Mon. May 16th, 2022

The Frederick Douglass Institute unveiled a historical marker at Phillips Autograph Library on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 11:00 a.m. The marker honors Douglass’ last public speech “Against Lynch Law,” which he gave on February 1, 1895.The marker was provided by Governor Edward Rendell and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Frederick Douglass Institute is represented at all fourteen state schools and West Chester University serves as the link among the universities.

Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist, newspaper editor, U.S. Colored Troops recruiter, U.S. ambassador to Haiti and orator, spoke out against lynching and bigotry. He advocated a pursuit of justice and freedom for all. Dr. Adler remarked that “his teachings are as relevant and vital today as they were then and this marker is a reminder to our commitment to a man who inspired.”

Dr. C. James Trotman is the director of the Frederick Douglass Institute and credited the students with the establishment of the institute. Thirteen years ago, students had discovered that Douglass spoke at the university while they were looking through books in the Phillips Library. On that discovery, the institution was born. The institution’s mission states that “the institute will serve as a catalyst for participating universities to enhance their curricula and enrich their campus climate.” Dr. Trotman said of the institute, “it puts Douglass in the classroom where he belongs, urging students to create a better world.”

Dr. Timothy Brown is the chairman of the institute, Prof. Alexia Hudson is the first academic librarian, Dr. Washella Turner is the first scholar-in-residence and Dr. Latonya Thames-Leonard is the tenure-track appointment from the Frederick Douglass Scholars Program. All spoke of the impact of Douglass’ legacy, as did university president Dr. Madeleine Adler. Tamala Edwards, news anchor for WPVI Channel 6 Action News, was the keynote speaker.

The historical marker stood in front of the room, about six feet tall and hidden by a blue cover as the speakers told the audience of Douglass’ contributions to society. The Phillips Library itself appears full of history, with its’ engraved ceilings, crests painted on the walls, the old-time fireplace and wood encased shelves full of books. The speakers, as well as the atmosphere, reminded the audience of the fight for social progress as well as the advancements that have been made since Frederick Douglass’ time.

Tamala Edwards’ speech was titled “Through the Looking Glass,” as she said that Douglass was not only looking at the past and present of his life, but looking at what the future held for his race. She said, “What he would see is a lot different and a lot better. As he looked forward, we also look back and wonder what it was like then.”

The marker will be placed in the ground in March. Douglass was a frequent visitor to West Chester and the marker honoring him is a great addition to exhibit the history of the area. As Edwards said, “We honor him not only with this marker, but when we speak out about hope, progress, faith and justice.”

The addition of Douglass’ historical marker to the campus will be a reminder of his legacy and the fight for the freedoms to which we as Americans are entitled. Tamala Edwards quoted Douglass as saying, “It is sometimes said that the emancipation of colored people is an experiment, but slavery is the experiment. Freedom is the normal condition.

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