The Fredrick Douglass Republican is not a party but a movement, according to founder KCarl Smith. Smith is on St. Croix this week to bring the message of the movement to the Virgin Islands.
On Thursday, Smith spoke with the Source at the Caravelle Hotel in Christiansted, along with Nancy Benavides, president of the Florida branch of the movement.
Smith said the movement embraces the core values that Frederick Douglass embraced, calling them “life empowering values.” He said the movement’s name has a stronger tie to the historical Republicans of the Reconstruction era than present day Republicans.
Smith said that seven black Republicans were elected to Congress in the time immediately after the Civil War and that each of them embraced the writings of Douglass.
Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland. He became a famous intellectual, eventually advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes from women’s rights to Irish home rule. He wrote several autobiographies describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War. His most well-known work is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.
Benavides said she has read all of Douglass’s autobiographical work and was inspired by the values in it to join the movement. She said, “I like to see people move ahead. Neither party is helping people do that.”
St. Croix residents will have the chance to talk with the pair at a fundraising event Saturday night at Queen’s Quarter Villa beginning at 6 p.m. Valerie Stiles, local Republican Party activist, has organized much of the visit.
Robert Moorhead, a candidate for Virgin Islands Senate, has been a Frederick Douglass Republican for about five years. The movement is eight years old.
Smith emphasizes that the movement is not tied to any party and has members from both parties. He said it has 90,000 members all over the states and is not limited by race. He added that whites outnumber the blacks in the movement.
However, he added that this would be an especially good time present day Republicans to embrace the core values that the movement has. He said, “The Republicans have a branding problem right now.”
The core values that the Frederick Douglass Republican movement emphasizes, according to Smith, are respect for the U.S. Constitution; economic opportunity for all; strong public education; and a sense of personal responsibility.”
Benavides said, “We want people to know they can start anywhere and become prosperous. Look where Frederik Douglass started and where he rose to.”
Some specific targets of the movement are taxation and regulations that hold back entrepreneurs who want to start small businesses. Smith said, “We want to see fairness for all,” adding that the movement is against the system of crony capitalism that is in power in the United States today.
Douglass died on Feb. 20, 1895. Quotes attributed to him include: “Without a struggle, there can be no progress” and “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Smith is author of the book Frederick Douglass Republicans: The Movement to Re-Ignite America’s Passion for Liberty.
For more information about the event, call 817-908-3913 or 340 201-1379.