Tue. May 28th, 2024

If you value free speech, democracy, education, the right to vote and freedom for all people, take a moment on Monday to thank Frederick Douglass, the distinguished orator, journalist and abolitionist. Monday, February 1 marks the 115th anniversary of Fredrick Douglass’ last public lecture, which was delivered on the campus of West Chester University.The anniversary is a time to reflect on the modern values tied to the Douglass legacy which include reading, writing, caring, self-respect, community, courage, persistence and service, according to Dr. James Trotman director of the Frederick Douglass Institute (FDI) at West Chester University.

“Frederick Douglass was an affirmative voice for everybody’s inalienable right to freedom,” Trotman said. “He was a spokesman for freedom for African Americans and all others denied the promise of American values and democratic principles,” he said.

Douglass’s work in journalism and service should also be noted, Trotman said. “He had an inexhaustible delight in learning. Although he never set foot in a school, he taught us all to read and write more effectively. He was a brave man who displayed tremendous courage in his work to end slavery.”

He was also the second African American to serve as ambassador to Haiti from 1889 to1891. “Douglass loved the Haitian people, and he loved their commitment to democracy,” Trotman explained.

Douglass enjoyed the West Chester area and was a frequent visitor. “He came to West Chester to visit his like-minded friends such as George Morris Phillips, principle of the then West Chester Normal School from 1881 to 1920, and to recharge his battery,” Trotman said.

The FDI works to advance multicultural studies across the curriculum and deepen the intellectual heritage of Douglass. Guided by the spirit of Douglass, the institute aims to create opportunities to build a better community.

Specifically, the institute develops:

1. Scholarship and research with the aid of faculty, doctoral candidates, campus graduate and undergraduate students

2. Outreach by working with public, non-public and independent school teachers

3. Exhibits and forums for the promotion of multiculturalism, and

4. Interdisciplinary studies of race, gender and ethnicity.

The FDI also hosts a summer program for PhDs from under represented populations who may be interested in teaching at the college level. Candidates

come from different races and backgrounds, but participantes are selected by “content” not “color,” Trotman said.

For more information on Douglass or the institute, please visit http://www.wcupa.edu/_academics/fdouglass/ or email fdouglass@wcupa.edu.

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