Presenting Mr. Frederick Douglass

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The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass comes to life in a dramatic performance of Douglass’s famous speech on slavery and human rights.



The Bill Moyers Collection: American Archive of Public Broadcasting


FRED MORSELL, Actor: Some things should never be forgotten. It should never be forgotten that, in the order of divine providence, the man who puts one end of a chain around the ankle of his fellow man will in time find the other end around his own neck. We have a fight on our hands right here, a fight for the redemption of the race. If the American people could endure the Negro’s presence while a slave, they certainly can and ought to endure his presence as a free man. Americans, hear this and hear it plainly, we are here, and we are here to stay.

BILL MOYERS: In this program, an American hero. Presenting Mr. Frederick Douglass.

I’m Bill Moyers, and in the next hour, I invite you to join me for a dramatic invocation of the past. Imagine that it’s 1894. The Civil War has been over almost 30 years. After that war, union troops have been stationed in the south, to assure equality for the Negro, who had won not only freedom but the right to vote and to hold public office. But now, the last of those soldiers have been withdrawn and the south is rising in revenge against its former slaves. Die-hard segregationists, in state after state, pass laws to nullify the vote and to enforce a totally segregated society. A wave of terror rolls across the land, to intimidate, demean, and once again, to subjugate the Negro. Over 2,000 blacks will be lynched, hauled away to be hanged, burned alive, mutilated, or shot to death. Let just an accusation be made, a rumor be whispered – ”This Negro insulted a white woman. That one is a thief. This one is just plain uppity” – and the mob will do its ugly deed. No hearing, no trial, no evidence, no appeal. This lynching occurred in Paris, Texas, just a few years before my father was born there. A black man named Henry Smith was tortured and burned alive at the stake. Excursion trains brought men, women and children to gawk, cheer and celebrate, as they watched the victim suffer. By 1893, the killing of blacks was so commonplace that a prominent bishop said, “It no longer surprises.”

Here in Washington, D.C., Frederick Douglass watched in sorrow and anger as the slaughter mounted. Douglass had been a runaway slave, who educated himself and then devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and to the fight for black rights. He had become the most influential Negro spokesman of his time. Now, he is old and weary, and in a year, he will be dead. But, in 1894, he has one last great speech in him, and he will deliver it here from the famous pulpit of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, just a few blocks from the White House. He has worked on this speech for two years, and he calls it The Lesson of the Hour. We will hear that speech from the actor Fred Morsell. Mr. Morsell spends his time carrying the message of Frederick Douglass to audiences all over the country. And now, The Lesson of the Hour, with Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass. He will be introduced by the pastor of the Metropolitan AME Church, the Reverend William P. DeVeaux.

WILLIAM P. DeVEAUX, Pastor, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church: On behalf of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church family, it is a pleasure to welcome our guests to the national cathedral of African Methodism. Our church was completed a mere eight years ago, in 1881, first and foremost as a place of worship for our people, like our founder, Richard Allen. However, we recognize that God’s house has been used as a place to educate and uplift. In that tradition, I am proud to present one of our own, who rose from slavery and continues, even in the evening of his life, to free us from oppression. Ladies and gentlemen, my brothers and sisters, it is an honor and a pleasure to present Mr. Frederick Douglass.

