African-American History Month is celebrated in February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and Frederick Douglas, Jr. (February 14th). In fact, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) experienced personal transformation in his recovery from alcoholism. His experiences, in part, laid the groundwork for the recovery movement.
Douglas escaped slavery, became an internationally renowned author and social reformer. He was the dominant force in the political drive to emancipate American slaves and was also a prominent advocate within the temperance movement. Douglass challenged African Americans (slave and free) to abstain from drinking. He believed abstinence from alcohol to be an act of personal emancipation and as a first step for full citizenship for previously enslaved African-Americans. He framed a commitment to sobriety as a stairway to freedom. The journey of recovery, as experienced by Frederick Douglas, has shaped the responses to alcohol and other drug problems in communities of color.
Despite the emancipation of the slaves in the United States, poverty, and socioeconomic factors have impacted the prevalence of substance abuse in communities of color. And environmental factors, such as a large number of liquor stores in these communities, influence the heavy use of alcohol. Fredrick Douglas embraced spirituality and broad social change as pathways to recovery. He believed that African Americans in recovery can draw strength, meaning, and purpose from their individual and collective survival. Spirituality continues to be a key component of the African-American personality and culture and is a key source of strength and tenacity as the individual begins the journey of recovery.
Need Immediate Help?
Call the Reading Hospital 24-Hour Addiction Hotline at (484) 628-8186 or Treatment Access and Services Center (TASC) at (610) 375-4426.
By Yvonne Stroman, Council on Chemical Abuse, Program Representative