Uncovering History: Was Susan B. Anthony Racist Or Frederick Douglass Sexist?

Uncovering History: Was Susan B. Anthony Racist Or Frederick Douglass Sexist?

Not quite — but this 19th century debate is still relevant today.

Everyone knows about Susan B. Anthony’s lifelong work as a suffragist of the women’s rights movement and Frederick Douglass’ escape from slavery before becoming a leading abolitionist. But have you heard their lesser-known story of friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation? Trust me, this is not a soap opera, but some really great history that is still relevant today.

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass met in Rochester through the abolitionist community. Pioneers of equal rights, they quickly became friends, united in the anti-slavery and pro-suffrage movements. Many of Anthony’s early speeches condemned slavery and any sort of racial prejudice; she even postponed her suffrage work mid-Civil War to focus on abolition, which was a more pressing issue. Douglass was an outspoken advocate of women’s rights, once remarking that “there was no foundation in reason or justice for woman’s exclusion.” He was also the only African American at the Seneca Falls Convention, the first woman's rights convention at the beginning of the suffrage movement — a convention which, ironically, Anthony did not attend.

So how did such a strong friendship revert to disagreements and accusations of racism or sexism? One major cause was to blame: the Fifteenth Amendment. When slavery was abolished in 1865, former slaves became another group of disenfranchised people who also did not have the vote. Thus the Fifteenth Amendment gave African Americans the right to vote--but only African American men. Douglass and other abolitionists dubbed this time period the “Negro’s hour,” claiming that any suffrage progress was better than none at all, and if black men got the vote first, so be it. Anthony was furious. She wanted universal suffrage for everyone, regardless of race or sex. If women, both black and white, were excluded, she did not want the amendment passed.

Their disagreements came to a head at an 1869 meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, where Anthony and Douglass got into a heated debate about the Fifteenth Amendment. They each argued how the lack of suffrage placed them in danger in different ways--African Americans because they were persecuted for their race and women because they were male property, and were controlled financially and politically. After the argument, still conflicted over the amendment yet determined to achieve women’s suffrage, Anthony and her supporters walked out of the meeting and formed a new organization called the National Woman Suffrage Association.

So Susan was racist for not wanting black men to get the right to vote, and Frederick was sexist for wanting women to sit back and wait their turn for suffrage? Well, not quite. There are two problems with this assumption. First, Anthony never stopped advocating for racial justice. Even after the 15th Amendment passed and only black men were given the right to vote, she delivered countless speeches about eradicating racist prejudices throughout the country (which of course did not disappear with the granting of suffrage). She condemned everything from lynchings in the South, to Northern women who claimed they were not prejudiced but really had racist viewpoints or savior complexes in daily life, to the plight of black women who faced the double-edged sword of race and sex. And Douglass did not stop advocating for women’s rights; he supported women’s suffrage until his death. Anthony and Douglass remained friends for years to come, and she even delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

At the crux of the matter, they both had the same principles and goals regarding equal rights. They cannot be faulted when the system was against them and government and society did not recognize either group as complete citizens. They were debating a question with no right answer — whose humanity should be recognized first?

The second problem with these accusations is that it is dangerous to impose a modern lens on history. We cannot use our current knowledge and foresight to impose labels or project agendas on historical figures. This kind of hindsight bias ignores the state of the nation when Anthony and Douglass were debating the Fifteenth Amendment, a time during which neither had equal rights and the words “racist” and “sexist” were not even used. The nineteenth century also lacked an understanding of intersectionality, the idea that oppressions intersect in different ways depending on race, gender, and class. Of course, just because the terminology did not exist does not make it right, but we cannot impose all of our hindsight bias on them.

Looking at the present day, there is no way around it — Anthony and Douglass’ debate is still relevant now. Instead of looking back, we should look forward and consider how their work still resonates today. While all citizens may have suffrage, that does not mean everyone is treated equally or that racial prejudice has been eradicated. Nothing could be farther from the truth. However, we now have tools at our disposal--an understanding of intersectionality, a wealth of sources and perspectives accessible online, and the ability to connect with others worldwide. Anthony and Douglass had an excuse. What is ours?

Cover Image Credit: Live Action Blog

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When Your Enough Just Isn't Enough

Do what you can, and God will do what you can't.

Have you ever felt like your enough just isn’t… enough? I feel like often times, even in smaller situations, we belittle the greatness that we can achieve because of our own personal thoughts or what others lead us to believe. It’s like, yeah, I wrote this paper, but did I really put my all into it? Or, yeah, I did my Bible study, but was my heart really into it?

