Trump Invokes The Name Of Frederick Douglass, Ignores What Douglass Said About Immigration

During a meeting today at the White House kicking off Black History Month, President Trump invoked the name of Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became a leading abolitionist before the Civil War and an advocate for liberty and equality thereafter. It leads one to wonder if he was aware of what Douglass had to say about immigration:

“I hold that a liberal and brotherly welcome to all who are likely to come to the United States is the only wise policy which this nation can adopt. It has been thoughtfully observed that every nation, owing to its peculiar character and composition, has a definite mission in the world. What that mission is, and what policy is best adapted to assist in its fulfillment, is the business of its people and its statesmen to know, and knowing, to make a noble use of this knowledge. I need not stop here to name or describe the missions of other or more ancient nationalities. Our seems plain and unmistakable.

Our geographical position, our relation to the outside world, our fundamental principles of government, world-embracing in their scope and character, our vast resources, requiring all manner of labor to develop them, and our already existing composite population, all conspire to one grand end, and that is, to make us the perfect national illustration of the unity and dignity of the human family that the world has ever seen. In whatever else other nations may have been great and grand, our greatness and grandeur will be found in the faithful application of the principle of perfect civil equality to the people of all races and of all creeds. We are not only bound to this position by our organic structure and by our revolutionary antecedents, but by the genius of our people.

Gathered here from all quarters of the globe, by a common aspiration for national liberty as against caste, divine right govern and privileged classes, it would be unwise to be found fighting against ourselves and among ourselves, it would be unadvised to attempt to set up any one race above another, or one religion above another, or prescribe any on account of race, color or creed.” – Dec. 7, 1869

Needless to say, Douglass would not have approved of Trump’s stand on immigration issues.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Religion, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    God help us, did you read Trump’s statement on Black History Month? It was a parody of a real person’s speech. Most comedians couldn’t have even pulled it off as a joke, although I can picture a young Jim Carey doing it in the guise of a clueless loser of a president. Here’s about half of it (and judging by his Frederick Douglas comments, I think Trump is considering him for some kind of post, which will last until someone tells him Douglas has been dead and buried for a century…):

    Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51.

    Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

    Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

    I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

  2. alanstorm says:

    10-yard penalty.

    Unwarranted Assumptions – that FD today would have the same views as he had then, and

    Inappropriate Juxtaposition- injecting FD’s comments on immigration into an unrelated issue – or are you asserting that to admire some person, you must agree with EVERYTHING they say and do?

    Nice try.

  3. CSK says:


    “And there’s my old buddy Freddy Douglass. Freddy baby, I love ya. Can we have a big hand for Freddy here? I gotta tell you folks, Freddy’s the greatest. What a heart. I tell ya, nobody’s gotta bigger heart than Freddy, God love him.”

    Donald Trump and the Friars Club Roast Freddy Douglass, February 2017

  4. al-Alameda says:


    Unwarranted Assumptions – that FD today would have the same views as he had then, and Inappropriate Juxtaposition- injecting FD’s comments on immigration into an unrelated issue – or are you asserting that to admire some person, you must agree with EVERYTHING they say and do? Nice try.

    All that aside, it’s not unlikely that Trump confused Frederick Douglass with
    Donna Douglas of the “Beverly Hillbillies.”

  5. winfieldscott says:

    Just compare the FD and DT statements. How could anyone be pleased with such a petty ignoramus as POTUS ? God help the US of A.

  6. Hal_10000 says:


    As Franklin Harris pointed out on Twitter, if Clinton gave a speech like that, they’d all be saying she’d suffered a stroke. Crazy.

    And Trump has no darn clue who Frederick Douglass is. Probably think he’s cornerback for the Patriots.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    I am a great believer that the way one speaks and writes reflects how one thinks. God help us.

  8. wr says:

    @alanstorm: Shorter Alanstorm: “If Frederick Douglass were alive today, he’d be a white racist like me!”

  9. CSK says:


    And you would be absolutely correct in thinking that.

  10. Jc says:

    I was waiting for him to heap praise on Clayton Bigsby….knowing Trump it is not out of the realm of possibility

  11. Mr. Bluster says:

    February is Black History Month
    Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
    Malcolm X

  12. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @alanstorm: Mr. Douglass spent a lifetime thinking, reading, learning, writing, and teaching. His thoughts on social justice were the product of decades of intellectual life and political activism. He would work with anyone who was making strides toward social justice – even, famously, former slave owners. It is not unwarranted to believe that he would have the same regard for the downtrodden today as he developed throughout a lifetime of intellectual life and political activism.

  13. SKI says:

    It leads one to wonder if he was aware of what Douglass had to say about immigration

    It led me to wonder if he knew who Frederick Douglas was or that he has been dead for more than 120 years.

  14. CSK says:


    I doubt it.

  15. Concerned UK Citizen says:


    – 70 years old,
    – Willfully ignorant of the history of the country he is allegedly “leading”,
    – seemingly signing anything that is put in front of him without any understanding whatsoever,
    – ditto reading anything written on a teleprompter for him…..

    … please explain to me what he is doing that couldn’t be done by a semi trained chimp (or orange orangutan)?????