Frederick Douglass: Critical Race Theorist?

Milwaukee Lawyers Chapter

In the midst of his career, abolitionist and public intellectual Frederick Douglass experienced a change of mind regarding the Constitution’s relation to slavery, declaring it a “GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT” rather than the irredeemably pro-slavery charter he had once believed it to be along with many of his contemporaries.  This about-face has moved some, past and present, to suspect his reading was ultimately dictated by interest rather than principle, and also to suspect that he really was much more condemnatory of the Founders' Constitution than he later let on.  If those suspicions are correct, then he would stand as something of an early progenitor of what is known as critical race theory, or CRT.  Peter C. Myers, Professor of Political Science at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, will join us to discuss this charge and his position that it is ultimately incorrect.  In Dr. Myers’ view, Douglass stands as a defender of both the Founders' Constitution and the natural-rights liberalism that animated it—that is, as a member of the 1776 school, not the 1619 school.

Dr. Myers is a graduate of Northwestern University (B.A.) and Loyola University Chicago (M.A., Ph.D.).  He teaches political philosophy, American political thought, and U.S. Constitutional law and his research focuses on African-American political thought, classical liberal political thought, and the political thought of the American Founding and Civil War eras.  Among other distinctions, he was the 2016-17 B. Kenneth Simon Fellow in American Political Thought at the Heritage Foundation.  He is the author of Our Only Star and Compass: Locke and the Struggle for Political Rationality and Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism.

Please join us to hear about Frederick Douglass and critical race theory.


  • Peter C. Myers, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire