In October we celebrate Black History Month across the globe; it is a paramount moment to commemorate black excellence within our yearly appreciation. For this first semester, I have been studying the LIT 305 module ‘Afro-American Literature: Beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance’ , it has given me opportunity to analyse and honour black writers of the distant past – to read and listen to their story and history.
Fredrick Douglass’ story is known to many as one of the only remaining African American slave narratives published in US history, this week we read through his published book and several of his speeches made to the public after his escape from slavery. Douglass visited the UK on frequent occasions, attempting to gain support for their abolitionist movement. We have the privilege of obtaining records of a speech he made the 12th September 1846, in nowhere else but our lovely Sheffield itself. This a quote I would love to share.
“The slave holder becomes the sole disposer of the mind, soul and body of his slave, who has no rights all of which are taken from him.”
Douglass is so emotive and direct in his work; he takes no mercy with his attacks on the inhumane nature of the slaveholders. Articulate and precise in his description of diabolic treatment he received as a human commodity. He lets us conceive all the ways to which our rights can be ripped away from us, in the context of the racism and brutality inflicted to the African American slaves. In this, we can progress from this experience and suffering from Douglass to create a just world for those who are disadvantaged.
It always fascinates me to find sources that relate to places I know, Sheffield has become a home to now and to read about the famed Fredrick Douglass coming to speak here, it sparks a personal connection to the cause. I think it is accounts like this and stories of interaction that should engage us completely into listening to the stories of those who speak within Black History Month. To me, it is apparent that this fight for recognition is everywhere from Sheffield in the 1800s to the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement we see today. It is not a new melody; it is one that has been sung for many years before our time. It is our responsibility to uplift these voices, old and new, now more than ever.
– Hannah (Third Year, English and History)