Frederick Douglass Day celebrates one of the most important anti-slavery activists on the day he was reportedly born. Douglass was born into slavery, so the exact date of his birth is not known for certain, but it was on or around Valentine’s Day in the year of 1818. Douglass first rebelled against his southern captors by learning to read and write mostly with the help of young white children who lived nearby, even though it was illegal for slaves to learn such things. After escaping slavery he used this skill as a way to make a case against slavery.
One of the main arguments for slavery was that black slaves were not as intelligent as their white owners and therefore it benefited them to stay under the control of others. Up until this point, slaves couldn’t prove their intelligence because they were not taught to read, write, or often even speak English properly. But Douglass was intelligent and he was always determined to learn as much as he could. He could read and write and communicate in a way that was much more eloquent than most white slave owners, thus proving that black people were indeed capable of just as much intelligence as their white counterparts. He wrote three autobiographies and delivered many speeches that not only changed people’s opinions of what blacks were capable of, but also brought to their attention the atrocities that many slaves were facing every day. Most white people at the time had never heard an account of what slavery was like from an actual slave, so they had no idea how bad it really was.
Frederick Douglass’s story represents a time in history when the pen really was mightier than the sword. He was able to convince many people of case simply by using the written word, which shows us to this day just how powerful language can be. On his birthday every year we celebrate him as an important African-American leader right in the middle of Black History Month. We also celebrate his idea of peaceful problem solving that can often be even more effective than violence.