Today marks Frederick Douglass' 199th birthday — and in preparation for his bicentennial, the Maryland abolitionist's descendants have planned a project they hope revives Douglass' legacy.
The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives charity launched the “One Million Abolitionists Project” on Tuesday, an initiative that aims to print and give away 1 million bicentennial-edition copies of Douglass' 1845 autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave," to young people around the country, according to a recent news release.
After recipients read the book, the organization is urging young readers to collaborate with others to create service projects to address social concerns.
Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives — co-founded by Kenneth Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Douglass, his mother Nettie Washington Douglass, Douglass' great-great-granddaughter, and Robert J. Benz* — will present the bicentennial project to the Library of Congress on Feb. 28.
The organization, which aims to educate and fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, has already printed and given away 5,000 books, according to Morris. The hope is to raise money to fund the production of the remaining books.
“Those words still have the power to inspire young people to insist upon rights guaranteed to them in America’s founding documents,” Nettie Washington Douglass said in a statement.
Douglass, who was born a slave on the Eastern Shore, lived in Baltimore before escaping slavery and becoming one of the most revered abolitionists and writers in history. His book is included in the Library of Congress’ “Books that Shaped America” list.
Though Morris said the project has been in planning for some time, the announcement comes just weeks after President Donald Trump's remarks about Douglass gained media attention.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of someone who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,” Trump said.
*Update: This article has been updated to include Robert J. Benz, who also co-founded the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.