WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) – In an exclusive interview Tuesday, the descendant of Booker T. Washington and great-great-great-grandson to Frederick Douglass tells FOX 5 he believes the Emancipation Memorial, depicting President Abraham Lincoln standing over a shirtless and kneeling formerly enslaved man, should stay.
Kenneth B. Morris Jr. says his wanting to keep the statue in place has to do with the history around it, which includes who paid for it — and the important speech his great-great-great-grandfather Frederick Douglass gave at the unveiling of the statue.
FOX 5 continues to examine the “Race to Equality,” and has been covering the controversy now surrounding the D.C. statue.
On June 25, the National Park Service erected fencing and barriers around the Emancipation Memorial and one other statue located several feet away from it in Lincoln Park. Nationwide, protesters have targeted, and in some cases, toppled statues found to be offensive.
To be clear, Morris believes all Confederate monuments should be removed.
“I don’t put this statue in the same category as Confederate monuments that were put up in the early 19th century as badges of servitude, badges of white supremacy,” he said in a Zoom interview from the West Coast.
The statue was paid for by formerly enslaved people and sits in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Southeast. It depicts a clothed Abraham Lincoln standing with a hand over a kneeling freed slave. The other hand is holding the Emancipation Proclamation.
“The enslaved man who is depicted in the statue is holding up his fist and he’s breaking chains and he’s looking strong. But what also, unfortunately, is depicted in the statue, is that Abraham Lincoln is a dominant white man standing over this enslaved person,” said Jane Levey, a Historian with the Historical Society of Washington D.C tells FOX 5.
“The history behind it is simple and it’s complicated. The simple version is that a formerly enslaved woman in Ohio gave $5 to her former master, her former owner, and asked that it be put towards a monument to Abraham Lincoln. That supported the simple story that got in the newspapers and that caused a lot of people to give money,” said Levey, who tells FOX 5 the more complicated part of that story involves formerly enslaved people seeing a monument to Abraham Lincoln as their way of expressing their joining of white American society during the time of Reconstruction.
The other part of the statue’s history includes its commencement on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.
Morris says in 1876, Frederick Douglass gave one of his most important speeches during his keynote address at the statue unveiling, which happened in front of over 20,000 people and President Ulysses S. Grant.
“He talked about President Lincoln’s failings, he talked about how he was slow to move toward emancipation and he understood that there were issues-problems with that statue. I believe he knew that there would be some criticism,” said Morris.
In that speech, which you can read on the Digital Public Library of America website, Douglass challenged Lincoln’s legacy, noting he was more determined to save the Union, than free enslaved people.
As previously reported, Douglass says in one part: “… truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model.” He goes on to call Lincoln a “white man’s President.”
“He could’ve said, ‘I’m not going to speak because this statue, I don’t agree with it, I don’t think it’s a good representation of people of African descent in this country.’ But he also understood, he was strategic, and he understood he had an opportunity to speak to power structure, those who were in power,” said Morris, who added, “And it would be many, many years later, not until the election of President Barack Obama that a Black man of this country would have the platform that Frederick Douglass had that day.”
DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill to remove the statue.
The one statue of an African American woman is located in the same park but several feet away from the Freedman’s Memorial: the Mary McLeod Bethune statue, honoring an educator and presidential advisor.
Morris, who says he has worked with Holmes Norton on several projects honoring the Abolitionist Frederick Douglass before, has not talked with any D.C. officials yet on his thoughts about the statue yet.
He tells FOX 5 he would like to see another statue or something added alongside it that would tell the story how Black people in America liberated themselves.
“When we look back at the history of this country, Black people self-liberated themselves and that’s not a story that has been told properly,” said Morris.
While at Lincoln Park on Tuesday, FOX 5 also spoke with Don Folden who runs “Capital Buddy Tours.” Folden gives walking tours (and digital tours) of Black history throughout D.C. The Emancipation Memorial at Lincoln Park is one of his stops.
Folden told FOX 5 the statue should remain, and be turned back toward the U.S. Capitol’s Freedom Statue. Folden says the “Freedman’s Memorial” was turned when the Mary McLeod Bethune Statue was completed so it did not look as though the statue was facing Lincoln’s back.
“And that’s just not any statue of a Black man,” Folden said passionately, “That’s Archer Alexander, the last slave captured under the Fugitive Slave Act, which means he’s the first Black man in the world to have a statue in America. But you want to tear that down? Turn it back to its original position, so it’s facing freedom.”
