The Founders: Stewart’s Call to Manhood

Douglass’ story of self-determination and courage reads like an answer to Stewart’s fiery call to black men:

“O ye fearful ones, throw off your fearfulness, and come forth in the name of the Lord… If you are men, convince them that you possess the spirit of men… Have the sons of Africa no souls? Feel they no ambitious desires?” (Stewart 57).

In an African Masonic Hall in Boston in 1833, Stewart invokes an image of strong black masculinity at roughly the same time that Douglass is being hired out by his owner Captain Auld to Edward Covey, the slave breaker. At the end of Chapter VIII in his Narrative, Douglass described Covey as “a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church. [Which] added weight to his reputation as ‘nigger breaker’” (Douglass 78). This description paralleled Douglass’ recollections of Captain Auld’s Methodist conversion. He insisted that Captain Auld “found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty” after attending the large Methodist camp meeting. He goes onto describe the irony of this master’s Christian home and his bloody practices: “I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders… Keep his lacerated woman tied up in this horrid situation for four to five hours at a time” (Douglass 76). It is likely that Maria Stewart was able to avoid witnessing similar atrocities in person.

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