Abolitionists, part two

Frederick Douglass might arguably be called the 19th century’s leading civil rights activist.

He was one of the leaders in the fight to end slavery, which of course he knew first hand, given his own experience with enslavement.

The second part of a PBS special airs Tuesday night and it continues telling the story of the end of perhaps the ghastliest chapter in American history. “Abolitionists: American Experience Part Two, 1838-1854” airs at 8 p.m. on KACV-TV. For those who missed “Abolitionists: Part One,” you can view it online at pbs.org.

Douglass’s escape from slavery is detailed in Part Two. He joins abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison in moving the anti-slavery movement forward.

What we need to understand today is the immense threat that hung over those who sought to eradicate slavery. Who would risk everything — as in one’s own life and the lives of their loved ones — in pursuit of a righteous cause? That was what loomed for abolitionists fighting for the end of the practice of actually owning human beings as property, the way someone would own a mule, a wagon or a rifle.

But that’s what Americans did prior to — and into the first half of — the Civil War.

No one, not a single soul, today would look back on that time with pride. But as you watch the “American Experience” broadcast, think of how many Americans actually fought to keep their fellow human beings enslaved and resisted the righteous cause to set them free.

It likely will boggle your mind.

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