Frederick Douglass at 200: His Legacy in Our Time

AHA Session 300
Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Virginia Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
A J Aiséirithe, Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Community
Kenneth Morris Jr., Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
Ka'mal McClarin, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, National Park Service
Hélène Quanquin, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle
Frank Smith, African American Civil War Memorial and Museum
David W. Blight, Yale University

Session Abstract

Douglass’s was an epic American life. It spanned most of the nineteenth century. In many ways, his journey to maturity unfolded in tandem with that of the United States itself. Douglass became an international celebrity in his lifetime, serving as an ambassador first culturally and later officially. His life illuminates important and compelling stories about the United States and the countries he visited. Douglass traveled to (among other places) England, Ireland, Scotland, Egypt, Canada, and Haiti.

The bicentennial of Douglass’s birth falls in 2018 (February 14th in fact). It offers an extraordinary opportunity for teaching, storytelling, commemoration, and celebration, linking the local and the global. Programs and events will take place around the globe.

And even we--who began planning for his bicentennial a few years ago—are continually struck anew by ways in which Douglass’s legacy speaks to people and to politics today.

Here in the District of Columbia, where Douglass made his home for the last quarter-century of his life, a network has been forming among all the people, places, organizations, educational institutions, artists, and community groups worldwide who will mark Frederick Douglass’s bicentennial.

The proposed Roundtable brings together representatives of such organizations, diverse in location, mission, and focus. All share an interest in bringing Douglass’s life and legacy to wider audiences, and in connecting with likeminded others. This session showcases for conference attendees the vibrancy, innovation, and increasing interconnectedness of goals and programming among scholars and educational institutions, museums, stewards of historic sites and other interpreters of history for the public, human rights organizations, artists, and community groups. All aim to engage directly with questions of what Douglass’s past has to teach the present.

As a preview of bicentennial projects already begun, this session presents a diverse and democratic global bicentennial community in keeping with Douglass’s own lifelong commitment to diversity, to education and literacy, and to civic participation. The audience for our bicentennial community and programs encompasses students and teachers, artists, writers, churches, community groups, those who work in cultural heritage and historical interpretation of all kinds, as well as large swaths of the general public. We expect the audience for this session will be as similarly diverse as annual meeting attendance rules allow.

The four presenters and the commentator will each be held to a strict time limit of ten (10) minutes for their presentations, for a total of fifty (50) minutes. We will have printed flyers to distribute to the audience containing the short CVs or biographical paragraphs of all roundtable participants, thus eliminating the need for lengthy introductions. The chair will identify the participants, indicate the order of their presentations, and keep time, for an additional five (5) minutes. This will leave thirty-five (35) minutes for audience Q & A and discussion.

See more of: AHA Sessions