Concerned with any publicity that could expose him to discovery and arrest by his master, In August 1841, after delivering his first speeches before a predominantly white abolitionist audience at Nantuckets Atheneum Hall, Douglass was invited to become a lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass at first declined the invitation, but John A. Collins, general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, refused to take no for an answer, and Douglass reluctantly accepted his request.
His preparation began during his twenty-year enslavement, and by the time he escaped from slavery in 1838, he had gained valuable experiences that contributed to his understanding of rhetoric and his identity as an orator. (Lampe, 1998, pg 1) Frederick Douglass It is no surprise, then, that people began to question whether Douglass had ever been a slave. How, they wondered, could anyone who had been a slave and deprived of a formal education speak so eloquently and conduct himself with so much dignity and grace on the platform? During all these activities Douglass demonstrated his deep and abiding commitment to the antislavery movement.
He weathered unfriendly audi¬ences, health problems, inclement weather, and assaults on the abolition¬ist cause. The conventional view of Douglass at this stage of his career is that he confined his remarks to a simple narrative of his slave experiences, that he was very much under the wing of Garrison and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and that he adhered strictly to Garrisonian doctrine. Everywhere he went; he attracted large and enthusiastic audiences and infused excitement into the crusade against slavery.
Douglass stated he was always ready to speak on slavery, and added, in reply to some one who desired to have his name and that of the preceding speaker announced, and that he was afraid we cared too much to know who it is that speaks, instead of weighing well what was said. Douglass traveled extensively throughout the Bay State delivering his antislavery message. His rhetorical activities included impressive speaking performances at county, state, regional, and national antislavery meetings, as well as a solo lecture tour of Massachusetts. In addition, he played a crucial role in a lecture tour of Cape Cod, in which he traveled with William Lloyd Garrison, Henry C.
Wright, and George Bradburn. In all of these activities, Douglass strengthened his standing as a powerful voice in the struggle for immediate abolition. A number of historians, recognizing the insufficiency and shortcomings of the white missionary effort, have emphasized instead the role of black preachers in spreading Christianity. There is, of course, considerable truth in one Southern clergymans observation that the colored people will, in spite of all our efforts, have more confidence in the views of leading colored members.
At the same time, however, evidence suggests that black preachers intent on spreading the gospel to the unconverted faced considerable barriers, as Fanny Kemble witnessed in Georgia in 1839: There were a short time ago two free black preachers in this neighborhood, but they have lately been ejected from the place. I could not clearly learn, but one may possibly imagine, upon what grounds. (Rael, 1997) Frederick Douglass, who spoke after Garnet at the Convention, denounced the idea of a violent rebellion.
Douglass, an eloquent ex-slave from Maryland, was the leading African American spokesperson of the time. Although he had been Garrisons protege and friend, they eventually had a public and dramatic falling out over differing interpretations of the Constitution. Whereas Garrison regarded the Constitution as a pro-slavery document, even going so far as to publicly burn it, Douglass took the wording of the Constitution to imply federal authority to either restrict or destroy slavery. (PBS Africans).
1843 was to be the year of the Hundred Conventions”a hundred antislavery meetings planned by the American Anti slavery Society. The goal of a hundred was never actually reached, but Douglass himself spoke at nearly that many meetings in 1843 as he traveled across New England, upstate New York, Ohio and Indiana, and back through Pennsylvania, gaining an increasingly strong and independent voice. While preaching against slavery as it existed in the South, he made constant references to what he was facing now in the North”a North that would not accord him equality.
He believed fervently that the ending of slavery would mean the beginning of full manhood for his brothers and himself. With its end, they and he would be paid attention to, would be respected. Somehow, it was slavery that had bred the poison of racism. In the company of devoted proponents of universal reform, he did not waver in his belief that slavery was the one overriding evil that had to be gotten rid of before any other goals, however desirable, should be sought.