FRED MORSELL: I propose to give you a colored man’s view of the so-called Negro problem. This so-called but miscalled Negro problem is one of the most important and urgent subjects that can now engage public attention, for it involves the honor or dishonor, the glory or shame, the happiness or misery, of the whole American people. There is a perfect epidemic of mob law and mob persecution now prevailing at the south, and the indications of a speedy end are not hopeful. The contagion is spreading, and if permitted to go on, threatens to destroy all respectful law and order, not only in the south but in all parts of our common country, for certain it is. The crime allowed to go unpunished, unresisted, unarrested, will breed crime. Though it may strike down the weak today, it will strike down the strong tomorrow. Not a breeze comes to us from the late rebellious state that is not tainted and fated with Negro blood. In its thirst for blood and its rage for vengeance, the mob has blindly, boldly and defiantly supplanted sheriffs, constables and police. It has assumed all the authority of civil authority. It laughs at legal processes, laughs at courts, laughs at juries. And its red-handed murderers rage abroad unchecked, unchallenged by law or by public opinion. If the mob is in pursuit of Negroes who happen to be accused of crime, innocent or guilty, prison walls and iron bars afford no protection. Jail doors are battered down in the presence of unresisting jailers. And the accused, awaiting trial in courts of law, are dragged out and stabbed, shot, hanged, burned to death. Now, what is the special charge by which this ferocity is justified and by which mob law is excused and defended, even by good men, north and south? It is a charge of recent origin, a charge never brought before, a charge never heard of in the time of slavery or in any other time in our country. It is a charge of assault by Negroes upon white women. This charge, this new charge, is certain to raise a mob and to subject the accused to immediate torture and death. It is nothing that there may be a mistake in his case as to his identity. It is nothing that the victim pleads not guilty. It is nothing that the accused is of a fair reputation and his accuser of an abandoned character. It is nothing that the majesty of the law is defied and insulted. No time is allowed for defense, for explanation. He is bound with cords, carried off, amid the frantic yells and curses of the mob, to the scaffold, and there, under its ghastly shadow, he is tortured. The mobocratic murderers are not only permitted to go free, untried, unpunished, but are lauded as honorable and good citizens, the high-minded guardians of southern virtue. The great trouble with the Negro in the south is that all presumptions are against him. A white man has but to blacken his face and commit a crime to have some Negro lynched in his stead. An abandoned woman has only to start a cry, true or false, that she has been insulted by a black man, to have him arrested and summarily executed by the mob, frightened and tortured by his captors into telling crooked stories about his whereabouts, at a time the crime is alleged to have been committed. The death penalty is at once inflicted, though his story may be but the incoherency of ignorance or the distraction caused by terror.

Now, I hold that the crime alleged against the Negro is the most revolting which men can commit. It is a crime that awakens the intensest abhorrence and peps mankind to kill the man on first sight. But this charge, thus brought against the Negro and as constantly reiterated by his enemies, is in large measure a charge constructively against the colored people as such. It throws over every man of color a mantle of odium and sets upon him a mark of popular hate more distressing than the mark set upon the first murderer. It points the Negro out as an object of suspicion, avoidance, hate. I do not pretend the Negroes are saints and angels. I do not deny that they are capable of committing the crime imputed to them, but I do utterly deny that they are any more addicted to the commission of that crime than is true of any other member of the human family. In answer, then, to the terrible indictment thus read against us, and speaking for the colored people as a class, I venture in their name and in their stead, here and now, to plead not guilty. A fierce and frenzied mob is not and ought not to be deemed a competent witness against any man accused of any crime whatever. Blinded by its own fury, the mob is moved by ~ impulses utterly unfavorable to a clear perception of facts. I challenge the credibility of the mob to the judgment of law-abiding men in support of my cause. I lay special emphasis on the fact that it is the mob, and the mob only, that the country has recognized and accepted as its accredited witness against the Negro. The mob is its law. The mob is its judge. The mob is its jury. And the mob is its executioner. But I go further. I dare not only to impeach the mob, I impeach and discredit the voracity of men generally, whether mobocrats or otherwise, who sympathize with lynch law, wherever and whenever the acts of colored men are in question. I hold that men who openly and deliberately nullify the laws and violate the provisions of the constitution of their country which they have solemnly sworn to support and execute are not entitled to unqualified belief in the case of the Negro. I apply to them the legal maxim, false in one, false in all.

But, I rest my denial not merely upon general principles but upon well-known facts. I reject this charge brought against the Negro as a class, because all through the late war, while the slave masters of the south were absent from their homes, in the field of rebellion, with bullets in their pockets, treason in their hearts, broad blades in their bloody hands, seeking the life of the nation with the vile purpose of perpetuating the enslavement of the Negro, their wives, their daughters, their mothers and their sisters were left in the absolute custody of the same Negro. Hearing all those long, four years of terrible conflict, when a Negro had every opportunity to commit the abominable crime now alleged against him, there was never a single instance of such crime reported or charged against him. He was never accused of assault, never accused of insult, or an attempt to commit an assault upon any white woman in the whole south. Slavery itself, you will remember, was a system of unmitigated, legalized outrage upon the black woman. And no white man was ever shot, ever burned, or ever hanged, for availing himself of all the power that slavery gave him over the black woman. Facts like these speak volumes.

