Frederick Douglass is known best for his theory that knowledge equates freedom. At the age of 13, he was already learning how to read articles about the abolition of slavery, and years later, he freed himself. One of the most respected leaders of the 19th century, he has been credited as an black activist as well as a womens rights leader, rapidly shaping the lives of those who heard his voice. In 1845, he published, “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass,” which most West Chester students have probably become aware of in their classes. After fleeing to Europe that same year to avoid a return to slavery, he was bought and made free in 1847 by his abolitionist friends. Also the creator of The North Star, Douglass issued the “Man of Color to Arms,” which urged blacks to join the Army. On Feb. 1, 1895, he delivered his last public lecture, a powerful speech to what was then the West Chester Normal School, leaving students impressed by his low yet passionate tone.
He died later that month. Frederick Douglass has long served as an inspiration to achieve excellence with great spirit and no regrets. The groundbreaking activist shared his story to millions during his lifetime and frequently offered hope to those whom he encountered. Even after his death,the powerful visionary still continues his legacy through books, teachers, conferences, and even an institute.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, a third year traditional event in Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, will honor his tributes. The event, which will begin at 7:30 p.m., will be sponsored by the Black Student Union, will feature Nikki Giovanni as the keynote speaker, and willbe open to the public with free tickets required. Friday morning, a continental breakfast will be served in Sykes Ballroom, followed by three sessions. The sessions are titled as follows: Douglass and his Impact on 19th Century America, Readings with Frederick Douglass: Tools for Teaching and Learning with Power, and Passing the Torch: New Scholars Discuss Douglass.
After lunch, which will feature a presentation about Kwame Nkrumahʼs Vision and Contributions to the Pan African Movement, the conference will proceed with three more sessions; In Recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Douglass as a Transformative Figure, and Douglass, Culture and Curriculum: An Educational Forum. Later, renowned actor Fred Morsell will display the play, “Presenting Frederick Douglass.”
There will also be an opportunity to purchase tickets for a trip to the Douglassʼ home in Washington, D.C., an opportunity for students and faculty to expand their knowledge about the manʼs personal, professional, and political experiences.
Dr. James Trotman, a professor at West Chester University, founder and director of the Institute, feels Douglass is an imperative figure for all students to learn about, one who has made a marked impact on the lives of many. It is his goal to spread Douglassʼ history and learnings to his students, who frequently reap the benefits of such knowledge. Trotman is very enthusiastic about the Institute and how profound an effect it has made on the many who involve themselves in it.
Tickets for the event are free, but mandatory. For information on the trip to The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, you can call the Institute at 610-436-2766.