Frederick Douglass begs to differ

Perhaps this is what Holmes Norton is gesturing at when she claims that Douglass decried the statue. But his speech concludes with this line: “When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”

Are we really meant to believe that these are the words of a man who opposed the existence of the monument or was in some way displeased with it?

Douglass’s remarks need not have been entirely uncritical toward Lincoln for Holmes Norton to be wrong in invoking him as a reason to remove the memorial. And in Douglass’s speech we might find some additional wisdom for our tumultuous moment — chiefly, that history and the men who move it are almost never as simple as angry, indiscriminate mobs would have us believe.