Frederick Douglass: Self

Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer and orator, who played a pivotal role in the abolitionism movement. He escaped slavery by fleeing to the North and became involved with anti-slavery societies on both sides of the Atlantic. His writings discuss his first years as a slave, experiences as a porter and house servant for white Northerners during his time at college, escaping from Baltimore back into slavery after he learned that he had been sold again.,

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery and became an influential writer, statesman, and social reformer. He helped to abolish slavery and gain equal rights for African Americans. His autobiography is a classic example of self-made man.

Frederick Douglass: Self

The notion of the self-made man, which was once a popular and inspirational ideal, has gone out of favor in contemporary times. People are dubious that a guy can really become anything he chooses by pulling himself up by his bootstraps in a day when men typically shirk personal responsibility, people justify their mistakes with the victim card, and everything is a “disease” over which we have no control. We want to think that chance was the decisive element in a successful man’s accomplishments, therefore absolving ourselves of our own failings by claiming that we were merely unlucky.

Such rationalizations were nonsense to Frederick Douglass, and he had every right to believe so. From the bonds of slavery, he grew to become a novelist, a newspaper publisher, and a well-known abolitionist. What he had accomplished, he truly felt, could be accomplished by any individual prepared to put in the effort. His thoughts on the issue were brilliantly encapsulated in his “Men Who Created Themselves” speech, which was his most famous and sought-after lecture during his lifetime. It was described as “noble and eloquent,” with “richness of thought and masculine passion” by a Philadelphia newspaper.

It’s a magnificent masterpiece that will motivate a guy to feel that he is the master of his fate. Only here, in picture format, have I located it in my searches on the internet. Because such a significant speech deserves a wider audience and easier accessibility, I’ve transcribed some of the greatest passages. It’s a little longer than a tweet, but it’s well worth your time and effort to read.

Self-Made Men

Frederick Douglass, author

I openly acknowledge that there is something akin to stoicism in this term in more ways than one. In the strictest sense, there are no such things as self-made men in the world. That word suggests a past and present individual independence that can never exist.

Our most valuable and valuable gains came from either our contemporaries or those who came before us in the sphere of thinking and invention. We’ve all begged, borrowed, or stolen something. We have harvested what others have sown, and we have collected what others have sown. No amount of innate character, riches, or creativity can raise a man into full independence from his fellowmen, and no generation of men can be independent of the previous generation, despite the fact that this may not sit well with self-conscious individualism and self-conceit. At all times, mankind’s fraternity and interdependence are cherished and protected.

Nonetheless, the title of my lecture is perfectly descriptive of a class and, additionally, it is a good match and handy for my objective of conveying the concept that I am pursuing… Self-made persons are those who have gained knowledge, usefulness, power, and position without the usual assistance of favorable circumstances, and who have learnt from themselves the best uses to which life may be put in this world, and who have built up good character in the practice of these uses. They are the men who are what they are without the benefit of any favorable conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results. They owe little or nothing to birth, relationship, or friendly surroundings; to inherited wealth or early approved means of education; who are what they are without the aid of any favorable conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results. They are, in a strange way, obliged to themselves for their own sake. They have created the route they have gone on if they have journeyed far. If they’ve gotten to the top, they’ve constructed their own ladder… These men, whether in one position or another, whether in college or in the factory; whether professors or plowmen; whether Caucasian or Indian; whether Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-African, are self-made men who deserve respect for their success and for demonstrating to the world the grandest possibilities of human nature, regardless of race or color.


Though a man of this kind does not have to pretend to be a hero or be venerated as one, there is true heroism in his battle and a sense of sublimity and splendour in his victory. Every case of such accomplishment serves as an example and a source of assistance to mankind. It assures us of the underlying capabilities and resources of plain and independent masculinity more than any mere declaration. It praises effort, relieves pain and despair, removes darkness from the forehead of the poor and fatigue from the heart of the fainting, and allows man to take on the harshest and flintiest sufferings that come with life’s conflict with a lighter heart, better hopes, and more bravery.

The Self-Made Man Theory

Men’s diverse circumstances, as well as their varying uses of their talents and chances in life, are full with perplexing contrasts and contradictions. It is simple to dogmatize here, as it is anywhere, but it is more difficult to describe, explain, and show. The natural principles governing mankind’s administration, well-being, and advancement seem and are equal; but, the objects of these laws are rife with discrepancies, discords, and contrasts. Fruit cannot exist without flowers, while flowers often exist without fruit. The promise of youth typically fades in maturity, and true brilliance often emerges unnoticed and from unexpected sources.

