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Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

I mailed this letter on Feb. 27.

Feb. 26, 2010
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your service to the nation, sir.

When you ponder recipients for the Medal of Freedom, would you please consider doing a posthumous award to Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist, orator and leader? (There is precedent for doing posthumous awards.)

Mr. Douglass was one of the greatest Americans ever, and forms a triumvirate of giants of the 19th century along with my other two great heroes, General Grant and President Lincoln. Douglass, as you know, was an escaped slave who became a powerful orator and writer against slavery and other injustices. His three autobiographies and speeches represent some of the most critical thinking of the 19th century and all of American history.

In addition to his fine work as a leader of abolitionism and civil rights, Mr. Douglass also held the following offices: U.S. Marshall of the District of Columbia (1877), Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia (1881), Counsel General to Haiti (1888), Charge d’ Affaires for Santo Domingo (1889) and Minister Resident to Haiti (1889).

At the 1888 Republican convention, Douglass became the first black man to receive an electoral vote at the 1888 convention (which nominated Benjamin Harrison, who won the election that fall). An elector from Kentucky gave him the vote on the fourth nominating ballot. He was also nominated for vice president on the Liberal Party in 1852 and the Equal Rights Party in 1872. He never campaigned for either office. While flattered to be named as Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s vice president in 1972, Douglass publicly ignored the nomination and instead heartily supported the re-election of my hero Ulysses S. Grant.

Until the end of his life, Mr. Douglass continued to agitate for equality under the law and the right of men to be left to their own devices. As you can see, Mr. Douglass represents the finest of the nation’s proud history.

I would be gratified if you were to posthumously award him the Medal of Freedom. Your friend, Professor Gates, can tell you more, as well could the fine actor Fred Morsell, whose portrayal of Mr. Douglass in 2007 in St. Louis as part of the Dred Scott anniversary sparked my intensive interest in Mr. Douglass.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Name omitted here]
St. Louis, Mo.

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