Tag Archives: The North Star
Frederick Douglass Statue

Frederick Douglass’ Long Path to the Capitol

On June 19, 2013 descendants, national leaders and officials gathered to celebrate the placement of a statue in honor of Frederick Douglass in the State Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The nearly two ton monument features Douglass holding a paper is one hand with his other hand on a lectern complete with quill and ink.

The Frederick Douglass statue in the Emancipation Hall of the capitol’s visitor center is the fourth dedicated to an African American leader — it joined statues of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.

The placement of his statue follows a a drawn out struggle between the District of Columbia and congress. In 2012, the Senate finally approved moving the Douglass statue from an office building in Washington to its new location in the visitors center. The debate over whether or not D.C. could move a statue into the capitol building centered around Republicans opposition to D.C. statehood. Prior to the Douglass statue’s placement, only states have been granted the right to place statues in the capitol.

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A Lesson on How to ‘Approach the Poor’ – 1848

A young man, of eighteen or twenty, a student in a university, took a walk one day with a professor, who was commonly called the student’s friend, such was his kindness to the young men whose office it was to instruct.

While they were now walking together, and the professor was seeking to lead the conversation to grave subjects, they saw a pair of old shoes lying in their path, which they supposed to belong to a poor man who was at work in a field close by, and who had nearly finished his day’s work.

The young student turned to the professor, saying, “let us play the man a trick; we will hide his shoes, and conceal ourselves behind those bushes and watch to see his perplexity when he cannot find them.”

“My dear friend,” answered the professor, “we must never amuse ourselves at the expense of the poor. But you are rich, and you may give yourself a much greater pleasure by means of this poor man. Put a dollar into each shoe, and then we will hide ourselves.”

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Slaves Working in Cotton

The Myth of the Happy Slaves in The North Star

“I once passed a colored woman at work on a plantation, who was singing, apparently, with animation, and whose general manners would have led me to set her down as the happiest of the gang. I said to her, “Your work seems pleasant to you.’ She replied, ‘No, massa.’

Supposing she referred to something particularly disagreeable in her immediate occupation, I said to her, ‘Tell me then what part of your work is most pleasant.’

She answered with much emphasis, ‘No part pleasant. We forced to do it.’”

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Runaway Slave

Runaway Slaves

Few persons who are not acquainted with the operations of the underground railroads, are aware of the number of runaway slaves who annually reach this city from the South. On remarking to a gentleman familiar with these matters, that there were a great many persons in Boston who had the look of Southern runaway slaves, he stated that probably one hundred or more of this class of persons arrived in this city almost every year. Many of them are provided for in the city, and others, after a while, proceed toward Canada.

- Boston Trav.

Yes; and many of these runaways who, the slaveholder would have us believe, can not take care of themselves, are now found to be, (many of them) among the most industrious and enterprising of our Northern citizens. They evidently are more effectively stimulated by Mr. Cash than Mr. Lash.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The North Star
Date: February 25, 1848
Title: Runaway Slaves
Location: Rochester, New York

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Fare of Slaves on Plantations in 1850

This anonymous report from the south was published in Frederick Douglass and M.R. Delaney’s North Star in 1850 and reproduced here in its entirety.

A more loathsome and disgusting place cannot be imagined, than the huts in a negro yard of a plantation. They are generally about twenty feet square, and the hands on a plantation are divided into families, each of which occupies one of these pens.

The families number from five to twenty, and the arrangements for sleeping are miserable in the extreme, and what is used for their beds is seldom if ever washed, or cleansed in any manner, and is used until rotted or worn into shreds.

The same practice is pursued with their clothing. It consists of a coarse wrought fabric, of cotton and wool, and also of linen. The men wear pantaloons, and a heavy stout frock. The women who work in the field wear only a long frock, without under-clothes of any kind. These are put on and never changed or cleansed, or taken off, night or day, till they are worn out.

The provision for clothing the slaves is usually one suit a year to each negro, and they are generally obliged to make this last or go without. But many cannot, and you will often see negroes with only the tattered and torn rags remaining on them, as evidence of a slight degree of modesty and shame, that is manifest in keeping them around him.

And thus they live in the most filthy, degraded and beastly condition that can be conceived, and there is not a single provision of any kind, either in food, clothing or cleanliness, or for beds, or dwellings, or labor, but what is calculated to debilitate, exhaust and destroy the physical powers, and produce disease and death; and I make the assurance, without the fear of contradiction, that there is scarcely a plantation in the whole range of the sugar and cotton growing districts, if examined by a competent board of health, that would not excite their astonishment, that human beings could live, even an average of seven years. (more…)

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