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“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.” – Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895)
Two hundred years ago, author and orator Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland. He bravely escaped and became an activist for the abolitionist movement through his powerful speeches and writings, including his influential autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”
To honor the bicentennial of such an important historical figure, the American Writers Museum is hosting an exhibit, titled “Frederick Douglass: AGITATOR,” through May 2019. The collection explores the period in Douglass’ life that often gets overlooked: the 30 years of his life after the Civil War, when he continued to fight, speak, and write to advance the causes of human rights.
As proud partners of the American Writers Museum, we’re honored to feature bold artwork of Douglass on the mural building. This creative homage not only highlights the impactful exhibit, but also demonstrates his enduring written works that promote equality and freedom for all.
The mural’s three classic photos of Douglass at different times in his life show the totality of his legacy and demonstrate the different phases of his journey. His portraits are also very important because, as a recent book pointed out, Douglass was the most photographed man of the nineteenth century. Even as photography was a new medium, he constantly had his portrait taken so there would be images portraying a positive, strong, free, intelligent black man to counter the negative images he saw everywhere else. The mural’s artwork and the exhibit name feature the word “agitator” as a nod to one of his most used phrases. Most famously, a young African-American man asked Douglass what he could do to preserve and advance the rights of African-Americans in this country, and Douglass replied, “Agitate!”
His brilliant writing and speeches were some of the most influential works in American history, as his words swayed large groups to take up the cause of abolition. During his life, he spent decades fighting and agitating for true freedom and equality for all. We’re honored to share his story with the city and every aspiring writer.