These days when someone is called a rock star, it usually means that the person is completely in command of some capability or talent.
When I say Freddy was a rock star, I mean that, but I also mean rock star in terms of everything that goes with that package: the man traveled around the country and overseas, he did his rock star gig in giving great speeches, and would get with the groupies later on.
I can get away with writing about him in these very irreverent terms now since my mother is gone. She was a bit of a Freddy groupie herself. She would not stand for me to be irreverent about the great man. Even my offhand references to him as Freddy irritated her a bit. Daughters will tease sometimes, and I loved to see her getting all ruffled up as if I talked about her man—Frederick Douglass.
Every February, which is Black History Month because it was Freddy’s adopted birthday month, teachers all over the county bring out the big posters to hang up in their classrooms. They will bring one out for Freddy too, bigger than the rest, because he had that glorious mane of hair and that stern look on his face as if he say, “I rock.”
He did. No doubt. He called Lincoln to task about allowing African Americans into the Civil War to fight. And when Lincoln did, things began to change for the better for the Union’s fortunes. Freddy taught himself to read and write. His fiery oratory would just slay the women, slay them. Whenever I assign “What to the Slave is The Fourth of July?” for my students to read in class, they would be astonished. “People would sit there and listen to him say these things?”
Absolutely. There was no television in those days.
But I would also tell them: he was a rock star. How many times have rock stars sang songs in front of people telling them off about themselves and they just watch, entranced? It happens all of the time and it happened all the way back into the nineteenth century. Frederick Douglass was the best of them.
If you like historical fiction and think that the current vogue of “the wife of” novels is some new subgenre, ahem, Jewell Parker Rhodes did it years ago with her wonderful novel Douglass’s Women. The title says it all.
Two of my heroines are Freddy groupies. One of them is the heroine of my current novel The Preacher’s Promise. Amanda makes the initial comparison of Virgil to Freddy when she first hears him preach. Hearing him preach in that Freddy way makes Virgil just that little bit more attractive. After all, she’s seen Freddy speak before and knows. But there’s only one woman for Virgil and that’s his Mandy.
Their story is listed as one of the top 50 for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. If you haven’t had time to enjoy yet, here’s the link:
Who is your historical rock star?