Sunday, December 6, 2009

Striving for Freedom (performed at the Jay Heritage Center, December 4, 2009)

The Jay Heritage Center is known for its educational programs including "Striving for Freedom" where students participate in an interactive theater presentation performed by a professional cast followed by a discussion period. Set in 1813, the play examines the lives of two sisters, Clarinda and Mary, who were enslaved and owned by the Jay family and later freed. The program includes tours of the site-orientation exhibit, the 1838 Peter Augustus Jay House, and grounds. Teachers receive pre- and post-visit materials and students examine primary source documents.

Pictured here are the two performers recreating the reunion of sisters sold into different families. Behind them hangs a reproduction of "The Locusts" the farmhouse in Rye where John Jay grew up as a boy. It is on this site that slaves were also emancipated. Archives show that Caesar Valentine, a slave for John Jay's brother and sister-in-law was freed in 1824 but continued in service for the Jays in Rye. So close was his relationship with the family that he was given a lifetime stipend in Peter Augustus Jay's will in 1843.

John Jay was the first President of the NY Manumission Society advancing emancipation as early as 1785. His son Peter Augustus Jay also served as President of the NY Manumission Society.

"A respectable number of Citizens having formed themselves into a Society for promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and protecting such of them as have been or may be liberated, the following Extracts from their Proceedings, are published for the information of the Public."

"The benevolent Creator and Father of men, having given to them all an equal right to life, liberty, and property, no Sovereign power on earth can justly deprive them of either; but in conformity to impartial government and laws to which they have expressly or tacitly consented."

"It is our duty, therefore, both as free Citizens and Christians, not only to regard with compassion, the injustice done to those among us who are held as slaves; but to endeavor, by lawful ways and means, to enable them to share equally with us in that civil and religious Liberty, with which an indulgent providence has blessed these states, and to which these our brethren are, by nature, as much entitled to as ourselves." (From the American Mercury, 1785, reporting on an article in the Hudson Gazette, JHC Archives

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WWII Paris Liberation made 'Whites Only'

Paris liberation made 'whites only'

By Mike Thomson
Presenter, Document, BBC Radio 4

Many of the "French" division which led the liberation of Paris were Spanish
Papers unearthed by the BBC reveal that British and American commanders ensured that the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944 was seen as a "whites only" victory.
Many who fought Nazi Germany during World War II did so to defeat the vicious racism that left millions of Jews dead.
Yet the BBC's Document programme has seen evidence that black colonial soldiers - who made up around two-thirds of Free French forces - were deliberately removed from the unit that led the Allied advance into the French capital.
By the time France fell in June 1940, 17,000 of its black, mainly West African colonial troops, known as the Tirailleurs Senegalais, lay dead.
Many of them were simply shot where they stood soon after surrendering to German troops who often regarded them as sub-human savages.
Their chance for revenge came in August 1944 as Allied troops prepared to retake Paris. But despite their overwhelming numbers, they were not to get it.
'More desirable'
The leader of the Free French forces, Charles de Gaulle, made it clear that he wanted his Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris.

I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division
General Frederick Morgan
Allied High Command agreed, but only on one condition: De Gaulle's division must not contain any black soldiers.
In January 1944 Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, "confidential": "It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.
"This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white."
At the time America segregated its own troops along racial lines and did not allow black GIs to fight alongside their white comrades until the late stages of the war.
Morocco division
Given the fact that Britain did not segregate its forces and had a large and valued Indian army, one might have expected London to object to such a racist policy.
Yet this does not appear to have been the case.

Charles de Gaulle wanted Frenchmen to lead the liberation of Paris
A document written by the British General, Frederick Morgan, to Allied Supreme Command stated: "It is unfortunate that the only French formation that is 100% white is an armoured division in Morocco.
"Every other French division is only about 40% white. I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division."
Finding an all-white division that was available proved to be impossible due to the enormous contribution made to the French Army by West African conscripts.
So, Allied Command insisted that all black soldiers be taken out and replaced by white ones from other units.
When it became clear that there were not enough white soldiers to fill the gaps, soldiers from parts of North Africa and the Middle East were used instead.
Pensions cut
In the end, nearly everyone was happy. De Gaulle got his wish to have a French division lead the liberation of Paris, even though the shortage of white troops meant that many of his men were actually Spanish.