From this vantage point, the sight seems to be a thousand arrows fired from the same place and aiming at the same target. They are united in purpose but apart in flight. Some people soar too high, while others fly too low. Some people walk to the right, while others go to the left. Some soar too high, while others fly too low, and just a few strike the target. Life is like that. They are split in the air while being together in the quiver. When they’re asleep, they’re matched, but when they’re awake, they’re mismatched.

When we try to explain greatness, we never come any closer to the reality than the greatest of poets and thinkers did when he divided brilliance into three categories: “some are born great, some attain greatness, and others have greatness forced upon them.” We may pick and choose which of these three independent explanations we want to be the most prominent in our debate. Much may be said about better mental abilities, and I would incline strongly toward that idea on certain grounds, except for innumerable cases that seem to contradict it, and for the sad effect such a notion must have on mankind as a whole.

This hypothesis has some truth, but it is not the whole truth. Men with mediocre abilities have carved out a decent existence for themselves in the world, and have even provided great instances of accomplishment on occasion. On the other hand, what is referred to be genius is often discovered by the side of the road, a horrible wreck; the more deplorable and startling because of the height from which it has fallen, as well as the loss and disaster entailed in the fall.


I’m not a fan of the self-made man’s good luck hypothesis. It is unworthy of your time and has no practical use. An apple thrown carelessly into a crowd might strike one person, another, or no one at all. In this self-made men’s accident hypothesis, the odds are exactly the same. It separates a man from his own accomplishments, considers him a random person, and deprives him of will, motivation, desire, and aspiration. Despite this, the accident hypothesis is one of the most widely accepted explanations of personal achievement. It exudes the aura of mystery that the masses want, and it also serves to shake up the successful’s complacency.

It is one of the simplest and most frequent things in the world for a successful guy to be followed throughout his career and to be continually reminded of this or that precise stroke of luck that determined his fate and made him successful. If we aren’t terrific ourselves, we prefer to explain why others are. We are frugal when it comes to praising merit, but liberal when it comes to praising chance. Furthermore, when a guy can pinpoint the exact time and event that made his neighbor wonderful, he feels immeasurably fantastic. He readily believes that the little disparity between himself and his buddy is due to chance. It was his buddy who was fortunate, but it might have easily been him. Then there’s a justified apologies for failure, which is the next best thing to victory. Many people find detraction to be a delectable bite. It claims for itself the perfection that it openly denies to others. It has the ability to envelop the little with the grandeur of the big. It adds to failure what it takes away from success, narrowing the gap between those in front and those in behind. Even here, there is a positive trend worth noting and respecting. The kitchen is always the parlor’s worst critic. The conversation of those below is the conversation of those above. We try to be like the people we respect and adore.

However, the fundamental criticism of this reassuring hypothesis is that, like most other hypotheses, it tries to explain too much. While it attributes success to luck and favorable circumstances, it is likely to ignore the very varying ways in which different persons put their circumstances and opportunities to use.

Lucky situations and pleasant possibilities may abound in a man’s life, but they will be useless unless he makes sensible and energetic use of them, as we all know. Whether the mariner refuses to weigh his anchor and spread his canvas to the breeze, it doesn’t matter if the wind is calm and the tide is high. If the farmer refuses to reap the golden crop, it will go to waste. Opportunity is crucial, but effort is required…

When we come across a guy who has soared to heights beyond our own; who has a wider field of vision than we have and a sky with more stars in it than we do, we might assume he has worked harder, better, and wiser than we have. While we slept, he was awake. He was busy while we were wasting our time and skills, and he was properly investing his time and talents while we were squandering ours…


I am confident that nothing nice, wonderful, or desirable that man may have in this life comes without some type of physical, mental, moral, or spiritual exertion. A guy will sometimes obtain something for free, but it will be worthless in his hands. What is true in the physical world is also true in the mental realm. Without cultivation, there can be no development; without effort, there can be no acquisition; without friction, there can be no polish; without work, there can be no knowledge; without action, there can be no advancement; and without confrontation, there can be no triumph. A guy who sleeps down a fool at night in the hopes of waking up smart in the morning will get up the same way he lay down the night before.

