Ben Jealous, outgoing President of the NAACP, says that “I continue to believe that we are on the cusp of realizing Douglass’ vision. The question is how we will get there.”
In his 1869 speech “Our Composite Nationality,” Frederick Douglass laid out a bold vision for American democracy that has propelled the civil rights movement ever since:
“Our geographical position, our relation to the outside world, our fundamental principles of Government… our vast resources… and our already existing composite population, all conspire to one grand end, and that is to make [America] the most perfect national illustration of the unity and dignity of the human family, that the world has ever seen.”
I also believe that Douglass’s vision can be realized. When I despair about the possibility that the human family might live in unity and with dignity, I have to remind myself of the moments, fleeting though they may be, when I have seen this manifest. It’s not been on a grand scale, at the national, or state, or even local level. It’s happened in living rooms, and churches, and small gatherings of people committed to peace and equality.
It happened last night at the dining room table at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Spring, Arkansas, where I’m currently in resident, when four strangers from different backgrounds, different lives, different experiences became friends, where we shared stories. laughed with each other, supported each other, and formed community.
I believe it is in those moments when the dream becomes possible. It’s moment, after moment, after moment like this linked together in wider and wider circles that the dream is no longer an abstraction but something real we can hold on to.
When have you’ve seen Douglass’s dream manifest for you? What have been your moments of the dream?