We were colonised by the French. We were forced to go to war... France has not been grateful. Not at all.
Issa Cisse
Former French colonial soldier
The British and Americans got their "Whites Only" Liberation even though many of the troops involved were North African or Syrian.
For France's West African Tirailleurs Senegalais, however, there was little to celebrate.
Despite forming 65% of Free French Forces and dying in large numbers for France, they were to have no heroes' welcome in Paris.
After the liberation of the French capital many were simply stripped of their uniforms and sent home. To make matters even worse, in 1959 their pensions were frozen.
Former French colonial soldier, Issa Cisse from Senegal, who is now 87 years-old, looks back on it all with sadness and evident resentment.
"We, the Senegalese, were commanded by the white French chiefs," he said.
"We were colonised by the French. We were forced to go to war. Forced to follow the orders that said, do this, do that, and we did. France has not been grateful. Not at all."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NBA star Luol Deng assists South Sudan

Luol Deng
Originally uploaded by UNHCR
Q&A: Basketball star takes the bull by the horns to help refugees.

NEW YORK, United States, May 23 (UNHCR) – Chicago Bulls basketball player Luol Deng is the latest high-profile supporter of UNHCR's campaign, which raises funds to provide education and sports activities for millions of young refugees around the world. The lanky star learned about the campaign by chance and immediately sought out UNHCR to sign up. It is a cause very close to his heart. The 23-year-old fled his native South Sudan as a child and ended up as a refugee in England. He went to the United States to study in his teens and joined the Chicago Bulls in 2004 as a forward. Deng, who also plays for England, made headlines earlier this season with his pledge to donate US$50 to for every basket he scored. He recently spoke to UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Sector Fund-Raising Officer Greg Millar. Excerpts from the interview:

Where does your desire to help others come from?

I grew up in a family that has always given back. My dad has always given back ... and my mother also, so I just grew up right into it. It was just something that I grew up with and was born to do.

Tell us a bit about your family and yourself?

I am a Dinka from South Sudan. I am one of nine kids and I was born in the Sudan. When I was five, my family fled the Sudan because of the civil war. My family and I moved to Egypt, where we lived for four years. When I was nine, my family was granted asylum by the United Kingdom and we moved to England as refugees. My family still lives in England, but I moved over here to go to high school at the age of 14 and to play basketball. At 18, I went to Duke University [in North Carolina] for a year and was then drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

Have your experiences brought you closer to your family?

I think the number one thing for me has always been family. When I tell people that I was a refugee, they might think I went through a lot. But I never think of it like that, because I had a strong family.... Being in the same boat with my family made things easier.

As a former refugee, how important do think the work of UNHCR is?

UNHCR has been unbelievable; giving refugees around the world an opportunity to pursue a better life and a better education. Just to have an opportunity in life. It's never easy leaving your homeland, having to adapt to a different culture and trying to make it, but with the help that UNHCR gives, it makes life a lot easier.

How do you feel about the repatriation of people to South Sudan?

It is unbelievable.... We can help more. It's just unbelievable that people are getting the opportunity to go back to their homeland; it is tough not being home.

How did you become involved in UNHCR's campaign?

I was in England and I went to an Arsenal [football team] game. An advertisement kept flashing up in the stadium, and it said ninemillion. My jersey number is nine, so I like it when I see the number. I was sitting next to my manager and we kept on seeing ninemillion flashing up, so I asked him, "What is nine million?" He didn't know and so we asked other people. They started explaining its meaning to us and the rest is history.

We really wanted to get involved and do whatever we could ... to help them [the world's refugee children] with education, sports and a better life in general. That's what I've always wanted to do. It just made sense and that's how I started.

Tell us about the influence of sport in your life.

