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My his­tor­i­cal work start­ed with Ambrose Dou­glas. Born enslaved in 1845, he died in 1940 nom­i­nal­ly free, the father of 38 and the sto­ry­teller at a racist reimag­in­ing of a pre-civ­il war plan­ta­tion. I was fas­ci­nat­ed with how Ambrose Dou­glas found mean­ing amidst the vio­lence and suf­fer­ing of post-Civ­il War Amer­i­ca in his sto­ries and humor.

Then, I fell in love with Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, the great abo­li­tion­ist. After the Civ­il War end­ed, with his anti­slav­ery “church dis­band­ed, and the beloved con­gre­ga­tion dis­persed,” and build­ing on his mod­el of an ide­al­ized ancient Egypt, Dou­glass became the prophet of his own vision of an ide­al world. In this world, all false dis­tinc­tions between peo­ple would fall away, as all peo­ple pur­sued “truth” and virtue. He believed that the U.S. Amer­i­can Empire could be reformed to mod­el and ush­er in this utopia for the rest of the world.

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