Thursday, October 30, 2008

Palling Around with Ex-Slaves?

So earlier, toward the end of his speech at a midnight rally in Florida with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama noted that "Power concedes nothing without a fight." Yes, that’s what he said.

I heard the line and immediately recognized it as a remix to Frederick Douglass’s statement that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” The statement was from Douglass’s “West Indian Emancipation” speech from 1857.

For those of us interested in these modern references to the words and deeds of ex-slaves, the campaign season has given us a few notable allusions. Remember Obama’s race speech? He noted that “I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners.”

And during the Democratic National Convention, you’ll probably recall Hillary Clinton discussing Harriet Tubman. Clinton said:

By following the example of a brave New Yorker , a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad. And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice. If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they're shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

As we prepare for our Underground Freedom Galleries, these allusions and references to ex-slaves by modern popular figures stand out to me. If you know of other similar references do let us know.

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