Summary: In his articulation of the first principles of natural-rights liberalism as applied to racial justice in America, the nineteenth-century abolitionist and civil-rights advocate Frederick Douglass stands without peer. With an eye toward his present-day relevance, one may say that Douglass stands unsurpassed as an exemplar of peculiarly American and African American forms of hopefulness. But although Douglass’s hopefulness was certainly audacious, he insisted that it was by no means merely sentimental, rhetorical, or idealistic. He thought that there were good reasons, based on solid evidence, to expect the ultimate triumph of racial justice in America. What were these reasons? How, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary before his eyes, could Douglass maintain that the institution of slavery and the spirit of white supremacy that supported it were doomed, by the moral laws of nature, to fail? In Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, Myers explains Douglass’s answers to these questions.
Peter C. Myers is Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is the author of two books, Our Only Star and Compass: Locke and the Struggle for Political Rationality and Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, and of numerous essays and reviews on Locke and in American political thought and literature.