Douglass Frederick Douglass on Reconstruction

After working along with other abolitionists for years to encourage emancipation of the slaves, Frederick Douglass, like others, felt that those who had helped bring down slavery had a responsibility to assist the newly freed population. Although much good was accomplished during Reconstruction, in the end the effort was abandoned to political expediency. Here is Douglass's comment on the ultimate results of Reconstruction.

You say you have emancipated us. You have; and I thank you for it. But what is your emancipation?

When the Israelites were emancipated they were told to go and borrow of their neighbors—borrow their coin, borrow their jewels, load themselves down with the means of subsistence; after, they should go free in the land which the Lord God gave them. When the Russian serfs had their chains broken and given their liberty, the government of Russia—aye, the despotic government of Russia—gave to those poor emancipated serfs a few acres of land on which they could live and earn their bread.

But when You turned us loose, you gave us no acres. You turned us loose to the sky, to the storm, to the whirlwind, and, worst, of all you turned us loose to the wrath of our infuriated masters.

Reconstruction Home | Updated August 6, 2013