Watch the full remarks of Kenneth B. Morris, Jr, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington, at the Rutgers-Newark Frederick Douglass Celebration. In 1849, famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass visited the African American community in Newark to fundraise for The North Star newspaper and to rally action around the abolition of slavery.
He gave a speech at the Plane Street Colored Church, located at the site which is now Rutgers-Newark’s Frederick Douglass Field. The site was also a stop on the Underground Railroad.
170 years later, on April 17, 2019, Rutgers-Newark and the city of Newark officially dedicated and celebrated the Frederick Douglass Athletic Field, located at University Avenue between Raymond Boulevard and Warren Street. Douglass’ great-great-great grandson Kenneth Morris, Jr. and descendants of the abolitionist families, that worked alongside Douglass, were at the ceremony.
Washington D.C., Jan 9, 2019 / 07:45 am
President Donald Trump signed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act on Tuesday.
The law, which was authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), authorizes $430 million to be spent over the next four years to help combat sex and labor trafficking both in the United States and abroad. This is Smith’s fifth anti-trafficking bill to become law.
“In the fight to end modern day slavery, my law honors the extraordinary legacy of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived,” Smith said of Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became a prominent abolitionist after being freed.
he law provides resources for trafficking prevention education for children; shelter, therapies, and reintegration assistance for trafficking survivors; the facilitation of trafficking-free supply chains in the United States; training of government officials as well as airline industry employees to identify trafficking cases; and oversight to ensure that government purchases are not employing traffickers.
The bulk of the allocations will go to the State Department to fund their educational and diplomatic efforts against trafficking.
The new legislation provides funding to the International Megan’s Law, which was also authored by Smith.
The International Megan’s Law, which was named in memory of Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old who was murdered in 1994 by a convicted pedophile, establishes country-to-country notification about convicted pedophiles who may be traveling to an area for the purposes of sex trafficking or child exploitation.
Since the International Megan’s Law was enacted in February 2016, nearly 3,500 convicted pedophiles have been denied entry to a country. This new bill allocates $18 million in funding to the Department of Justice, Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security spread over three years.
A recent United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report found that there has been an increase in the number of trafficking victims, particularly girls, over the last decade. The total number of people detected as victims of trafficking has increased 40 percent since 2011, but the UN says that this could be due to improvements in detection.
In 2016, the most recent year statistics were available, 23 percent of all detected trafficking victims around the world were girls under the age of 18. In 2004, the first year statistics were made available, only 10 percent of trafficking victims were girls. Boys under the age of 18 accounted for eight percent of detected trafficking victims.
The UNODC found that 94 percent of sex trafficking victims were female. Males accounted for 65 percent of labor trafficking victims. Vulnerable populations, such as Syrian and Rohingya refugees, are at an increased risk of being preyed upon by human traffickers.
This bill is the fifth reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 with previous versions passed in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2013. The Frederick Douglass Act, however, is the first to highlight the increasing relevance of prevention in the fight to end human trafficking by including the strategy within the legislation’s title.
“Unless we reduce the vulnerability of children to this crime, the number of new victims will continue to rise,” said Ashlie Bryant, Co-Founder, CEO & President, 3Strands Global Foundation. “In this bill, human trafficking prevention education is recognized as a critical asset to our anti-trafficking efforts.”
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and President of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives reflects, “If my great ancestor were here today, I believe he would be driven to lead the struggle against contemporary forms of slavery. My family sends a special thanks to Representative Christopher Smith from New Jersey, the entire U.S. Congress and the President for permitting the Douglass legacy to do just that.”
Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI) is an Abolitionist organization co-founded by direct descendants of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.
Our mission: To Advance Freedom through Knowledge and Strategic Action.
FDFI has been a leader in implementing human trafficking prevention education curricula in classrooms nationally since 2007. To learn more about human trafficking prevention education, go to www.PROTECTnow.org and www.FDFI.org.
In February of 2018, Governor Larry Hogan signed a proclamation declaring 2018 as the “Year of Frederick Douglass” to honor the 200th anniversary of Maryland’s own, abolitionist, writer, and orator. Join us as we celebrate his life and legacy. Special guest speaker: Kenneth B. Morris, Founder of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.
Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM EST
84 Franklin Street
Annapolis, MD 21401
David Blight, a renowned historian whose new book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, has been published to glowing reviews, will be in Rochester Dec. 3 and 4 for two engagements co-sponsored by RIT.
