Artist: Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Acclaimed Wizard Frederick Douglass Turning 199

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass will celebrate his 199th birthday on Feb. 14. The elderly wizard, who has been much in the news recently, has led a remarkable life. He was born into slavery in the mundane American South in 1818. Long retired, he now lives in seclusion in the U.K.

The renowned wizard made news in both the mundane and wizarding press when the newly elected mundane president mentioned him in a speech. In the very odd speech, the president mentioned Douglass in the present tense, stating “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more.” This caused a collective gasp in the magical community.

The new president does not have a magical liaison assigned to him.The magical government cut ties with the mundane government when this president was elected. He shouldn’t know about Frederick Douglass’s true identity, or that he’s still living. 

Many in the magical community believe that the president hired rogue dark wizards to get him elected. Did such wizards inform the president that Douglass is alive and well? The international magical community went into a panic, fearing exposure of the magical world, leading to an investigation. To the relief of many, it was determined that Douglass had not been outed. It turns out that the president just has no idea who Frederick Douglass is, which is disturbing in a different way.

Frederick Douglass became a legend in his own time. Here is a brief account of his exceptional life and distinguished career in both the magical and mundane worlds: Frederick Douglass was an extraordinary child - a dangerous thing for a black slave in the nineteenth century American South. He was an orphan who never knew his father and hardly knew his mother, who died when Frederick was just eight years old. He was raised by his grandmother, Betsy, who was also a slave.

From a very young age, there was something different about Frederick. Strange things happened around him. Betsy recognized these incidents as magic. She remembered stories of magic practitioners from her childhood, told by the old women. Tales passed down from old memories of Africa, where magic was a natural part of life.

Betsy convinced Frederick to keep his magic a secret for his own safety. To be black, a slave, and magical in the American South meant a death sentence. After all, it was an enslaved black woman named Tituba who was at the center of the Salem witch trials. Besides, without a wand or magical training, he didn’t have a way to focus or control his magic properly, she told him.

Frederick was an especially bright and curious child who liked to experiment. Whenever he was alone he would try to wield his power, but he couldn’t get it to work right. He discovered, though, that he could sometimes influence people a bit by his will. He was especially wise for his age, and had a sense of fair play, so he didn’t use this ability unless it was absolutely necessary.

When Douglass was six, he suffered another tragic loss. His owner, an overseer named Aaron Anthony took him from Betsy, and relocated him to a plantation. Anthony died two years later, and his widow sent Frederick to her sister-in-law, Sophia Auld, who lived in Baltimore. Mrs. Auld liked the boy, and taught him the alphabet and to read. Her husband put a stop to it when he found out because it was illegal to teach a slave to read. Frederick overheard him tell his wife that if a slave could read, he might learn enough to desire freedom. This put a spark in Frederick’s mind.

Douglass was determined to continue his education, and decided to put his powers to good use. He used his gift to get white children in the neighborhood to help him improve his reading. Eventually his magic allowed him to get hold of books and to avoid being caught with them. Through these books, Douglass learned about western philosophy, human rights, literature, and classical writing. He also learned about Fairyland and fairy folk, like witches and wizards. He decided to find his fellow magic folk, and learn to use his gift.

As a teenager, he made several escape attempts, but due of his lack of magical training, he failed. His owner placed him with Edward Covey, who was skilled in breaking a slave’s spirit. Covey whipped Frederick repeatedly, trying to beat him into submission. Finally Frederick mustered enough magic to stand up to Covey without hitting him, which could’ve resulted in Douglass being put to death. After a two hour struggle, Covey surrendered, and never beat Douglass again.

In 1838, Douglass finally escaped to New York City, a town with a large magical community. He was able to connect with that community and quickly made friends. Douglass married a witch named Anna, who used a charm to help him avoid capture by his owner. The couple moved to Massachusetts, where there was a magical community built around a school of magic. There, Douglass was finally able to take up his wizard’s training. Frederick also decided to change his name. He decided on the name Douglass, after a character in the epic fairy poem The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott. A name from a magical story for his magical new life.

Douglass couldn’t forget about the millions of black people living in slavery. As a member of the magical community, however, he had to obey laws against using magic to interfere with mundane society, or using magic on or around mundane people. Besides, there are some things that even magic can’t fix. Slavery couldn’t simply be magicked away, and the ills of the world couldn’t be remedied by waving a magic wand. He believed it would be unethical to do so because all people had the right to self-determination and free will. Besides, people had to learn and grow on their own.

He bravely decided to return to the mundane world and use his writing and speaking abilities to influence people and change their hearts and minds. He vowed to the magical government that he wouldn’t use magic, even if in danger, in order to avoid exposure of the magical world. He couldn’t even use magic to protect others unless magic was being used against them. Anna removed her protective charm, and he entered public life in the mundane world.

Sometime around 1841, Douglass met famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who hired him as a speaker for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. By the time he was twenty-five years old, Douglass was touring the Northeast and Midwest as a speaker with the American Anti-Slavery Society. He became a very popular speaker, gaining many followers and admirers. Douglass met Susan B. Anthony while on tour and helped advanced the cause of women’s rights in addition to abolition.

Frederick Douglass authored three autobiographies during his public life. The first, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was published in 1845, when he was only 27. That summer, due to the popularity of the book, Douglass began a speaking tour in the British Isles. He loved this magical place. Because separation between the magical and mundane worlds wasn’t as strictly regulated as in the U.S., he was able to mingle in both the mundane and magical communities. He made many friends – both magical and mundane.

He did much to advance the cause of abolition in the U.S. among the people of Great Britain and Ireland, and his friends there purchased his freedom from his owner so that he could truly be free. Frederick befriended the great sorcerer and alchemist Nicholas Flamel (by this time living in England), famous for successfully making the Philosopher’s Stone. Flamel was so taken with Douglass that he took him on as an apprentice.

In 1847, Douglass returned to the U.S. a very famous, and much admired man. More importantly, he had built strong support for the cause of abolition. He continued his successful lecture tours, and added the subject of better education for free blacks to his speeches. In 1855, he wrote and published another autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.

Douglass met with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House twice. They met in 1863 to discuss the issues of equal pay and equal treatment for black soldiers serving in the Civil War. They kept up a correspondence after that, and met again at Lincoln’s second inauguration reception. Douglass was the first black person to attend such an event at the White House. The two planned to meet again, but President Lincoln was assassinated before they got the chance.

Frederick Douglass continued to help the mundane community long after abolition was achieved and the Civil War ended. As there was some limited communication and cooperation between the magical and mundane governments, Douglass was named Magical Consul to the President of the United States. He was given official titles to hide his true identity.  

Under President Ulysses S. Grant he served as Minister-Resident and Consul-General to Haiti, and later as ChargĂ© d’Affaires in the Dominican Republic. While there he resolved a crisis caused by voodoo sorcerers who were exposing magic by selling their services to and/or using magic against mundanes. He served as Marshall of the District of Columbia under Rutherford B. Hayes, and as Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia under James Garfield.   

After fifty-four years of a public life in service to the mundane world, Frederick Douglass was tired. On February 20th, 1895, he withdrew from the mundane world by faking his death. Douglass has been very private in his retirement. He’s said to be unusually spry and youthful for his 199 years. His mentor, Nicholas Flamel, used the Philosopher’s Stone to create the Elixir of Life, and lived to be over 665 years old. Some suspect that Douglass learned how to make the fabled stone and elixir too.

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