When I moved from Sudan to Egypt, I was very young and I didn't play much sport. When we moved from Egypt to England, I didn't speak a single word of English. Many refugees would make their children learn English before sending them to school, but my parents didn't think it would be a good idea for me to stay at home every day in a new country. So I went to school without understanding English.

It was hard for me to communicate with people and it was hard for me to reach out – a different culture, a different language – it was just really hard to make friends. But one thing I noticed was that whenever we played football, people wanted to pick me to be on their team. And I noticed that I was closer to the guys when we were playing. It didn't matter if I spoke the language or not, they wanted to win and so they would pick me. And when we won, we would celebrate together. That's really what sports did for me; it helped me make friends.

That story shows how important sports is for young people?

Yes, definitely. Sports can also free your mind.... When you play sport, you're thinking about how good you can be. Whether you are scoring a goal or making a lay-up or a jump shot in basketball, you free your mind of other stuff and that's really good for you.

What do you think when you see images of refugee children?

When I see the things that UNHCR and ninemillion are doing, I'm just happy to see those kids getting the help that they're getting. One thing I would tell those kids is to enjoy life, take advantage of what you have and just really be excited and always believe in yourself.

What you and UNHCR are doing to ease reintegration means a lot.

Definitely. There is a lot going on in southern Sudan right now. If people join in what we're doing here to help, then it could definitely help change so many lives, so many families in South Sudan. I was really lucky to be able to flee my country and I am really very lucky to be sitting here today – just telling people about this and doing what I am doing, and asking people to join me.

By helping those people, you never know. In the future, another kid will be sitting in my spot doing the same thing, from whatever country. It's just unbelievable, you never really know what you can do, you never really know how much you can change someone's life. Doing something [to help], I guarantee you, is the best feeling.

Can members of the public support what you are doing?

Definitely, like ninemillion, there are so many ways to help. I think a lot of people sometimes think you have to be rich to help.... I think the best way to help is learning more about the issue. This means really taking your time to learn about the issue, because sometimes you will learn something you didn't know. I think that you'll even learn that one dollar can feed a family in certain countries for a week

Do you think many people in America – including professional basketball players – understand what it really means to be a refugee child?

I think, generally, people have a good idea that a refugee is someone who fled home, someone who is not in their homeland. I don't know if everyone thinks about it the same way. Because I have been through it, I know how tough it can be to be away from home. I think for most people, the first thing about a refugee that springs to mind is that it means not being able to be in your own homeland.

You are planning to visit South Sudan soon. How do you feel about that?

I really don't know what to expect. I left at such a young age, all I really remember are stories, but I am definitely really excited. Just to be able to step in my homeland; I am looking forward to it.... I lived in England, I grew up in England. I live here now and play basketball, but you look at me – you can tell right away I am from South Sudan, and that is home.

Learn more about the campaign by visiting their website:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Frederick Douglass's Courageous Independence Day Speech

African Americans and white Americans have long had a different view of the celebration of America’s Independence day, July 4th. That disconnect has existed since the Declaration of Independence was written and presented to King George of Great Britain.

A document whose authors proclaimed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, men who kept other men in a life of slavery that deprived them of these same rights they themselves called “unalienable”, created a void between whites and blacks that lasts until the present day.

In 1852 while slavery in America was at its zenith, while a Fugitive Slave Law had been enacted that required all American citizens to help apprehend runaway slaves for their masters, the good citizens of Rochester, New York, requested one of their neighbors to deliver an address on the Fourth of July. That neighbor was Frederick Douglass.

The intellectual turmoil of such an invitation had to have worked on Douglass. An escaped slave himself, Douglass had dedicated his life to working for the abolition of slavery. In speeches, in a newspaper he published named The North Star, Frederick Douglass was a tireless worker for African American freedom.

So on July 4, 1852, Frederick Douglass strode to the podium and delivered the following words:

Fellow Citizens: pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions. But such is not the state of the case.

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing empty and heartless; your sermons and thanksgivings a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

Douglass was a man of immense courage. This was not a long speech nor was it delivered in an auditorium full of former slaves. I wonder how many of us today would have the same intestinal fortitude as Frederick Douglass did on July 4, 1852.