From these observations, it should be clear that, assuming merely ordinary ability and opportunity, we can explain success primarily in one word: WORK! WORK!! WORK!!! WORK!! WORK!! WORK!! WORK!! WORK!! WORK!! Patient, lasting, honest, relentless, and untiring labour, into which the entire heart is placed, and which is the genuine miracle worker in both earthly and spiritual things, is the true miracle worker. If he so desires, everyone may tap into this incredible power. There is no such thing as a royal route to perfection. No one should have to wait for a buddy to place a leaping board under his feet so that he may simply bound from the first round of their ladder to the highest level. If he waits for this, he may have to wait a long time, if not forever. He who does not consider himself worthy of being rescued from poverty and illiteracy by his own efforts will scarcely be considered worthy of the efforts of others.

Human experience has shown us that the guy who wants to get up will be assisted up, and the one who does not want to get up will be permitted to remain down. This rule may look severe at first glance, yet it is sensible, just, and beneficial in its overall application and functioning. There is no other rule that I am aware of that can be substituted for it without causing societal turmoil. Personal autonomy is a virtue, and it is the soul from which the strongest masculinity emerges. However, there can be no independence without a significant amount of self-reliance, which is a virtue that cannot be conferred. It has to be nurtured from inside…

Of course, tenacity and persistence are incorporated in the concept of effort. We’ve all met a class of men who are remarkable for their activity but make little progress in life; men who, in their noisy and impulsive pursuit of knowledge, never get beyond the outer bark of an idea due to a lack of patience and perseverance to dig to the core; men who start everything but finish nothing; men who see but do not perceive; men who read but forget what they read and act as if they haven’t read; men who travel but go nowhere in particular; men who begin everything but complete Such persons may be propelled into grandeur, but they never reach greatness….


However, by praising industry as the primary agent in the development and culture of self-made men, I do not rule out the existence of other contributing variables. They are only made submissive by me. Other agencies work together, but this is the most important because without it, all others would fail.

However, there is another aspect of the success formula that ought to be discussed. That ingredient is order, a methodical approach. We succeed not only through the rigorous exertions of our faculties, large or little, but also through their regular, conscientious, and planned employment. The first rule of heaven, order, is a force in and of itself. When your lines are in disarray, the war is virtually lost. Regular, orderly, and systematic effort that moves without friction or unnecessary loss of time or power; that has a place for everything and everything in its place; that knows exactly where to begin, how to proceed, and where to end, despite no extraordinary outlay of energy of activity, will work wonders, not only in terms of accomplishment, but also in terms of increasing the individual’s ability, will work wonders. It will strengthen the weak and strengthen the strong; it will make the simple man smart and the clever man wiser; and it will ensure success via the power and influence that comes with habit…

There’s one more thing you’ll need for success: a dominating item and a feeling of its significance. The strength of the action is determined by the strength of the incentive. … Work is seldom done for the sake of work. The worker is aware of a worthwhile thing to work for, and he works for it; not for what he is to it, but for what it is to him. Objects do not move everyone in the same way. Some people strive for happiness. Others are the beneficiaries of wealth and fame. Wealth and fame, on the other hand, are out of reach for the vast majority of men, and hence are not motivating objectives for them. Personal, family, and neighborhood well-being, on the other hand, are all around us and may provide us with high impulses for serious effort if we only pay attention to them.


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A “self-made man” is someone who has achieved success without the help of others. Frederick Douglass was a self-made man meaning that he became successful by himself.

The idea of the self-made man was proposed by Benjamin Franklin in American Thought. Benjamin Franklin is a celebrated figure, and his work has had many impacts on modern societys beliefs about what it means to be successful. He believed that one should have faith in oneself, as long as they are willing to put time into their craft. It is based off of the assumption that through hard work, anyone can achieve success if they continue with patience and determination”}}]}

Frequently Asked Questions

How is Douglass a self-made man?

A: He was born into a family of social standing as the son and heir to William Lee, an affluent tobacco planter in Virginia.

How does Frederick Douglass characterize himself?


What was the idea of the self-made man?

A: The idea of the self-made man was proposed by Benjamin Franklin in American Thought. Benjamin Franklin is a celebrated figure, and his work has had many impacts on modern societys beliefs about what it means to be successful. He believed that one should have faith in oneself, as long as they are willing to put time into their craft. It is based off of the assumption that through hard work, anyone can achieve success if they continue with patience and determination

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