The Political Urgency of Black Manhood: Frederick Douglass on Constitutional Theory
44 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2022
Date Written: July 26, 2022
How did Frederick Douglass—one who was born a slave, one who had been denied all formal education, one who had been sundered from his family, one who had been starved, tortured, and, on occasion, nearly killed—manage to muster the courage to do something as bold as challenge the United States Supreme Court? This Article suggests that Douglass, in order to assert his right as an American citizen, first had to assert his right as a man in an explicitly gendered sense. That is, Douglass had to muster a powerful sense of manliness that could elevate him psychologically to assert his right to equal citizenship under the Constitution. He had to generate a potent faith in his own gendered identity in order to overcome the debilitating political stigma that attached to his racial identity. Only by doing this, was Douglass able to make the powerful claim that he was entitled— as an American citizen—to contest the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Keywords: Frederick Douglass, manhood, Black identity, hypermasculinity, manliness, Dred Scott, Black citizenship, slavery
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