What is AMSA's Diderot Society?
Established in 2019
The Diderot Society’s North Star Journal is named in honor of Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist newspaper he began to publish after he escaped slavery--The North Star. Douglass chose the name to symbolize the importance that runaway slaves attached to the star that guided them on their journey to freedom. For his paper’s motto, Douglass put forth a bold idea: “Right is of no sex—Truth is of no color—God is the Father of us all, and we are brethren.” In The North Star, Douglass relentlessly and courageously attacked slavery and racism. So too did he support suffrage for women.
Douglass was ahead of his time. The positions he took and ideas he advanced, now celebrated, were scorned and mocked by many when he lived. In 1852, when Douglass was asked to reflect on the meaning of the 4th of July he informed fellow Americans to think critically about who they really were and what they truly stood for. “The blessings in which you, this day rejoice,” Douglass declared, “are not enjoyed in common.” Thinking of the millions of his fellow African Americans held in bondage, Douglass continued, “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
For many Americans, Douglass’s articles and speeches were too difficult to comprehend. Often, their response was to ignore what Douglass wrote – or, worse, to respond with threats of violence. Still, Douglass persisted. He was, until his death in 1895, determined to fight against hatred in its many forms. So too was he determined to create a better America for all its citizens. And writing was his essential weapon – the pen was his sword. Looking back on his years of writing for The North Star, Douglass insisted “it was the best school possible for me. It obliged me to think and read, it taught me to express my thoughts clearly.”
The purpose of the Diderot Society’s North Star Journal is to encourage AMSA students to do the same – to think and to write, and to express their thoughts clearly. The North Star Journal will strive to be a journal of informed opinion, of wise and thoughtful advice, and of engaging commentary about many of the issues that confront our community and our nation. Its articles will be diverse – history, philosophy, science, politics and literature – but its goal will be the same. The North Star Journal will inform, educate, engage, and further our collective understanding. Above all, as Douglass wrote in the first edition of his paper, The North Star Journal will seek to be an “advocate of learning.”