Monday, February 2, 2015

New Depth of Meaning for President Obama's North Star

Regular readers here know that President Obama often refers to the "North Star" that guides him in navigating the challenging waters of American politics. This weekend I referred to one of the times the President talked about his North Star in a post at the Political Animal blog. Commenter West_of_the_Cascades pointed out a part of the history of that term that I was not aware of.

This morning I googled to confirm what s/he said. And it's true.

He [Frederick Douglass] used his oratorical skills in the ensuing years to lecture in the northern states against slavery. He also helped slaves escape to the North while working with the Underground Railroad. He established the abolitionist paper The North Star on December 3, 1847, in Rochester, NY, and developed it into the most influential black antislavery paper published during the antebellum era. It was used to not only denounce slavery, but to fight for the emancipation of women and other oppressed groups. Its motto was "Right is of no Sex - Truth is of no Color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren."
The usage of "North Star" has a long historical record. But I'm certain that someone as well-versed in history as our President is aware of this particular usage. Because it aligns so well with his core beliefs, knowing this brings a whole new depth of meaning and symbolism to what he's been saying about his own North Star all these years.


  1. I always thought that was the reference. Thank you for confirming it and expanding on it. I'd only heard it spoken of as an image and not the full context. Even MORE powerful! This sense of historical continuity gives me goosebumps! I so appreciate your providing this reference.

  2. There's also the use of the celestial North Star as a guide for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad, a practice turned into metaphor in the spiritual "Follow the Drinking Gourd".