‘There were slaves here, direct from Guinea; and there were many who could say that their fathers and mothers were stolen from Africa – forced from their homes, and compelled to serve as slaves. This, to me, was knowledge; but it was a kind of knowledge which filled me with a burning hatred of slavery.’
Over the centuries, millions of people of all genders, ages, beliefs, kinship groups and nations were ‘stolen from Africa’ and ‘compelled to serve as slaves’ by white enslavers Frederick Douglass condemned as ‘human traffickers in blood’. ‘Forced from their homes’, Black women, children, and men lived and died in the northern and southern Americas and in the Caribbean in a traumatising, horrifying, and ‘mind-body-and-soul’ destroying ‘hell-black system of human bondage’.
Listening to the stories of the psychological traumas, emotional abuses and physical atrocities experienced by his African-born ancestors as a child, Frederick Douglass, a man born into slavery in Maryland, USA, in 1818, obtained a life-changing ‘knowledge’ which gave him a lifelong ‘burning hatred of slavery.’
He was not alone.
From the beginning and over the centuries, millions of Black women, children and men engaged in individual and collective acts of protest. They fought for their freedoms and expressed their ‘burning hatred of slavery’ by resisting by any and every means necessary.
Among the millions of individuals who were born into slavery and who went on to become world-renowned freedom-fighters was not only Frederick Douglass, but the many people whose life stories of resistance and revolution are told in this resource.
Born into the ‘prison-house of bondage’ in the United States, these women and men, among thousands more, campaigned for the end of slavery not only by giving speeches in the USA, but by travelling to Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales on antislavery lecturing tours.
Working tirelessly while personally experiencing the ‘cruelty and barbarity’ of white racist ‘tyranny’, ‘prejudice’, and ‘bigotry,’ they laboured day and night to secure the moral, financial, political, and legal support necessary for the liberation of the ‘enslaved and battered millions’ living lives of ‘living death’ in the USA.
These courageous Black freedom-fighters succeeded: Britain issued the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 and the USA ended slavery with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
And yet, the campaign for social justice, for equal human rights, and for all freedoms was and is far from over.
Frederick Douglass and all the freedom-fighters represented in this resource, no less than their descendants and allies working today, have and remain all too aware that the legal end of slavery was not the end of centuries of white racist ‘cruelty and injustice.’ As he and they foretold, the ‘spirit of slavery’ and the ‘spirit of mastery’ would live on, and still lives on, in acts of white racist discrimination and white supremacist persecution in the 21st century. To the day he died Frederick Douglass was immovable in his lifelong conviction: ‘nothing of justice, liberty, or humanity can come to us except through tears and blood.’
Note on terminology
This resource refers to ‘slaveholders’ as ‘enslavers’ and ‘plantations’ as enslaved ‘labour camps’ as per the terminology endorsed by Edward E. Baptist, ‘The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism’ (Philadelphia PA: Perseus Books, 2014), page xxvi.
In this resource, there are five themes to explore:
- The 'Story of the Slave'
- The History of Black Abolition
- The US Civil War
- African American Activists in Scotland
- The Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass Family
Activities to support further classroom learning about the themes are available under Further Resources.
* All the text in quotations on this page are the words of Frederick Douglass.