Faneuil Hall – A Battleship for Equality

In May, 1849, Frederick Douglass – a slave turned abolitionist – delivered an oration at Boston’s “Cradle of Liberty.” Faneuil Hall. Douglass addressed the controversy regarding colonizing people of color, whether free or enslaved, from the U.S. to Africa. “I would ask you,” Douglass stated, “if this is not mean and impudent in the extreme, for one class of Americans to ask for the removal of another class?”

“I feel,” he continued, “I have as much right in this country as any other man. I feel that the black man in this land has as much right to stay in this land as the white man.” Douglass reminded his listeners that black slaves arrived on American soil with white Europeans, and that the two groups toiled together to build a new world.

In times of war, Douglass said, free and enslaved blacks had fought and died for a country they helped build. Despite the black contribution, white social views and the nation’s laws protected the institution of slavery. Still, Douglass had faith that slavery, indentured servitude, and racial prejudice could be overcome in the U.S.: “Commence to do something to elevate and improve and enlighten the colored man, and your prejudice will begin to vanish. The more you try to make a man of the black man, the more of the black man, the more you begin to think of him a man….” Douglass’ message is a reminder of the prejudice that existed in America 167 years ago. What can the American people do today to dedicate themselves to this unfinished work?

This Black History Month visit Faneuil Hall, listen to ranger talks, and reflect how the meaning of liberty and equality have evolved from 1849 to 2016.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Article and Photo from Park News, Boston National Historical Park