An Original AoM Comic: Frederick Douglass – How a Slave Was Made a Man

by Brett & Kate McKay on February 26, 2013 · 120 Comments

in Visual Guides

Frederick Douglass 2

Thought we’d try something different this week: an original AoM comic on a manly moment in history. If you like it and would like to see more, let us know and share it around!

By The Art of Manliness & Ted Slampyak

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leo February 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

This was very good. Great message.

2 Nicholas February 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Interesting and new. I would definitely like to see more Art of Manliness comics. Surprised the first one didn’t feature Teddy Roosevelt, but can’t go wrong with Douglass as well. Good stuff.

3 Reuben February 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Very cool. Keep ‘em coming!

4 Pike February 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm

This is great! And a great way to share more manly moments with us. I’ve always liked the manivotionals, but adding pictures makes it a bit better, in this case, than the text would have alone.

Keep them coming

5 2pint February 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Great idea to mix mediums and portray great thoughts and events through graphic novel style. Powerful with the image and text combined. I would say yes, would love to see more.

6 Bryce February 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Great! Keep them up

7 Khaliff February 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

This was great! Keep it up!

8 sugapablo February 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

“Violence solves nothing.”

Wait…. ;)

9 Joe February 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm

That was good. I needed that spark to triumph today.

10 Stephen February 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Not bad, but too much text
Try and focus more on the dialogue and the pictures

11 C.S. February 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I think this is great. You have managed to take a short personal account of an intense experience and make it clear, concise and entertaining. This will be great to show my boys. Thanks for the new addition. Thanks also for avoiding the superhero-esque “pow”, “boom” and “ugh”s.

12 Brett McKay February 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm

There is definitely a lot of text, more than is ideal, but because we decided to do the whole thing in Douglass’ own words from his account of this episode, it was actually quite difficult to narrow down the snippets even to the point we did here, while still allowing readers to follow the story. Next time we may not do the “in his own words” bit as narration can be a lot more concise, but for this one, we thought it was quite fitting and powerful.

13 Mike H. February 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Great comic. I always enjoy AoM’s historical articles about manly deeds of back in the day. Keep em comin, the comic is a fresh idea.

14 Elias February 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I really liked this: it’d be awesome if you could make some AoM comics about some historical Native American figures like Geronimo and Crazy Horse, but that’s just a suggestion. Rock on.

15 jcard21 February 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Sometime around the mid-1990s, a friend of mine once told me:

The only rights you possess are those rights you are willing to fight to the death for.

Slaves exist because it is easier to acquiesce than defend yourself.

16 Adri February 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm

@Brett McKay

I did not mind the text-heavy nature of this comic at all. I agree that relating the event in Douglass’s own words is quite powerful. It only took a couple minutes to read, but the impact is lasting.

17 Zach M February 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Bravo! I think I’ll print and frame this comic.

18 Caleb February 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I enjoyed the fact that it was text heavy, especially since it was a direct quote. I would have been OK with the whole thing being longer.

I think this will be one of my new favorites!

19 Evan February 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Violence is the answer

20 Chad February 26, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Awesome all around. Please continue with others!

21 Pat S. February 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I like the style in which this is written, Douglass was an amazing individual. There is a great PBS special called The Abolitionist in which he figures prominently. He was the first black man ever invited to the White House (guest of TR).

22 David Y February 26, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Excellent and inspirational. Freedom is worth fighting for.

Please keep these coming.

23 Matthew February 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm

All I can say is more! More extolling the manliness of not only, the downtrodden or the famous, but the comon man too from the golden ages of the 30′s-50s but even now n modern day.
Maybe if multple readers ave encountered similar situations usng the comics along with the mantovationals may be a good way of answereing their questions

24 Andy February 26, 2013 at 6:48 pm

More please. Excellent use of visualization, especially liked the rib kick. This must have taken every once of courage left in Douglass’s soul, but the risk and subsequently the reward was paramount to his survival.

Look to what is enslaving you, and kick it in the ribs! Good Motto…

25 Orac February 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Yes, more please. The historical context works well. I hope you’ll mix it up a bit too. Physical struggle is just one means to an end. There are plenty of others.

