The Disturbing Truth Frederick Douglass Faced As A Child

frederick douglass statue
Tremain Prioleau II
June 13, 2024

Hunger was a fact of life for many enslaved people, including the young Frederick Douglass. Douglass recalled fighting with his oppressor's dogs for table scraps and bones in his memoir My Bondage and My Freedom. This was how Douglass learned that food deprivation was a means of control.

Alcohol consumption was also a weapon of oppression. Slaves were encouraged (or forced) to drink during the Christmas holiday. Douglass saw this practice for what it truly was, a moment of false freedom before falling “...back to the arms of slavery,” when the holidays were over.

Sadly, our access to food is still controlled by an oppressive white supremacist food system. While we may have better access to food today, the quality of it is the difference. Many Black communities are “food deserts” with little or no access to fresh and affordable food.

Kwame Ture spoke of emancipatory food power, which is when we produce, distribute, consume, and control our own food. Frederick Douglass recognized how food could be used to oppress people, but by using our ancestral knowledge and joining together, we can ensure better food access and nutrition for future generations.

Liberation begins with our health. We must reclaim our power over our nutrition, controlling our own production of and access to food so that white supremacist systems can never control us again.