Neither Donald Trump nor Sean Spicer Seem to Know That Frederick Douglass Is Dead

And has been for nearly 125 years.
Photo by George K. Warren/National Archives Gift Collection

Photo by George K. Warren/National Archives Gift Collection

President Donald Trump kicked off Black History Month by recognizing the contributions of legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who may or may not still be alive, by the sound of it.

“I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Rev. King, so many other things,” Trump said Wednesday, referring to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened last September.

“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.”

Trump’s use of the present perfect tense raised a few eyebrows, so a reporter asked press secretary Sean Spicer what the president could have meant.

“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that [Douglass] has made, and I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he is going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer said.

Douglass, of course, has been dead since 1895. The former slave and scholar lived in New Bedford, and was active with abolitionist groups there. He was deeply inspired by William Lloyd Garrison, who published The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, in Boston for 35 years. (Its complete archives are available here, and Douglass said it “took a place in my heart second only to The Bible.”)


Kyle Scott Clauss Kyle Clauss, Digital News Writer at Boston Magazine bmagdigital+kclauss@gmail.com


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