26 anyguyusa February 26, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Slavery exists because some people and certain societies believe in extreme and inhumane exploitation.

Good on F. Douglas for his bravery in the face of what could have easily been death.

27 jerruy February 26, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Yes, we need this sort of thing.

28 Brendan February 26, 2013 at 7:51 pm

This awesome!

29 Andy February 26, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I have my American History students read Douglas’ autobiography every year. This will be a great supplement. Thanks!

30 Ash February 26, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Great story, beautiful art (so much energy!) Douglass was a hero.

31 Tim February 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Well done! If this comic, and the ones to follow (assuming they’re just as awesome), were made into posters/prints, I would be all over them.

32 Raj February 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I’m glad that AoM did something showing how black Americans can exhibit manliness as well. The premiss of this site is amazing, but one drawback of looking to our grandparents’ generation for inspiration is that the ideal was often exemplified by white males only.

Good job!

33 Jonathan Sheldon February 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm

That’s great. Show this to kids and they might actually learn something.

34 Haydn February 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

This is a good start. Now feature more manly profiles of historical black figures that did the manliest thing possible… Standing up for what was right.

35 Ryan Stowe February 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

This is definitely awesome and would love to see more. Great one for Black History Month.

36 Bryan February 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Very nice summary of his bibliography. If any of you are interested in his book, it’s called “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written By Himself.”

It has a diary/journal feel to it and he paints a very vivid image of his experiences (particularly the whipping of a woman). I highly recommend it.

37 Daniel Brubaker February 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I agree with Nicholas. Teddy Roosevelt should be next!

38 Skyler February 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Very cool. I’d definitely like to see more in the future.

39 Joe Fahnestock February 26, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Great! Brilliant idea glad to see more of Ted’s work keep it coming.

40 Jodon February 26, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Love it, yes more!

41 Rex February 27, 2013 at 12:32 am

Fredrick Douglas’ autobiography is required reading in the 5th grade where I teach. Is there any way to get a couple of printed poster versions of this for the classroom?

42 Ted Larson February 27, 2013 at 4:19 am

A truly inspiring story.

43 MattyB February 27, 2013 at 5:17 am

This sent chills up and down my spine. I’ll add Douglass to my list of heroes!

44 Bubba February 27, 2013 at 5:46 am

This is great. I like the “in his own words” for this one.

Can’t wait to see the next installments.

45 Hau February 27, 2013 at 6:17 am

This post is awesome. Not only meaningful to those who seek for manliness but also to those who seek for inspirations to fight against tyranny

46 jay February 27, 2013 at 6:29 am

Great! More, please.

47 Tom February 27, 2013 at 6:32 am

Hey Brett,
I agree with Caleb and others, the comic wasn’t actually that heavy on text. I enjoyed it a lot, mainly because it was in Douglass’ own words. This comic just illustrated the scene described by Douglass, and it was great.
Plus, taking an event and making it into a comic, to me anyways, seems to open a lot of pathways for ‘artistic interpretation’ to get in the way of factual events. I love the use of Douglass’ own words here, and I’d definitely like to see some more of these in future.

48 Ben February 27, 2013 at 6:42 am


49 Rob Dyson February 27, 2013 at 6:44 am

I am so thankful that one of my high school teachers (probably English/Lit) required us to read Douglas’ autobiography. A very gripping read.

50 Sarah February 27, 2013 at 6:55 am

This was incredible. Really hope to see more of these in the future.

51 Clint February 27, 2013 at 6:59 am


52 Henry February 27, 2013 at 7:20 am

This is easily one of my favorite Black History Month stories! Frederick Douglas, not just in this instance, was a true inspiration in his work as an abolitionist. Frederick Douglas is actually part of my Invisible Cabinet. If you all haven’t read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave, I STRONGLY encourage you folks to pick it up. It’s only about 100 pages and Barnes and Noble sells it for like $8.

53 jason February 27, 2013 at 7:24 am

This was inspiring but the way man is enslaved today is far more subtle (as in ensalved under taxes to pay for debt which is issued under the pretext of a nation’s currency which should be issued without debt). Man first needs to realize he is a salve before he can fight to reclaim his freedom. Most people will not even acknowledge that they are enslaved even when the facts stare directly at them.

