Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Voice Ringing O'er the Gale! The Oratory of Frederick Douglass Read by Ossie Davis

Barack Obama has brought powerful black oratory back into the spotlight. He follows in a long tradition with such notable figures as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and quite a few others including Shirley Chisolm. These contemporary speakers all build from the foundation laid by a man named Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was an abolitionist, women's suffragist, author, and statesman who escaped from slavery to become one of the most powerful American orators of the 19th century. His words effectively changed the course of history. In 1972, renowned actor Ossie Davis brought to sonic life several of Douglass's visionary writings, plying his resonant voice to produce riveting renditions of the Douglass classics "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July," "If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress," "A Plea for Freedom of Speech," and "Why I Became a Women's Rights Man." More than a century after his death, Douglass's commanding calls for freedom and equality continue to capture our hearts and our minds.

A recording of Douglass' speeches done by Davis is available as part of the Smithsonian Folkways African American Legacy series, co-presented with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The African American Empowerment Blog supports this project because it offers a unique opportunity to empower the African American community through Douglass' words and example. For more information feel free to visit their website at

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