It is important here to emphasize the significant fact that there have been three distinct periods of persecutions of the Negroes in the south and three distinct sets of reasons for their persecution. They have come along precisely in the order they were most needed. First, it was insurrection. When that wore out, Negro supremacy became that excuse. When that was worn out, then came the charge of assault upon defenseless women. I undertake to say that this orderly arrangement and periodicity of excuses are significant. They mean something. They should not be overlooked. They show design, purpose, plan, invention. So now that Negro insurrection, Negro domination are no longer defensible as an excuse for Negro persecution, there has come heart-rending cries of white women and little white children. Nothing could have been hit upon, better calculated to accomplish its brutal purpose. It clouds the character of the Negro with a crime the most shocking that men can commit. It is fitted to drive from the criminal all pity, all fair play, all mercy. It is a crime that places him outside of the pay of the law and settles upon his shoulders a mantle of wrath and fire that blisters and bums into his very soul. This charge is intended to blast and ruin the Negro’s character as a man and a citizen. I need not tell you how thoroughly it has done its work. The Negro feels its malign influence in the very air he breathes. He may read it in the faces of the men among whom he moves. It has cooled his friends, heated his enemies, and arrested at home and abroad the generous efforts that good men were wont to make for his improvement and elevation. It has deceived his friends at the north and many good friends at the south, when nearly all of them have accepted this charge against him as true. Its perpetual reiteration in our newspapers and magazines has led men and women to regard him with averted eyes, dark suspicion, and increasing hate. My soul groans in pain at this condition.

Ladies and gentlemen, I reject this charge because I see in it evidence of an invention called into being to justify murderous assault upon a long enslaved and hence hated people. It bears upon its faith the marks of being a fraud because it has strung upon the country a fixed determination to draw the color line in all areas of American life, and thus to pave the way to a final consummation, which is nothing less than a Negro’s entire disenfranchisement as an American citizen. This is and has been, from first to last, the grand and all-commanding object in view. The old master class knows, if they can once divest the Negro of the elective franchise and nullify his citizenship, the partition wall between him and slavery will no longer exist. And no man can tell where the reaction will stop.

To sum up my argument, then, I have shown that when a Negro had every opportunity to commit the crime now charged against him, he was never accused of it by his bitterest enemies. I have shown that those who accused a black man of this crime dare not confront him in a court of law. I have shown, from the very constitution of a mob, that it cannot be depended upon for either truth or justice. Its sole aim is to execute, not to find a true verdict. These lynches have not now and have never had any such respect for human life as is common to other men. They have had among them for centuries a peculiar institution. And that peculiar institution, slavery, has stamped them as a peculiar people. They were not before the war, they were not during the war, and they have not been since the war, in their spirit or in their civilization a people in common with the people of the north or with the people of the civilized world. Their institutions have taught them no respect for human life, and especially no respect for the life of the Negro. It has in fact taught them absolute contempt for the life of the black man. The sacredness of life which ordinary men feel does not touch them anywhere. A dead Negro is with them now, as before, a common jest. They care no more for the Negro’s rights to live than they care for his rights to liberty or his right to the ballot, or any other right. They could always shoot, stab, hang and bum him without remorse, without shame.

What I contend for, and what every honest man, black or white, has a right to contend for, is that when any man is accused of this or any other crime, of whatever name or nature, degree, extent, he shall be confronted by his accusers, and that he shall, through proper counsel, be allowed to question his accusers in open court and in open daylight, so that his guilt or his innocence may be duly proved and established. When a white man steals, robs or murders, his crime is visited upon his own head alone. But, owing to popular prejudice, it is not so with the black man. When he commits a crime, as I have implied, the whole race is made responsible. Full well, our enemies have known where to strike and how to stab us most fatally. Even when American art undertakes to picture the two races, it invariably places in comparison not the best of both races, as common fairness would dictate, but it puts, side-by-side, and in glaring contrast, the lowest type of the Negro with the highest type of the white man, and then calls upon the world to look upon this picture. And then, upon that, when a black man’s language is ~~ quoted in order to belittle and degrade him, his ideas are often put in the most I grotesque and unreadable English, while the utterances of Negro scholars and l authors are ignored. A hundred white men will attend a concert of counterfeit J Negro minstrels with faces blackened with burnt cork to one who will attend a lecture by an intelligent Negro. What a commentary is this upon the liberality of our boasted American liberty and American equality. It says to the world that the colored people of America are not deemed by Americans as within the compass of American law, American progress, American civilization. It says to the lynchers and mobocrats of the south, ”Go on in your hellish work of Negro persecution. You kill their bodies, we kill their souls.”

