The New York Times

You Can't Put Frederick Douglass in Chains


Over the past several weeks, a war of words over the ideological legacy of Frederick Douglass has erupted. This is nothing new. Like the founders and Abraham Lincoln, Douglass has long been at the center of an ideological tug of war; all want this iconic figure to be on their side in contemporary political debates.

But this war, which tends to flare up every Black History Month, seems to have gotten especially hot lately, thanks in part to the fact that 2018 is the bicentennial of Douglass’ birth. A great deal of this debate has been prompted by a new book by Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute, “Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man,” which was published by

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