Framing Frederick Douglass

The Female Talented Tenth Who Shaped America


  • Ernest J. Quarles



In this era of “My Brother’s Keeper,” we have been blinded from fully recognizing the Black woman’s race-, gender-, and class-based persecution and oppression. This daunting reality, though, has existed since 1619. She has lived through the dehumanizing experience of slavery and the unfulfilled promises of Reconstruction, lynching, Jim Crow, and segregation, and today she often finds herself left out or at the margins of our concern with regard to her humanity. Even during the life of the great Frederick Douglass, who spoke out against America’s torturous evils, the Black woman was unchampioned.  She was never offered a pedestal to speak, yet she spoke boldly nonetheless. America wanted her to be the footstool for white society, but she vehemently refused. Anna Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosetta Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, and others were the thought leaders who shaped and defined the truest sense of humanity and morality for nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. They are the talented tenth who saved Black America and, in so doing, the heart and soul of our nation.