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it has come to be fashionable of late to ascribe much of the trouble at the south to ignorant Negro suffrage.

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Douglass now turns to the campaign by southern states to deprive Negroes of their political rights. They are being driven from the polls by violence and trickery. Claiming that ex-slaves are too ignorant to be citizens, the states are imposing literacy tests to disenfranchise the race. The north has grown weary of the struggle, leaving Negroes to the mercy of their former masters.

FRED MORSELL: I have sometimes thought that the American people are too great to be small, too just and magnanimous to oppress the weak, too brave to yield up the right to the strong, and too grateful for public services ever to forget them or to forget to reward them. I have fondly hoped that this estimate of American character would soon cease to be contradicted or put in doubt. But events have made me doubtful. The favor with which this proposition of disenfranchisement has been received by public men, white and black, by Republicans as well as Democrats, has shaken my faith in the nobility of this nation. It does away with that noble and just idea of Abraham Lincoln that our government should be a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and for all the people. I would not make suffrage more exclusive but more inclusive. I would not have it embrace only the elite, but I would have it include the lowly. I would not only include the men, but would gladly include the women, and make our government, in reality as in name, a government by the people, of the people, and for the whole people. Do not make illiteracy a bar to the ballot but make the ballot a bar to illiteracy. Take the ballot from the Negro and you take from him the means and motives that make for education. It is not the ignorance of the Negro but the malevolence of his accusers which is the real cause of southern disorder. The illiteracy of the Negro has no part or lot in the disturbances there. The Negro has never set up a separate party, never adopted a Negro platform, never proclaimed or adopted a separate policy for himself or for the country. The Negro has never acted apart from the whole American people. He has simply kept pace with the average intelligence of his age and country. He has gone steadily along in align of his politics with the most enlightened citizens of the country. He has never gone faster or farther. He has always voted with one or the other of the great political parties. If the votes of these parties had been guided by intelligence and patriotism, the same must be said of the vote of the Negro. The proposition to disenfranchise the colored voter of the south, in order to solve the race problem, I therefore denounce as a false and cowardly proposition, utterly unworthy of an honest and grateful nation. It is a proposition to sacrifice friends in order to conciliate enemies, to surrender the Constitution for the lack of moral courage to execute its provisions. It is a proclamation of the helplessness of a nation to protect its own citizens. It says to the colored citizen, ”We cannot protect you. We therefore propose to join your oppressors. Your suffrage has been rendered a failure by violence, and we now propose to make it a failure by law.” And this, there was never a surrender more dishonorable, more ungrateful, and more cowardly. When the moral sense of a nation begins to decline and the wheels of progress to roll backward, there is no telling how low the one will fall or where the other will stop. This downward tendency has swept away some of the most important safeguards of justice and liberty and dimmed the luster of the American name. Your Supreme Court has surrendered. State sovereignty is essentially restored. Civil rights bills are impaired. The Republican party has become a party of money rather than a party of humanity and justice. We may well ask, what next? Rebel rule is now essentially restored in many states, and it is gradually capturing the nation’s Congress. The cause lost in the war is the cause gained in peace, and the cause gained in the war is now the cause lost in peace.

The land owners of the south want the labor of the Negro on the hardest terms possible. They once had it for nothing. They now want it for next to nothing. To accomplish this, they have contrived three ways. The first is to rent their land to the Negro at an exorbitant price per annum and compel him to mortgage his crop in advance to pay this rent. The laws under which this is done are entirely in the interest of the landlord. He has the first claim upon everything produced on the land. The Negro can have nothing without the consent of the landlord. As the Negro is, at the start, poor and empty-handed, he has to draw on the landlord for meat and bread to feed himself and family, while his crop is growing. The landlord keeps books. The Negro does not. Hence, no matter how hard he may work, or how hard-saving he may be, he is, in most cases, brought in debt at the end of the year. And once in debt, he is fastened to the land as by hooks of steel. If he attempts to leave, he may be arrested under the order of the law. Another way to perpetuate slavery under emancipation, and which is still more effective, is the practice of paying the laborers with orders on the store, instead of lawful money. By this means, money is kept out of the hands, of the Negro and the Negro is kept entirely in the hands of the landlord. He cannot save money because he gets no money to save. He cannot seek a better market for his labor because he is, by that vicious order system, already in debt, and therefore already in bondage. Thus, he is riveted in one place and is, in some sense, a slave. :For a man to whom it can be said, “You shall work for me for what I choose to pay, you and how I shall choose to pay you,” that man is in fact a slave, though he may be called a free man.

