Why is Frederick Douglass important?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Frederick Douglass is important in our history for at least two reasons.  First, he was a tireless fighter for the cause of justice and freedom.  Second, he was living proof of the idea that African Americans were just as capable as white people, even if they were enslaved and treated unjustly.  Both of these were important things in our past and remain important today.

Frederick Douglass is mainly famous as an abolitionist.  After he escaped from slavery, he became one of the leading abolitionist speakers and writers in the United States.  He was definitely the most important African American male abolitionist.  He pushed for black freedom in many ways.  Two of the most important things he did were to push to make the abolition of slavery one of the Union’s goals in the Civil War and to advocate for the right of African Americans to fight in that war.  After the war, Douglass continued to fight for justice.  He fought not only for the rights of African Americans, but for the rights of women as well.  This shows that he was an important figure in the overall American struggle for greater democracy and justice in our country.

Douglass is also important for the fact that he accomplished all of this as an ex-slave.  Many people, particularly in Douglass’s time, felt that African Americans were inferior.  This was one reason people accepted the idea of slavery.  Douglass was able to learn to read and write without benefit of schooling, to escape from slavery, and to make himself into a famous figure with his writing and his speaking ability.  His story was a strong testament against the idea of black inferiority.  It is also important as a testament to the basic American idea that anyone should be able to get ahead in this country if they have the talent and the desire to work.

Thus, Douglass is important in our history as an example of how we should pursue justice, as proof of the fallacious nature of racism, and as an example of the value of hard work and ambition.

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