Frederick Douglass: The Making of an American


Feb. 23, 2022, 7pm to 8:30pm

Office/Remote Location

144; also available online


Professor Morel will explore how a man who had every reason to hate America became one of the nation’s strongest defenders. Born into slavery, Douglass eventually escaped and devoted his adult life to abolishing slavery and promoting the equal protection of the laws for all Americans, regardless of race or sex. Early in his career as an abolition speaker, Douglass declared, “I have no love for America. I have no patriotism. I have no country. What country have I? The institutions of this country do not know me, do not recognize me as a man.” Those institutions were the major shapers of American life: the church, the government—and the Constitution. But he did not hold that position for long. Douglass eventually claimed America as his country, calling the principles of the Declaration of Independence “saving principles,” and interpreting the Constitution as “a glorious liberty document.” He found that reading the Constitution as a pro-slavery document contradicted its preamble and overlooked its principles and mechanisms of freedom. Douglass also noticed that the Constitution never used the word “slavery,” and it permitted Congress to ban the importation of slaves in twenty years—which it did. Douglass concluded that it “leans to freedom, not slavery, and looked to the abolition of slavery rather than to its perpetuity.” Through speeches and newspaper editorials that spanned half a century, Douglass joined a vanguard of blacks and whites in the struggle to align this nation’s practices with its noblest professions.

Lucas Morel is the John K. Boardman Jr. Professor of Politics and head of the Department of Politics at Washington and Lee University. He holds a PhD in political science from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Lincoln and the American Founding and Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government; editor of Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages and Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to “Invisible Man”; and co-editor of The New Territory: Ralph Ellison and the Twenty-First Century. Professor Morel conducts high school teacher workshops for the Ashbrook Center, Jack Miller Center, Gilder-Lehrman Institute, Bill of Rights Institute, and Liberty Fund. H is a former president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute; a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance; a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society; a consultant on the Library of Congress exhibits on Lincoln and the Civil War; and currently serves on the US Semiquincentennial Commission, which will plan activities to commemorate the founding of the United States of America. Last year, he served as the Worsham Teaching Fellow at Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government in Washington, DC, teaching courses on “Frederick Douglass” and the “Modern Civil Rights Movement."

Admission Information

Open to the public. Also available online. Email Professor Fott ( for the link.

Contact Information

David Fott

External Sponsor

Jack Miller Center