Now, my friends, this brings us to a final proposition, held up as the solution of the race problem. It is the proposition to colonize the colored people of America in Africa. Happily, this scheme will be defeated, both its impolicy and by its impracticability. It is all nonsense to talk about the removal of eight million of the American people from their homes in America to Africa. The expense and hardships, to say nothing of the cruelty attending such a measure, would make success impossible. The American people are wicked, but they are not fools. They will hardly be disposed to incur the expense, to say nothing of the injustice which this measure demands. Africa, according to Her colonization advocates, is by no means modest in Her demands upon us. She calls upon us to send her only our best men. She does not want our riff-raff. The colonization advocates want not only the best, but millions of the best. Better still, they want the United States government to vote the money to send them there. They do not seem to see that if the government votes money to send the Negro to Africa, that the government may also employ means to complete the arrangement and compel us to go. Now, I hold that the American Negro owes no more to the Negroes in Africa than he owes the Negroes in America. You know, my friends, there are millions of needy people over there, but there are millions of needy people over here, as well. And the millions in America need intelligent men of their number to help them, as much as intelligent men are needed in Africa to help her people. We have a fight on our hands right here, a fight for the redemption of the race and a blow, struck successfully, for the Negro in America is a blow struck for the Negro in Africa. For, until the Negro is respect in America, he need not expect consideration elsewhere.

All this native land talk, however, is nonsense. The native land of the American Negro is America. His bones, his muscles, his sinews, are all American. His ancestors, for 270 years, have lived, labored and died on American soil. And millions of his posterity have inherited Caucasian blood. It is pertinent, therefore, to ask in view of this ad mixture, as well as in view of other facts, where the people of this mixed race are to go, for their ancestors are white and black, and it will be difficult to find their native land anywhere outside of the United States of America.

But the worst thing, perhaps, about this colonization nonsense, is that it throws over the Negro a mantle of despair, leads him to doubt the possibility of his progress as an American citizen. It also encourages popular prejudice with the hope that, by persecution, or by persuasion, the Negro can finally be dislodged and driven from his natural home. It forces upon the Negro the idea that he is forever doomed to be a stranger and a sojourner in the land of his birth. All this is hurtful, because it sets the Negro to groping everlastingly after the impossible. Every man knows that home is the fountainhead, the inspiration, the foundation, the main support, not only of all social virtue but of all motives to human progress. No people can prosper or amount to much unless they have a home, or the hope of a home. A man who has not such an object in view, either in possession or in prospect, is a nobody and will never be anything else. To have a home, the Negro must have a country. And he is an enemy to the moral progress of the Negro who calls upon him to break up his home in this country, in order to find an uncertain home in Africa. Colonization is no solution but an evasion. It is not repentance but simply putting the wronged ones out of our presence. It is not atonement but banishment. Not love but hate. Its reiteration and agitation only serves to fan the flame of popular prejudice and to add insult to injury. The righteous judgment of mankind will say, if the American people could endure the Negro’s presence while a slave, they certainly can and ought to endure his presence as a free man. Americans, hear this and hear it vainly, we are here, and we are here to stay.

My friends, I now come to where I began. I come to the so-called but miscalled Negro problem as a characterization of the relations existing in the southern states. The term Negro problem is a formula of southern origin. Has a strong bias against the Negro. It handicaps his cause with all the prejudice known to exist. It is a crafty invention. It springs out of a desire to throw off responsibility. Its natural effect and purpose is to divert attention from the true issue now before the American people. It does this by taking that which is really a great national problem, and which ought to be so considered by the American people, and dwarfing it into a Negro problem. The device is not new. It is an old trick. For truth, it gives us falsehood. For innocence, it gives us guilt. It removes the burden of proof from the old master class and imposes it upon the Negro. It puts upon the Negro race a work which belongs to the nation. You may remember that during the late war, when the south fought for the perpetuity of slavery, it usually called the slaves domestic servants and slavery a domestic institution. Harmless names, indeed, but the thing they stood for were far from harmless. In old slave times, a little white child lost his temper, he was given a little whip, told to go and whip Jim or Sal. He thus regained his temper. The same is true today, on a larger scale.

