This is part 1 of a 3-part series on the successful strategy of Frederick Douglass, our country’s greatest American Dream Story. These three editorials will highlight six essential principles that were invaluable to Douglass’ powerful success strategy:

  • 1st Editorial - (1) Listening to the Stories and (2) Savoring the Songs

  • 2nd Editorial – (3) Becoming an avid reader and (4) Courage to Act

  • 3rd Editorial -  (4) Passion for Serving and (6) Unmatched Work Ethic

A higher achiever in life, Douglass’ upbringing was one of suffering, pain, and death ─ the slave system. His slave experience was worse than the present condition that urban youth face today ─ emotional pains and hardships.

Douglass had no positive male presence in his home. He witnessed and was a recipient of physical violence. He saw people succumb to drug abuse. Douglass had no formal schooling, while many urban youths attend poor-performing and decrepit schools. He had no health care, while urban youth possess inadequate health care. He was a slave and treated like cattle, while urban youth reside in poverty. Douglass never owned a pair of shoes until the age of eight, but urban youth wear brand-name sneakers as soon as they are able to walk.

In spite of these horrendous living conditions, Douglass developed a successful strategy that sustained him in slavery and prepared him for freedom. As an ordained AME Zion preacher, Douglass’ message of success speaks to the heart and soul of today's urban youth ─ providing purpose, passion, power and an action plan for their lives.

No matter which victim category the Left tries to put people in, no American today can out-victimize Frederick Douglass.

Listening to the Stories

As Douglass tells us in his autobiography, "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," as a six-year-old, he struggled with the thought that God had ordained him to be a slave for life. Then he heard the stories from his grandmother that his ancestors from Africa were free people.

Douglass wrote, “When yet but a child about six years old, I imbibed [received into the mind] the determination to run away … I heard some ... old slaves talking of their parents having been stolen from Africa by white men, and were sold here as slaves … Very soon after this, my Aunt Jinny and Uncle Noah ran away … From that time, I resolved that I would someday run away.”

Listening to and understanding the stories about the past connected Douglass to the beginnings of his ancestral lineage. Through the power of storytelling, Douglass learned that his ancestors were free people and not slaves.

Paying attention to the stories about the past, Douglass discovered that his Aunt Jinny and Uncle Noah successfully escaped from slavery. For Douglass, this more recent tale of victory sparked his interest and ignited his inborn passion for liberty. Douglass dreamed and developed his action plan of being a free man one day.

Savoring the Songs

The slave songs or spirituals were the means by which slaves expressed their desires, disappointments, joys, views of the world, and religious thoughts. Moreover, the slave songs were creatively interwoven with strands of cries, complaints, and celebrations.

Slave songs were not naive depictions of reality and neither were they vague portrayals of their physical existence. There were bold and vivid descriptions of the harsh and cruel injustices of slavery. It is within this social context that slave songs emerged. In fact, the suffering and pain of Black Americans produced a collection of music categories: Slave Songs or spirituals, Negro Spirituals, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues, Blues, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Rap and a host of others. Regardless of the musical forms within the Black community, they were birthed by the same experience of pain and suffering.

In a creative way, Douglass used the gift of music to: (1) Survive emotionally, (2) Flourish personally and (3) Plan strategically.

Douglass survived emotionally because the slave songs resonate with themes of crying and critiquing. Through spiritual songs, slaves summoned God for help and deliverance. He prayed to God about the treacherous system of bondage.

Douglass flourished personally as well. He focused on mastering the skills of reading, writing, and tutoring. He used the setting of slavery as an opportunity to improve his education and personal gifts.

Finally, Douglass planned strategically. He designed an action plan that led to his success in living within a society, choosing a career, building relationships, and managing his money wisely.

Solomon was correct when he said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29: 18 KJV). The opposite is also true: with a vision, people flourish. Douglass’ life flourished and prospered because he was captured by a cause and obsessed with a sense of purpose.

A former member of President Trump’s Coalition Advisory Board, KCarl Smith is the President and CEO of KCarl Consulting Group, empowering freedom advocates with the confidence, knowledge and skills to trump the race card. His column appears every Thursday in 1819 News. To contact KCarl or request him for a speaking engagement go to The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to