September 3

Frederick Douglass1838—Frederick Douglass escapes from slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore using so-called “free papers” and disguising himself as a sailor. He would go on to become the most prominent anti-slavery activist and Black leader of his day. He is perhaps best remembered for his now famous 1857 quote: “If there is no struggle there is no progress…Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Free papers were documents normally required to be in the possession of all free Blacks. But one freedom tactic employed during slavery was for a slave to somehow borrow the papers of a free Black who fit his or her general description and use the papers to escape from slavery.

1868—In an example of how briefly true freedom for Blacks lasted after slavery ended in 1865, the lower house of the Georgia legislature on this day in 1868 expelled 28 African-Americans, employing a twisted argument that because they were Black they were not eligible to serve in the legislature even if they had been duly elected. Ten days later, the Georgia Senate followed suit and expelled three elected Blacks. But the U.S. Congress stepped in by refusing to seat the Georgia delegation if the Black representatives were not allowed to return to their seats.

1919—One of the nation’s first Black owned movie companies—Lincoln Motion Pictures—releases its first full length feature film: “A Man’s Duty.” The company was owned by Noble Johnson and Clarence Brooks.


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