Friday, March 27, 2009

One of the Greatest

One of the Greatest
Originally uploaded by DeHoll
"This is a textbook you will read this semester from cover to cover."

I was sitting in a classroom when a young teacher named Dennis Dowdell began passing back thick blue copies of a new textbooks with an embossed title.

The book was From Slavery to Freedom. It was written by a brilliant, but humble scholar.

John Hope Franklin was a teacher, author, orator and researcher who not only documented history but made it.

The groundbreaking text was the first widely distributed Black History text used in America's public schools. It has exposed millions to indisputable facts about U.S. history.

This was a man who saw a black settlement in Oklahoma eradicated in days and nights of ethnic cleansing after World War I.

He knew Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Mary McLoud Bethune, Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammed, Malcolm X and others on a first name basis.

He rubbed shoulders with Paul Robeson and led the research on the Brown versus the Board of Education case that allowed a young lawyer to win a 1954 court victory that eventually equalized public spending in the nation's public

I heard him lecture at an Ohio university in the 1970's and heard him speak at a church in Texas in the 1980's.

In the 1990's, I interviewed him after he was appointed to head a commission on race in America. I also smiled when this humble man who raised orchids in his spare time was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

John Hope Franklin use to joke with his mother about a "Negro" becoming president of the United States.

As a distinguished endowed professor at Duke University, he spoke in the past few months of the irony of seeing that happen.

John Hope Franklin met his maker at the age of 94. I like to think he has been able to look him in the eye and smile, adding that he knew and spoke with President Obama and died believing in the true possibilities of America.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obtaining fresh water a challenge in a lot of the world

Photograph originally uploaded by bdinphoenix
In the U.S., we often take clean water for granted. Turn on the tap and - ta-da! - drinkable H2O. But across huge swaths of the planet, it's not that simple.

According to the United Nations, 2.6 billion people - that's 41% of the global population - lack access to clean water.

That's why the U.N. has set aside March 22 as World Water Day, which calls on governments and individuals to recognize how crucial water is to our health, economy, and environment.

While the numbers can be staggering - 6,000 children die each day from diseases that could have been prevented by having access to clean water and sanitation - the solutions are surprisingly simple.

A mere one-dollar investment in providing access to clean water will return seven dollars in economic productivity, because people don't get sick, don't miss work and school, and live longer.

This past Sunday marked the first day of the Tap Project, a weeklong fundraiser initiated by UNICEF to offer clean and accessible drinking water to children all over the world. More than 100 restaurants in the Washington area are asking customers to donate $1—or as much as they’d like to give—to drink tap water, normally free of charge.

You can also support The Tap project

The project was launched last year in New York City. At more than 300 restaurants, the city raised $100,000 and provided 4 million children with clean water. This year, UNICEF expanded the idea to include 13 cities around the country. More than 100 restaurants are participating in the Washington area through March 22nd.

On March 22, you can participate in live or virtual water marches sponsored by Starbucks. In Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, and other cities, people will walk miles to draw attention to water issues. These marches are inspired by the 3-6-mile journey women and children in many countries make every day just to get water.

Article by DeHoll on

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Caribbean unrest has roots in slavery and colonialism past

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Protests that have nearly shut down the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are not just about demands for lower prices and higher wages: For demonstrators they are no less than a battle against the vestiges of slavery.

Afro-Caribbean islanders — most of whose forbears toiled in the sugarcane fields under the yoke of slavery more than 160 years ago — not only resent France's handling of the global economic crisis, they have long resented that slaveholders' descendants control the economy on both islands.

They also suspect that businesses earn too high a profit on goods, most of which are imported.

This resentment against slaveholder descendants, known as bekes (bay-KAY) has lent an especially sharp edge to weeks of demonstrations that at times have erupted in gunfire, arson, looting, and the death of one activist in Guadeloupe.

"They've got the money, they've got the power, they've got Guadeloupe," snapped protester Lollia Naily. "This is not a race thing. It is a money thing and it is a power thing."

