Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington are two of the most well-known advocates for freedom in the 1800s. Whether educating the public about the horrors of slavery or advocating for equal rights, both Douglass and Washington used their unique skills in their fights for freedom.

Grassroots activists today can learn from the tactics Douglass and Washington used. Read on to learn how these two giants used their talents to make a difference.


The Power of Your Story

Douglass believed in the power of his story and used it to advocate for abolition and equality his whole life.

Douglass was born into slavery, but his master’s wife secretly taught him to read and write. The more he learned, the more his desire for freedom grew. After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally escaped and made his way to New York City.

Douglass used the writing skills he learned while a young boy to write an autobiography detailing his life growing up as a slave.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was an instant success. Thousands of copies were sold, and many Americans finally had to confront the brutal treatment many slaves faced. Douglass’s eloquent style and detailed descriptions gave his abolitionist message an emotional impact that couldn’t be ignored.

The rest of his life, Douglass shared his story through writing and public speaking at rallies, churches and other public venues. Sharing his story was essential to building public opposition to slavery in the North.


The Power of an Education

From an early age, Washington knew the importance of a good education.

After the Civil War ended, Washington was freed from slavery and became determined to go to school. As a young boy, he walked over 500 miles to the Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute and took as a job as a janitor at the school in exchange for tuition.

After graduating, Washington made it his life’s mission to help other freed African-Americans. The former slaves were free, but they still faced intense prejudice, and many of them had nothing.

Along with others, Washington started what became the Tuskegee Institute. At the school, Washington and other faculty members taught fellow African Americans trades and professions that allowed them to carve out successful lives for themselves and their families.

Washington’s influence was immeasurable. When he died, Tuskegee Institute had over 1,500 students and over 200 teachers. Washington was even invited to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt, the first African-American to be honored this way.

Washington believed economic independence would allow black Americans to eventually overcome prejudice. He once told an audience: “At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence.”

If you’re involved in the fight for freedom today, take the time to consider how you can use your unique talents. Whether you’re a persuasive storyteller, a gifted educator or something else, you can make a difference.

To learn more about the grassroots tools you can use and to get equipped to change the world, join us at one of the upcoming trainings in your area. You can see what programs are coming to a city near you here.

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