It’s times like this when I must sit back and remember that God is God and He knows every depth and shallow I’ve been through! Lately I’ve found myself wondering if I’ve been doing enough to follow my calling properly, or even if I’ve done enough to please God. Sometimes doing what you want to do for God can be disheartening because rejection and a whole lotta “no”s come along with it. The outcome will always be pleasurable, but the journey to reach out to someone’s heart can be difficult. 

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV) says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” 

To me, this verse is saying, “Do what YOU can, and God will do what you can’t.” 

Is that not amazing to think about? We have the honor of having a God that will never leave our side. Receiving your calling and attempting to do the best to please God can be difficult – there’s no doubt about it. God never said it would be easy, but He did reassure us that He wasn’t going to leave us behind. Whether your passion for God is to sing, minister, be a missionary, or absolutely anything, do what you can and God will do the rest – with your drive, of course. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve backed out of opportunities or denied my calling to others, just because of how selfish I am about it. I felt like my enough wasn’t enough! But, if we’re doing what God wants, under Him and for Him, He will be pleased. That’s the beauty of it all!

So next time you feel like you’re not doing enough, take a step back and look at what’s in front of you. 

Are you doing what you can so that God can do what you can’t? 

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Black British Viewpoint On The H&M Ad

Why his mother is unbothered? And why South African Protestors are?

You've seen it everywhere. A photo of this beautiful Black Boy wearing a sweater (aka Jumper) stating "cutest monkey in the jungle". Now many people immediately expressed outrage about the entire situation but when I saw this, my original response was as follows:

And it seems that the boys mother agrees with me:

“[I] am the mum, and this is one of hundreds of outfits my son has modeled. Stop crying wolf all the time, [it’s] an unnecessary issue here. Get over it.. That’s my son, [I’ve] been to all photoshoots and this was not an exception. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about this… I really don’t understand but not [because I’m] choosing not to, but because it’s not my way of thinking. Sorry.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT TO THE AFRO CARIBBEAN EXPERIENCE

A fellow Brit writes:


Like this commenter mentioned, I've heard white and black parents in the UK refer to their kids as a cheeky monkey. You see before moving to the USA, I use to say all the time "racism DOES NOT exist". Yeah don't get me wrong I'd experience two moments that I remember, that had a slight racial bias attached to it. But it was two separate incidents in the twenty-something years of my life. It was really nothing. Scrap that maybe three. After all my family is multiracial. Many family members includng my uncle, brother in law, cousins in law are white and my lineage is mixed. I could go to a pub meet a white person or a person of any other race, and have a deep meaningful conversation about a plethora of issues with no judgment and feel like there really is a deep connection and acceptance. Heck, I could have that conversation at a bus stop.

My family member writes:


It's not the same in the USA. It's a constant barrage of judgment, of questioning everything and every experience. From the moment you walk out of your door, you could be subjected to multiple incidences of racist bias that leave you raw and unable to know how to process or to cope. ou leave your house and if in an affluent neighborhood, your neighbors can make you feel like you don't belong.Y You walk into your nearby Krogers, where until you are labeled as ok, you could be followed all around the store on a daily basis. You see your neighbors who do not acknowledge and often do things that let you know, you are un-welcomed (you don't belong) in your very own neighborhood. You go to work, where you are isolated and made to feel that it was not designed for you. Where you micromanaged and made to feel less than in so many ways. You drive home from work where if you are a black man, one false move could be the end of your life.

You see, the African American experience is one that dehumanizes you. It has become so polarized that it's difficult to even know which way to look. I mean my daughter was subjected to bullying with a racial element, at the age of 4. FOUR years old. It's heart-wrenching and just unacceptable. I can go to an event be it a birthday party or a school led event where everyone knows me, but many if not all at times, choose to not speak to me. It's a brutal experience.


Opposing views


Another view:


HERE'S MY POINT

The experiences are so different that I honestly can relate why for the Swedish black Mum took no issue with the sweater/jumper or the ad. But I also being black in America where it is common to dehumanize black people, and where this subjection is daily and constant can understand why there is such outrage and why many people take offense. There is a school of thought out there that believe H&M did this on purpose. That this was an opportunity to gain free publicity. I truly hope not. Either way I shout You Cannot Define Me, I am Beautiful, Learned, Adorable, Capable a King (aka BLACK) for that little boy. I also understand why those in South Africa protested to the point that H&M has had to close its door.

The divisive nature of the country, nay, the world needs to get on a better track if we are truly to move forward. When will we learn?I really and truly just don't get it. Let me know your thoughts?

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