Now, the real problem, the national problem, involves the question, whether, after all our boasted civilization, our Declaration of Independence, our matchless Constitution, our sublime Christianity, our wise statesmanship, we, as a people, possess virtue enough to solve this problem in accordance with wisdom and justice and to the advantage of both races. But, call this problem what you may or will, the all-important question is, can it be resolved? There is nothing occult or mysterious about the answer to this question. Something should never be forgotten. It should never be forgotten that, in the order of divine providence, the man who puts one end of a chain around the ankle of his fellow man will in time find the other end around his own neck. It is the same with a nation, as we sow, we shall reap, is a lesson that will be learned here, as elsewhere. We tolerated slavery, and it has cost us a million graves. And it may be that lawless murder now raging, if permitted to go on, may yet bring the red hand of vengeance upon us all.

I will tell you now how this national problem cannot be solved. It cannot be solved by keeping the Negro poor, degraded, ignorant and half-starved, as is now being done in southern states. It cannot be solved by keeping back the wages of the Negro by fraud, by paying him dishonest script for his honest labor. It cannot be done by falsifying election returns, by ballot stuffing, or by confusing the Negro by cunning devices. It cannot be done by repealing all federal laws enacted to secure honest elections. It can, however, be done, and very easily done, for where there is a will, there is a way. Let the white people of the north and south conquer their prejudices. Let the northern press and pulpit proclaim the gospel of truth and justice against the war now being made upon the Negro. Let the American people cultivate kindness and humanity. In old time when it was asked, “How can we abolish slavery?” The answer was, “Quit stealing.” The same is the solution of the race problem today. The whole thing can be done simply by no longer violating the Constitution of the United States and no longer evading the claims of justice. If this were done, there would be no Negro problem or national problem to vex the south or to vex the nation. Let the organic law of the land be honestly sustained and honestly obeyed. Let the political parties cease to poulter in a double sense and live up to the noble declarations we find in their platforms. Let the statesmen of our country live up to their convictions. In the language of ex-Senator Ingalls, let the nation try justice and the problem will be solved.

The question to be asked today, ladies and gentlemen, the real question is, can the Negro be a citizen in these United States of America? This was the question, the true question, of the Dred Scott decision. Well, can the Negro be educated? Can the Negro be induced to work for himself without a master? Can the Negro be a soldier? Time and events have answered these and all other life questions unequivocally in the affirmative. We have among us Negroes who have taken the first prizes as scholar, who have won distinction for courage and skill on the battlefield, those who have taken rank as doctors, lawyers, ministers of the gospel, those who shine among men in every useful calling, and yet, we are called a problem, a tremendous problem, a mountain of difficulty, a constant source of apprehension, a disturbing social force. I declare these statements concerning the Negro false, deeply injurious to the colored citizens of this country.

My friends, I must stop. Could I be but heard by this great nation, I would call to mind the sublime and glorious truths with which this nation at its birth saluted a listening world, its voice then was as a trump of an archangel summoning hoary hordes of oppression to judgment. Crowned heads heard it and shrieked. Toiling masses heard it and clapped their hands for joy. It announced the advent of a nation, a nation based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident truths of liberty and equality. Its mission was the redemption of the world from the bondage of the ages. America, I say to you, I ask of- nay, I demand that you apply the truths of your founding fathers to the situation now before you. Put away your race prejudice. Banish the idea that one class must rule over another. Recognize the fact that the rights of the humblest citizens are as worthy of protection as are those of the highest. Do this, America, and your problem will be solved. Then, whatever may be in store for you in the future, whether prosperity or adversity, whether you shall have war or peace, whether you shall have foes without or foes within, your republic based upon truth, justice, and humanity, will stand and flourish forever.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.

BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Americans turned a deaf ear to Frederick Douglass. Lynchings continued well into the 20th century. Throughout the south, blacks were kept from voting, from holding public office, from even the most common equalities. Frederick Douglass died on February 20th, 1895. Not until 70 years later, in 1965, did the United States government finally restore to blacks the voting rights long denied them.

This is Bill Moyers for Fred Morsell, Presenting Mr. Frederick Douglass.

This transcript was entered on April 27, 2015.

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