David Blight, a renowned historian whose new book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, has been published to glowing reviews, will be in Rochester Dec. 3 and 4 for two engagements co-sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology.
Blight will be the featured speaker at “Prophet of Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Word and Song,” at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 Plymouth Ave., Rochester.
The event, co-sponsored by the University of Rochester, also includes musical performances.
It is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.
Blight, the Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, wrote his book after a decade of research on Douglass—who spent much of his life in Rochester and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
The book, which reviewers have called “monumental,” “moving” and “brilliant,” includes new insights from a private collection of letters on the Douglass family. Blight says Douglass was not only among the most famous Americans of the 19th century, but one of the nation’s most original and enduring voices.
The event at Hochstein will pay special attention to Rochester’s importance in Douglass’s life. The program will take place on the 171st anniversary of the inaugural edition of Frederick Douglass’s first newspaper, The North Star, which he published on Dec. 3, 1847, soon after arriving in Rochester. Blight’s lecture will occur in the same venue where Douglass’s funeral was held in 1895, when it was Central Presbyterian Church.
Blight will sign copies of his book after the presentation. RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection has created a bookplate inspired by Douglass’s TheNorth Star newspaper and printed on an iron hand press. The bookplate image will be inserted in copies of Blight’s books.
The program will also feature special musical performances, including a rendition of “Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass,” a rare piece of sheet music recently acquired by the University of Rochester. Originally published in 1847 in Great Britain, where Douglass fled to avoid re-enslavement after publishing his first autobiography, the song depicts Douglass as a heroic freedom fighter.
A spiritual invocation and benediction will be offered by three members of the Rochester clergy—Rev. Julius Jackson, Muhammad Shafiq and Rabbi Peter Stein—and several spirituals will be performed by Thomas Warfield, director of dance at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
“We are thrilled to co-sponsor this event with the University of Rochester and bring David Blight to Frederick Douglass’s longtime home,” said Richard Newman, a history professor at RIT.
“This exciting program will allow the entire city to more deeply reflect on the life and legacy of Douglass during the bicentennial of his birth,” said Jessica Lacher-Feldman, assistant dean and the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation at UR.
On Dec. 4, Blight will join Kenneth Morris Jr., a direct descendant of Douglass, at a program on RIT’s campus, “American Diversity & Frederick Douglass: Lessons from the Prophet of Freedom,” from 10 a.m. to noon in Wegmans Theater in the MAGIC Spell Studios Building at RIT.
The first hour will feature commentary by Robert Benz, co-founder and executive vice-president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, an advocacy organization dedicated to community outreach; Carvin Eison, project director for Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Committee; and Olivia Kim, adjunct professor in RIT’s School of Art and Design, who was commissioned to produce 13 statues of Douglass during the city’s Frederick Douglass Bicentennial this year. The second hour will feature a dialogue between Blight and Morris on the life of Douglass.
Blight will sign books immediately after the discussion, which is sponsored by RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, Department of History, Faculty Career Development in the Innovative Learning Institute, The Caroline Werner Gannett Chair in Digital Humanities, the School of Individualized Study, and the Center for Statesmanship, Law and Liberty.
*This post is part of our online forum on the life of Frederick Douglass.
In today’s post, Christopher Shell, PhD Student in History at Michigan State University, interviews Kenneth B. Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. His mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the daughter of Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington), and Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass). Mr. Morris continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (@DouglassFamily). The organization brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement. Current FDFI projects include the One Million Abolitionists project, which aims to distribute one million copies of a special Bicentennial edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people across the country. Follow him on Twitter @kmorrisjr.
Black Perspectives, the award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS),is hosting an online forum on Frederick Douglass on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Organized by Brandon R. Byrd (Vanderbilt University), the online forum uses the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth as an opportunity to highlight commemorative, critical reflections, and assessments of Douglass’s ideas and legacy. The forum will feature an interview with Kenneth B. Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass (and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington). It will also feature essays from Neil Roberts (Williams College); Manisha Sinha (University of Connecticut); David Blight (Yale University); Leigh Fought (Le Moyne College); Noelle Trent (National Civil Rights Museum); and Christopher Bonner (University of Maryland, College Park). The forum begins on Monday, November 26, 2018 and concludes on Friday, November 30, 2018.
