Opinion

Time to give Douglass his proper place

By pressing so hard and so loudly for freed slaves to be enlisted in the Union army, Frederick Douglass may have spared America that long-feared race war. Tens of thousands of young black men got a rifle on their shoulder and the letters “U.S.” on their belt buckles. Douglass wrote there would not be a power on earth that could deny freedom and citizenship to such brave warriors. He was right. But it also assured there would be no bloody revolution as in Haiti, as in France. Like the famous dog that did not bark, Jefferson’s wolf never howled.

Frederick Douglass paid a remarkable tribute to the martyred Lincoln in 1876. Speaking at the dedication of the first Lincoln monument in Washington, a statue paid for wholly by free black Americans, Douglass said: “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed cold, tardy, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

Frederick Douglass surely deserves a monument.  Chief Justice Taney, a Marylander, was the author of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. That ruling, along with John Brown’s suicidal raid on Harper’s Ferry, sparked the terrible Civil War. Taney wrote: “The black man has no rights that the white man is bound to respect.”

Taney’s statue should be moved. Before that despicable Dred Scott ruling, Taney served the nation in some very honorable ways. And, as Americans, we don’t try to hide our past. The State Archives actually leads to the Old State House and is a fine place for the Taney statue.

By any measure, Frederick Douglass is a giant of America’s history. Honoring him in Annapolis, the capital of his native state, would be especially appropriate.  American tourists flock and foreign visitors flock to this beautiful city to see the historic capitol where Gen. George Washington resigned his military commission to Congress. These visitors would all learn about Douglass’s legacy. In Annapolis are the U.S. Naval Academy, the sailing museum, the Alex Haley and Thurgood Marshall Memorials, and many other attractions. Let Frederick Douglass stand for freedom and justice there.

Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are senior fellows at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.