In 1892 Frederick Douglass represented the Republic of Haiti at the Chicago World's Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition. At this, the first of the great world fairs, the United States exhibit did not acknowledge the culture, history, contributions, intellect or talent of a single Afro-American man or woman. While in Chicago, Frederick Douglass met Ida B. Wells, the intrepid and courageous, black anti-lynching crusader and journalist, who gave him first hand accounts of the lynchings she had seen throughout the South. Summarily executed, primarily on the charge of rape, hundreds of black men were losing their lives to what Douglass called "mobocrats." That the rights and justice so sorely fought for during the Civil War and aspired to during Reconstruction were being overridden by an epidemic of mob violence, racism and color prejudice had enraged and disheartened the despondent Frederick Douglass. Miss Wells fervor re-kindled Douglass' fiery spirit to write one last, great speech. Two years later, having refined his thoughts in several newspaper pieces, and, at age 76, Mr. Douglass delivered "The Lesson of the Hour: Why the Negro Is Lynched" at the historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C. The speech describes the persistent causes of racism in America, condemns lynch law, and proposes a solution: justice.
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Mr. Morsell delivered The Lesson of the Hour on Sunday, January 9, 1994, at Washington, D.C.'s historic Metropolitan A.M.E. Church on the speech's exact 100th anniversary. The Washington Post gave the event front page coverage, which resulted in Bill Moyers reading the story and inviting Mr. Morsell to return to Washington to film the speech for the February 1994 Bill Moyers Journal. TBM Records producer Tanya Bickley adds, "One of my most powerful memories sees Fred Morsell, in preparation for his performance, quietly walking down the aisle to the pew where Mr. Douglass customarily sat. Fred stood behind the pew, ran his hands over the back of the pew, and remained in repose for several minutes. He then walked back down the aisle, spoke briefly with the director, and Mr. Moyers crew began to film." Of that performance The New York Times (February 18, 1994) said, "Even 100 years later, sadly enough, the speech goes to the very heart of the black experience in America. The standing ovation given Mr. Morsell is clearly and deservedly heartfelt."About the Author:
19th century America's s most famous Afro-American leader, renowned at home and abroad as an orator, abolitionist, organizer and publisher, Frederick Douglass was also a self-proclaimed "woman's rights man." Death has not silenced him and he has taken his place with Lincoln and Jefferson as one of America's greatest citizens. Upon his shoulders stand Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and millions of private citizens whose thirst and quest for justice and humanity have been inspired by Douglass' life, writings and example.
Born a slave near the Wye Plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) knew the personal agony and fury of slavery and escaped the slave system in mind, body and soul. While still in physical bondage, he taught himself to read and write and began to gain an appreciation of the power of the spoken word to bring about change.
He escaped north in 1838 and immediately sent for Anna Murray, a free black woman whom he had met and fallen in love with while living in Baltimore. After their marriage in New York City by the famous black preacher James W. Pennington, they traveled to New Bedford, Massachusetts, found work, made their home, and began their family. A voracious reader, Douglass also became a literate man. About Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass once said, "While it is true that Anna never learned to read and write, she was the source and strength of all my success in the formative and as well as the maturing years of my life, a companion who was truly a helpmate." Anna died in August 1882, one month short of their 44th wedding anniversary. In January 1884, Mr. Douglass married Helen Pitts, a college trained white woman and abolitionist who had been his secretary in the Recorder of Deeds office in Washington, D.C. Theirs was a happy marriage. After her husband'death, Helen Pitts Douglass fought to keep Frederick Douglass' memory alive and his "Cedar Hill" home in Anacostia, belongings and writing secure for future generations.
Having "the heart to conceive, the head to contrive, and the hand to execute," Frederick Douglass gave his first public, anti-slavery speech on August 11, 1841 on the steps of Nantucket Island'public library, the Atheneum, during a meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Thus began one of the most remarkable public lives in American history. With an intelligence and eloquence rarely matched, Frederick Douglass in speeches, newspaper pieces and autobiographies, described racial injustice in America. Mr. Douglass achieved international prominence as an abolitionist, publisher of The North Star, advisor to Abraham Lincoln and a defender of women's rights.
Considered by many to be the father of the civil rights movement in the United States, Frederick Douglass called upon all Americans, and especially people of color, to struggle and work to make the society envisioned by the Declaration of Independence a reality for Americans of all races, colors, classes and gender. He held several major government jobs as Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C.. Marshall of the District of Washington, and Minister General to the Republic of Haiti. In August 1855, the Liberty Party nominated Douglass for the office of Secretary of State of New York, the first Afro-American to be accorded such an honor. At his death, Frederick Douglass was America's best known and most distinguished Afro-American leader. Many people are of the opinion that Mr. Douglass' noble head belongs on Mt. Rushmore.
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