54 Andy February 27, 2013 at 8:01 am

I love the history-based comic! Please keep them coming. These will encourage me, as well as others, to read up for more details on specific events.

55 Richard February 27, 2013 at 8:03 am

I’d say this could also work for bullying. Most bullies get away with it because no one is really ready or willing to physically stand up to them. Refuse to be cowed, give as good as you get (but not one whit more – don’t escalate it!), show them that you are not to be trifled with. Once they see that you are no longer going to roll over for them, it takes away whatever pleasure they may derive from the bullying and they ought to leave you alone.

56 Alexander February 27, 2013 at 8:18 am

Great! Love it, guys. Frederick Douglas in indeed an inspiring American figure of manliness. All I can think of right now is how I haven’t had to face half of the trials and tribulations Douglas did during his lifetime – and he still succeeded in life!

57 Kate February 27, 2013 at 8:32 am

Yes, I’m one of the women who visit this site.

Re: comment #15 (“Slaves exist because it is easier to acquiesce than defend yourself”) — I’m glad someone spoke up and noted that slaves exist due to injustice. I will also note here that 80% of slaves today are female, and 50% are children. Do you really expect children to fight back? And, while women can stick up for themselves and fight, how many do you think would really win a victory like Mr. Douglass did, especially when slaves are much cheaper today than they were in the 1800s? Modern slaves are disposable commodities. In the 1800s, they were much more expensive, which would be a bit of a deterrent against killing one’s “investment.” I imagine if I were an enslaved woman who fought back, I’d be killed quickly and replaced by another woman. Don’t blame the victim — blame those who enslave others and those who turn a blind eye to slavery. And if you buy slave-made goods (you probably do without even knowing it), educate yourself, work to change your buying habits, and speak out on behalf of slaves.

58 Samuel February 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

I want to see more Comics Like this. Its a wonderful piece of art for the Manliness! Long live for Men who fight for what is right!

59 brian February 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

I loved the comic, words and all. I also enjoyed how it focused on a man that most people today are ignorant of. That would a great theme going forward. Maybe comics involving like Patton, Ted Williams, and Pope John Paul II.

60 Hal Jordan February 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

Richard you’re basically right. Sometimes fighting back to a bully is the best thing to do.

The comic was very good. I loved it. Fredrick Douglas certainly was a heroic person.

61 Cary February 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks for providing grown men seeking ethical and moral guidance what they really want most…cartoons!

This was brilliant.

Regarding the number of words in the panels, I think it was right on. This is Frederick Douglass, an orator and intellectual, not the Incredible Hulk.

“Don’t make Fredrick Angry Mr. Covey. Fredrick smash RRRRAAAAAHHHHHHH!”.

I oin’t think so.

Now, in order to be a real man like Frederick Douglass, I challenge anybody on this site to fight me for 2 hours straight.

Please note: It’s quite possible I misread the main lesson from the comic. But one lesson I’m sure I got right is: I really like comics….a lot.

62 Keith February 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

Great idea and execution! More comics, please!

63 Josh K February 27, 2013 at 9:27 am

Good comic, and the eloquent speech of Mr Douglass was an essential part of it.

I also agree with #26 (anyguyusa) and #57 (Kate). It doesn’t seem Ed Covey respected Mr Douglass for his persistence, integrity, or some sense of honor or decency. Only a fear of a (proven) stronger force made a difference to Covey (which isn’t very manly).

64 JJR February 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

Very enjoyable; thank you! May I suggest a comic of Polycarp and his famous vision “to play the man”?

65 Jwatts February 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

This was fantastic…we need more of this…maybe even a whole book! I would buy that!

66 Rodney February 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

Awesome. Would you mind if I used this in my American History class?

67 Chad February 27, 2013 at 9:49 am

I really enjoyed the comic book style. The story was excellent. Please make prints available. I would definitely buy.

68 Cory February 27, 2013 at 10:08 am

The message from this was very inspiring, and the comic itself was put together quite well. I would enjoy seeing more of these.

69 Kirk February 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

Nice way to wrap up Black History Month. Bravo.

70 Joel February 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

Very, very cool and inspiring! People have told me over the years that I always have a choice. I’m just not willing to suffer the consequences for it. Frederick did and he didn’t die.