Protesters in Martinique also have rejected the bekes, with frequent chants of "Martinique is ours, not theirs!" Bekes own most industries in Martinique — but represent only about 1 percent of the island's 401,000 residents.

Deep economic and social disparities divide France from its overseas possessions: Unemployment in Guadeloupe is about 23 percent, compared with 8 percent on mainland France, and 12 percent of islanders live in poverty, compared with 6 percent of mainlanders, according to the most recent statistics.

The conflict extends beyond the Caribbean: Islanders living in mainland France are relegated to low-level jobs and are absent from senior positions in business, the military and government, revealing a "color fracture in French society," said Patrick Lozes, head of the Representative Council of Black Associations.

Islanders demand that France treat them as equals — wherever they are living — and question why food is more expensive here than on the mainland.

"My ID says I'm French," said 28-year-old Philippe Delag. "Guadeloupe is part of France."

The island certainly looks the part: French flags fly from government buildings, and tiny Citroens and Peugeots whiz along well-maintained highways. Residents switch easily from Creole to French in conversations.

On one concrete median divider in Guadeloupe is the spray-painted message, "We want 200 euros," reflecting protesters' demands for a 200-euro ($250) monthly raise for low-paid workers, who now make roughly euro900 ($1,130) a month.

The French government, which has insisted that any salary increases must come from the private sector, announced it could provide extra government benefits totaling nearly euro200 ($250) extra a month for low-income workers.

And both sides in Martinique have reached an agreement that would lower prices on 100 products by 20 percent. Protest leaders and government officials are still negotiating to lower the costs of housing, gasoline, water and electricity.

But the problems extend beyond economics, protesters say.

Serge Romana, president of an association that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the French territories, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy "must absolutely abolish all traces of neocolonialism and vestiges of slavery in the overseas regions."

Sarkozy himself — who raised islanders' hackles when as interior minister in 2005 he endorsed a bill requiring textbooks to recognize the "positive role" of colonialism — acknowledged last week that old wounds still fester.

"I know the feeling of injustice that you have, given the inequalities and the discrimination," the president said in a television appearance on Thursday aimed at quelling the unrest. "How can we justify monopolies, overly high profits ... and, why not say it, forms of exploitation that should not have any place in the 21st century?"

In Paris, thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday to show their support for striking workers and to pay homage to Jacques Bino, the labor-union activist killed in Guadeloupe last week.

Despite such signs of solidarity, most of France doesn't understand the islanders' demands, Lozes said.

"They don't see it as a demand for justice, but rather as a demand for charity," he said.

Jean-Luc de Laguarigue, a beke, said tensions have festered over generations because France and its islands have not explored the painful past. He said he knows of no slavery museum in France. The subject is generally taboo in schools.

But Laguarigue insisted that bekes no longer represent power and colonial force, and suggested that the islands — not Paris — should decide what is best for them.

The protests are "not a call for war, but for dignity," he said.

On Sunday, mourners dressed in white packed a gymnasium in the cane-growing town of Petit-Canal to hear poems about struggle and rousing songs in homage to Bino, the dead labor-union activist, whose body has been displayed in an open casket on the island for two days.

"We want respect," said Adele Goram, 50, an islander from a nearby town who attended. "We live in France and there should be no difference between France and Guadeloupe."

Several islanders blame the arrival of 450 French riot police for the violence that has erupted during protests — and say it shows how France treats the islands like colonies.

Martinican painter and intellectual Victor Permal described Paris' proposals as "general and blurry" and criticized the decision to send force, saying France has often overreacted when problems arise on the islands.

"The people are starting to gain a clear notion of what belongs to them," Permal said. "So they become conscious that it is not France who should define their path and needs."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

John Legend responds to NY Post cartoon

R&B singer John Legend has blasted a New York Post cartoon as racist in an angry letter to the editor.

In the Feb. 19 New York Post, an editorial cartoon compared the author of the federal stimulus bill to the crazed chimpanzee shot and killed by police a few days earlier after attacking a woman in Stamford, Conn.

