes such a seminal voice in American History and African- American History. He straddles the worlds of politics, literature, and history at a point where they were seen as separate entities.

In African- American History, Douglass represents the voice of the past speaking the condition of the present in hopes for the future. As so many voices were silenced by the condition of slavery, Douglass' voice was raised in objection to it.  He becomes a seminal figure for African- Americans of the time period as he is able to speak to the power of literacy and able to generate a sense of understanding that his condition is one that others might follow. The fact that he achieved freedom and then accepted great risk in speaking out against slavery, seeking to connect himself with a predicament from which he escaped is what makes him such a powerful figure and prominent force in African- American history. Douglass did not retreat into the world of privilege in his escaping slavery.  He actively campaigned for the rights of others.  His place in African- American History is one that forges connection and solidarity in the understanding of the past, construction of the present, and hope for the future.