71 Theo February 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

I like it! Wouldn’t want one everyday but say every week, that would be great.

72 Tyler February 27, 2013 at 11:35 am

Really great. I’d love to see more comics like this.

73 G.M. Ortega February 27, 2013 at 11:43 am

Fantastic addition to Black History month. I’m also quite pleased that there’s a small trend at AoM to start to include more MEN of color. Let’s not forget some of the most incredible men who lived in other places on Earth: for example, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Sticking to nonviolent principles is as manly an action as any.) Or lesser known men, like Steven Biko of South Africa who died raising the consciousness of black men and women.

Good work. And carry on!

74 RSM February 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

Enjoyed this. Looking forward to others in the future!

75 Alonso Enriquez February 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm

As my grand daughter says when I feed her breakfast ”MORE! MORE!”.

76 Scarecrow February 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I’d love to see more!

77 GIJive February 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Dear AoM: I love it! Thank you for this fantastic Frederick Douglass story. Please keep these “bad ass” stories coming.

78 Seth February 27, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Excellent, and I definitely would like to see more of these. Very inspiring.

79 Victor P. February 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm


I think this is a phenomenal idea. Its a quick tidbit of history. The text was fine. Historical writings shouldn’t be shortened for convenience sake when conveying an important part of a Man’s life. This is an excellent idea because I can share with friends on Facebook or Reddit, its a quick page, and it’s inspiring.

Keep ‘em coming!

80 Steve February 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

This Original AoM Comic of manly history is great! Hope to see more of them. Great work Brett, Kate and Ted!

81 Levi February 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Brett, I’m hoping I can share this with our local seventh-grade American History teacher for use in the classroom.

I’ve been sharing your articles with young men and women where I teach for nearly two years now- hope that’s okay as well.

82 Spencer February 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Awesome comic, please post more.

83 Ivan K. February 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Great article, particularly because it was in Douglass’ own words – this would not have been the same with a summary. I’d encourage such things for other great historical figures, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nikola Tesla, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Shaka Zulu, etc. Please make this a running series!

84 Veganbeast February 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm

MOAR COMICS PLZ! That was fantastic, i really do hope to see more of these.

85 Ken February 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I liked it. I don’t know if anyone else here is old enough to remember them but it reminded me of the old “Classics Illustrated” comics I used to read as a kid. Keep it up.

86 Leon February 27, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Powerful story. Would like to see more

87 Tim February 27, 2013 at 9:55 pm

This is great. Definitely hoping to see more.

88 Mark Petersen February 28, 2013 at 12:43 am

Totally digging this. Bring more because we need more stories like this.

89 Kris February 28, 2013 at 8:03 am

How about a comic about Norman Borlaug?
Rats running over him, pulling a plough — there’s some good imagery there.

90 Mike February 28, 2013 at 8:12 am

Thanks – Great!

91 Bobtrumpet February 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

A number of Douglass’ writings, including “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is available for free at Project Gutenberg.

92 Ken February 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Death before Slavery!

93 Nestor February 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Great message! Please keep these inspiring comics coming!

94 Dane February 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

A statue of Frederick Douglass has been planned for the campus of Hillsdale College (where he stayed and lectured during much of the Civil War) for a few years now, to stand opposite Lincoln. I hope it comes soon.

95 Harsha March 1, 2013 at 2:57 am

Nice one.. I keep reading all your posts.. Absolutley love the content..

96 Andie March 1, 2013 at 7:06 am

Love it! I also don’t mind the amount of text. Considering it;s a one page comic, I don’t think it’s an issue.

97 Justin March 1, 2013 at 7:46 am

Really great concept, and awesome choice with Fredrick Douglas as the first. The text was fine, not too long at all. The illustration and text supplemented each other very well.

98 Jake Carlson March 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

This was great, bring on some more!

99 James M March 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I have to say i really enjoyed this, and I wasn’t expecting to. It reminded me of some of the comic’s I would see in the Sunday papers back when I was a child.

I hope we have more of these comics in the future.

100 Dann Anthony March 2, 2013 at 6:33 am

Bravo! Douglass’ book is on my long list of must reads that I haven’t got to – this inspires me to make it next.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter