Throughout American history there has existed a benevolent but cautious working relationship between famous and powerful Whites and a number of great names in African American lore. Such bonds, although at times tenuous, came full bloom with the election of President Barack Obama when huge numbers of influential Whites supported his campaign.
President Obama’s ability to rally consensus in traditionally non-Democratic and in majority-White voting blocs (i.e. Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina) may have been the final nail in the southern-style in-your-face racism in the nation. But such alliances have always existed in America. Here are some of more outstanding ones:
Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison
In the 1830s, William Lloyd Garrison, the fiery abolitionist publisher of The Liberator, formed a public, social consensus with journalist Frederick Douglass (The North Star) to shed more light upon the wicked practice of chattel slavery. In 1845, Garrison introduced to the world one of great slave narratives in “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as Told by Himself.” The last four words of the title are there because, at that time, African Americans were not believed to know how to read, write, do arithmetic or compile a memory of traditions within the African American Diaspora.
Like authors Harriet Jacobs and Olaudah Equiano before him, Douglass’ literacy had to be certified and his literal “pen-to-paper” verified by a top literary agent. Although Garrison and Douglass would differ greatly on Black equality with Whites—a vastly different discussion, as opposed to humans being held in shackles—the two men would wield great influence in the Lincoln administration enroute to the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. The success of the “American Anti-Slave Society” (founded by Garrison) was due partly to Douglass’ outstanding oratorical skills, which would carry the former slave to Europe, Canada and throughout the American north to sound an early death knell to slavery and give impetus to the women’s suffrage movement.
Charles Young and Teddy Roosevelt
Col. Charles Young was the first African American to graduate with distinction from West Point Academy. Although two other Black men graduated some years prior, Young is remembered as one of the nation’s most highly decorated combat veterans. Young’s 1889 matriculation led him to the famous Buffalo Soldiers, so named because the Native Americans in the Lakota Territory remarked that the African American soldiers resembled bison.
The 10th Cavalry was charged with violently dispatching Native American tribes from their ancestral homelands. Most of these men had served in this roughly charted territory, which ranged from northern Nebraska through the Dakotas and to the Canadian border, since the end of the Civil War. And this military campaign would be the nation’s last exercise in Manifest Destiny—the widely held belief in the United States in the 19th century that American settlers were destined to expand across the continent.
During this service, Young met a New Yorker named Theodore Roosevelt who was sent to this family-owned land to recover from many years of ill health. History reveals that Young and Roosevelt became fast friends, both by virtue of their common love of the natural environment, and intellectually, because Young was an early professor of military intelligence (later teaching at Wilberforce University) and could consistently match wits and discuss classical military theory and strategy with the learned Roosevelt.