The new leader of this nation doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass is. Even if Douglass came back to haunt the hall ways of the white house for the next 4 years, “president agent orange” would remain clueless in 2020.

NPR journalist, Nina Martyris, wrote an insightful piece on a significant aspect of Douglass’ life many of us do not know.

Many of us know he was born into slavery in Maryland. But many of us might not know while fighting for justice for his people, he was deprived of nourishment and suffered from severe hunger.

In his book My Bondage and My Freedom, Douglass wrote “I have often been so pinched with hunger, that I have fought with the dog – ‘Old Nep’ – for the smallest crumbs that fell from the kitchen table, and have been glad when I won a single crumb in the combat.

Not only did he mention his lack of nourishment there, but also in his most famous work Narrative of  the Life of Frederick Douglass:

“Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This was called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons. He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; and few left the trough satisfied.”

He also wrote in Narrative, “My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes.”

Pain, suffering, bondage, anguish, hurt, starvation – Frederick Douglass is an American hero.  He starved his way to freedom. At 20, he ran away to New York and began a new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist. It is in his written works – three autobiographies – that he describes the immorality of slavery and it’s greatest weapon of control, which was food.

Douglass did not just do an “amazing job,” but he literally starved so that we could have a seat at the table and eat.


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