Brandon R. Byrd is an Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and an intellectual historian of the 19th and 20th century United States with specializations in African American History and the African Diaspora. He has published articles in numerous outlets including Slavery & Abolition and The Journal of Haitian Studies and his first book, The Black Republic: African Americans, Haiti, and the Rise of Radical Black Internationalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). He is the co-editor of two forthcoming edited volumes: one on the Black intellectual tradition (Northwestern University Press) and a second entitled Haiti for the Haitians, an annotated translation of Haitian intellectual Louis Joseph Janvier’s life and work (Liverpool University Press). Along with co-editing the Black Lives and Liberation series published by Vanderbilt University Press, Byrd is also vice president of the African American Intellectual History Society. Follow him on Twitter @bronaldbyrd.
About the Participants
Kenneth B. Morris is an accomplished and prolific public speaker. He descends from two of the most influential names in American history: he is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. His mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the daughter of Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington), and Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass). Mr. Morris continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). FDFI brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement, FDFI educates young people about all forms of forced servitude and inspires them to action. Current FDFI projects include PROTECT, a partnership with two California-based nonprofit organizations, 3Strands Global and Love Never Fails, to provide grade-level appropriate, state standard-compliant human trafficking prevention education to thousands of California schoolchildren from grade school to high school and the One Million Abolitionists project, which with a wide range of partners including the National Park Service, educational institutions, community organizations, and individuals will print and distribute one million copies of a special Bicentennial edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people across the country through the 2018 celebration of the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth. Follow him on Twitter @kmorrisjr.
Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty and received the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in Recognition of Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Advising from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. She is the author of the award-winning book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2017), which received serveral book prizes including, the 2017 Frederick Douglass Prize by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University; the 2017 Best Book Prize by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic; the 2016 Avery O. Craven Award given by the Organization of American Historians; and the 2017 James A. Rawley Award for the Best Book on Secession and the Sectional Crisis published in the last two years, Southern Historical Association. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015. In 2017, she was named one of Top Twenty Five Women in Higher Education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. She is a member of the Board of the Society of Civil War Historians and of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library, co-editor of the “Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900,” series of the University of Georgia Press, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era and Slavery and Abolition. Follow her on Twitter @ProfMSinha.
David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University. His most recent book is Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom(Simon and Schuster, 2018). Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians. Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); and Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (LSU Press, 1989). Blight is the editor of and author of introductions for six other books, including When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Letters of Charles Harvey Brewster (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Bedford Books, 1993); co-editor with Robert Gooding-Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Bedford Books, 1997); co-editor with Brooks Simpson, Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent State Univ. Press, 1997); and Caleb Bingham, The Columbian Orator (orig. 1797, NYU Press, 1997), the book of oratory and antislavery writings that Frederick Douglass discovered while a youth. The edited volume, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory, was published by Smithsonian Press in 2004 and is the companion book for the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Follow him on Twitter @davidwblight.
Leigh Fought is the author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass (Oxford University Press, 2017), a biography of the great African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass through the eyes of the women who made his life and career possible. Women in the World of Frederick Douglass won the 2018 Herbert Lehman Prize for Scholarship in New York History and the Society of Historians of the Early Republic’s 2018 Mary Kelly Prize. Fought is an associate professor of history at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and served as an associate editor on the first volume of Frederick Douglass’s correspondence at the Frederick Douglass Papers, published by Yale University Press in 2009. Her previous work includes Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa McCord (University of Missouri Press, 2003) and Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town (History Press, 2006).
Christopher Bonnerspecializes in African American history, particularly black protest in the early United States. He is at work on a manuscript titled “The Price of Citizenship,” which examines black activists’ efforts to construct American citizenship before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. In their public protest statements, black people from across the antebellum free states worked to create a specific, inclusive citizen status, a central project in the long processes of creating American law and society. He is more broadly interested in the roots and results of radical politics, the nature and meanings of historical violence, and the creation of black freedom in a slaveholding republic. His teaching interests include African American politics and culture, slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic world, and race and ethnicity in early America. Originally from Chesapeake, VA, he earned his B.A. from Howard University and Ph.D. from Yale University. Follow him on Twitter @63cjb.
Noelle Trent is the Director of Interpretation, Collections and Education at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Trent earned her doctorate in American History at Howard University. Her dissertation, “Frederick Douglass and the Making of American Exceptionalism,” examines how the noted African-American abolitionist and activist influenced the development of the American ideas of liberty, equality and individualism, which later coalesced to form the ideology of American exceptionalism. Trent is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has worked with several noted organizations and projects, including the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Park Service, Catherine B. Reynolds Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of American History. She has presented papers and lectures at the American Historical Association, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Lincoln Forum and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Follow her on Twitter @NoelleTrentPhD.