Donald Trump, at a breakfast with African-American supporters marking the start of African-American History Month, described famed 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.”
Trump spoke Wednesday about Douglass – who died in 1895 – and Martin Luther King Jr. through the context of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian museum that opened in 2016.
“I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things,” Trump said. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
Trump added: “Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.”
Sean Spicer, asked about Trump’s comment on Wednesday, sought to clear up how Trump thinks Douglass will be recognized “more and more.”
“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made and I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer said.
Honoring Douglass at the start of Black History Month is common for both Democratic and Republican presidents. In 2002, President George W. Bush lauded Douglass’ relationship with President Abraham Lincoln, describing them as “two men, very different, who together ended slavery.”
And then-President Bill Clinton urged people to visit Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington.
Douglass was born a slave in Maryland in 1818 and was launched into the pantheon of black leaders when he published an autobiography – “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American” – that described his life from slave to statesman and someone who had Lincoln’s ear on slavery and the Civil War.