The singer responded to the cartoon with the following open letter to the Post:

Dear Editor:

I'm trying to understand what possible motivation you may have had for publishing that vile cartoon depicting the shooting of the chimpanzee that went crazy. I guess you thought it would be funny to suggest that whomever was responsible for writing the Economic Recovery legislation must have the intelligence and judgment of a deranged, violent chimpanzee, and should be shot to protect the larger community. Really? Did it occur to you that this suggestion would imply a connection between President Barack Obama and the deranged chimpanzee? Did it occur to you that our president has been receiving death threats since early in his candidacy? Did it occur to you that blacks have historically been compared to various apes as a way of racist insult and mockery? Did you intend to invoke these painful themes when you printed the cartoon?

If that's not what you intended, then it was stupid and willfully ignorant of you not to connect these easily connectable dots. If it is what you intended, then you obviously wanted to be grossly provocative, racist and offensive to the sensibilities of most reasonable Americans. Either way, you should not have printed this cartoon, and the fact that you did is truly reprehensible. I can't imagine what possible justification you have for this. I've read your lame statement in response to the outrage you provoked. Shame on you for dodging the real issue and then using the letter as an opportunity to attack Rev. Sharpton. This is not about Rev. Sharpton. It's about the cartoon being blatantly racist and offensive.

I believe in freedom of speech, and you have every right to print what you want. But freedom of speech still comes with responsibilities and consequences. You are responsible for printing this cartoon, and I hope you experience some real consequences for it. I'm personally boycotting your paper and won't do any interviews with any of your reporters, and I encourage all of my colleagues in the entertainment business to do so as well. I implore your advertisers to seriously reconsider their business relationships with you as well.

You should print an apology in your paper acknowledging that this cartoon was ignorant, offensive and racist and should not have been printed.

I'm well aware of our country's history of racism and violence, but I truly believe we are better than this filth. As we attempt to rise above our difficult past and look toward a better future, we don't need the New York Post to resurrect the images of Jim Crow to deride the new administration and put black folks in our place. Please feel free to criticize and honestly evaluate our new president, but do so without the incendiary images and rhetoric.


John Legend

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New York Post Editorial Cartoon Insults Obama and African Americans

Reverend Al Sharpton had the following to say about the New York Post's editorial cartoon: Statement by Reverend Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network

New York, NY (February 18, 2009) --The cartoon in today’s New York Post is troubling at best, given the racist attacks throughout history that have made African-Americans synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual inference to this form of racism when, in the cartoon, the police say after shooting a chimpanzee, “now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.”

Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder whether the Post cartoonist was inferring that a monkey wrote it? Given that the New York Post cartoonist has come under heavy fire in the past for racially tinged cartoons including the infamous cartoons depicting 2001 mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer and me in very unflattering ways (that ultimately was used as a campaign tactic to inflame racial prejudices), one cannot ignore that history when looking at this morning’s cartoon.

The Post should at least clarify what point they were trying to make in this cartoon, and reprimand their cartoonist for making inferences that are offensive and divisive at a time the nation struggles to come together to stabilize the economy if, in fact, this was yet another racially charged cartoon.

What do YOU have to say about this?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Frederick Douglas House at Cedar Hill

Frederick Douglas was arguably the most influential African American of the 19th century. A statesman, newspaper publisher, abolitionist, husband, father, orator and women's suffrage advocate, Douglas was a man of strong convictions. Born in slavery, Douglas escaped from his master after refusing to take a beating from an overseer on a Maryland plantation. He became a leading spokesman for the abolitionist movement. He turned down an invitation from John Brown to join the Harper's Ferry raid because he believed lawlessness did not help the anti-slavery cause. In 1865 he gave a speech at Hosanna Meeting House in Oxford, Pennsylvania that prompted my great-great grandfather, two of his brothers, and many of his friends to join the union army during the civil war. He was named ambassador to Haiti in 1889. Douglas and his wife Anna purchased this home in 1877, breaking a whites' only covenant. On February 20, 1895, shortly after attending a women's rights rally, Douglas died in the hallway of this home. He may have been the greatest African American leader in American history.