Online Forum: Frederick Douglass @ 200

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879 (Photo: George Warren, National Archives and Records Administration).

November 26-30, 2018

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum on Frederick Douglass on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Organized by Brandon R. Byrd (Vanderbilt University), the online forum uses the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth as an opportunity to highlight commemorative, critical reflections, and assessments of Douglass’s ideas and legacy. The forum will feature an interview with Kenneth B. Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass (and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington). It will also feature essays from Neil Roberts (Williams College); Manisha Sinha (University of Connecticut); David Blight (Yale University); Leigh Fought (Le Moyne College); Noelle Trent (National Civil Rights Museum); and Christopher Bonner (University of Maryland, College Park). The forum begins on Monday, November 26, 2018 and concludes on Friday, November 30, 2018.

During the week of the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter; like AAIHS on Facebook; or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the forum.


About the Organizer

Brandon R. Byrd is an Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and an intellectual historian of the 19th and 20th century United States with specializations in African American History and the African Diaspora. He has published articles in numerous outlets including Slavery & Abolition and The Journal of Haitian Studies and his first book, The Black Republic: African Americans, Haiti, and the Rise of Radical Black Internationalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). He is the co-editor of two forthcoming edited volumes: one on the Black intellectual tradition (Northwestern University Press) and a second entitled Haiti for the Haitians, an annotated translation of Haitian intellectual Louis Joseph Janvier’s life and work (Liverpool University Press). Along with co-editing the Black Lives and Liberation series published by Vanderbilt University Press, Byrd is also vice president of the African American Intellectual History Society. Follow him on Twitter @bronaldbyrd.


About the Participants

Kenneth B. Morris is an accomplished and prolific public speaker. He descends from two of the most influential names in American history: he is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. His mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the daughter of Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington), and Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass). Mr. Morris continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). FDFI brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement, FDFI educates young people about all forms of forced servitude and inspires them to action. Current FDFI projects include PROTECT, a partnership with two California-based nonprofit organizations, 3Strands Global and Love Never Failsto provide grade-level appropriate, state standard-compliant human trafficking prevention education to thousands of California schoolchildren from grade school to high school and the One Million Abolitionists project, which with a wide range of partners including the National Park Service, educational institutions, community organizations, and individuals will print and distribute one million copies of a special Bicentennial edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people across the country through the 2018 celebration of the bicentennial of Douglass’s birth. Follow him on Twitter @kmorrisjr.


Neil Roberts received his Ph.D. in Political Science from The University of Chicago with a specialization in political theory. Roberts is the recipient of fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as well as a member of the Caribbean Philosophical Association Board of Directors. His present writings deal with the intersections of Caribbean, Continental, and North American political theory with respect to theorizing the concept of freedom. Roberts is co-editor of both the CAS Working Papers in Africana Studies Series (with Ben Vinson) and a collection of essays (with Jane Anna Gordon) on the theme Creolizing Rousseau (2015), and he is the recent guest editor of a Theory & Event symposium on the Trayvon Martin case. In addition to being on the Executive Editorial Board of Political Theory and former Chair of CPA Publishing Partnerships that includes The C.L.R. James Journaland books with Rowman and Littlefield International, he is author of the award-winning book Freedom as Marronage (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and the collaborative work Journeys in Caribbean Thought(2016). His most recent book is A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass (University Press of Kentucky, 2018). Roberts is President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association (2017-) and, as of July 1, 2018, the W. Ford Schumann Faculty Fellow in Democratic Studies. Follow him on Twitter @neildsroberts.


Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty and received the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in Recognition of Outstanding Graduate Teaching and Advising from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. She is the author of the award-winning book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2017), which received serveral book prizes including, the 2017 Frederick Douglass Prize by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University; the 2017 Best Book Prize by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic; the 2016 Avery O. Craven Award given by the Organization of American Historians; and the 2017 James A. Rawley Award for the Best Book on Secession and the Sectional Crisis published in the last two years, Southern Historical Association. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015. In 2017, she was named one of Top Twenty Five Women in Higher Education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. She is a member of the Board of the Society of Civil War Historians and of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library, co-editor of the “Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900,” series of the University of Georgia Press, and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era and Slavery and Abolition. Follow her on Twitter @ProfMSinha.


David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University. His most recent book is Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom(Simon and Schuster, 2018). Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians. Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); and Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (LSU Press, 1989). Blight is the editor of and author of introductions for six other books, including When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Letters of Charles Harvey Brewster (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Bedford Books, 1993); co-editor with Robert Gooding-Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Bedford Books, 1997); co-editor with Brooks Simpson, Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent State Univ. Press, 1997); and Caleb Bingham, The Columbian Orator (orig. 1797, NYU Press, 1997), the book of oratory and antislavery writings that Frederick Douglass discovered while a youth.  The edited volume, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory, was published by Smithsonian Press in 2004 and is the companion book for the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Follow him on Twitter @davidwblight.


Leigh Fought is the author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass (Oxford University Press, 2017), a biography of the great African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass through the eyes of the women who made his life and career possible. Women in the World of Frederick Douglass won the 2018 Herbert Lehman Prize for Scholarship in New York History and the Society of Historians of the Early Republic’s 2018 Mary Kelly Prize. Fought is an associate professor of history at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, and served as an associate editor on the first volume of Frederick Douglass’s correspondence at the Frederick Douglass Papers, published by Yale University Press in 2009. Her previous work includes Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa McCord (University of Missouri Press, 2003) and Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town (History Press, 2006).


Christopher Bonner is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He specializes in African American history, particularly black protest in the early United States. He is at work on a manuscript titled “The Price of Citizenship,” which examines black activists’ efforts to construct American citizenship before the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. In their public protest statements, black people from across the antebellum free states worked to create a specific, inclusive citizen status, a central project in the long processes of creating American law and society. He is more broadly interested in the roots and results of radical politics, the nature and meanings of historical violence, and the creation of black freedom in a slaveholding republic. His teaching interests include African American politics and culture, slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic world, and race and ethnicity in early America. Originally from Chesapeake, VA, he earned his B.A. from Howard University and Ph.D. from Yale University. Follow him on Twitter @63cjb.


Noelle Trent is the Director of Interpretation, Collections & Education at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. In her role, she has presented nationally and internationally including the European Solidarity Center in Gdansk, Poland. She holds a doctorate in American history for Howard University, and is currently expanding her dissertation Frederick Douglass and the Making of American Exceptionalism into a book. She has worked with several noted organizations including: the National Park Service, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where she contributed to the exhibition Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876 – 1968.  She recently curated the exhibition MLK50: A Legacy Remembered the museum’s 50th anniversary commemorative exhibition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In August, Trent participated in The National Constitution Center’s podcast The Life and Legacy of Frederick Douglass with Jeffrey Rosen and historian David Blight. Follow her on Twitter @NoelleTrentPhD.

**Click here to read the essays in the forum.

Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.