DOINews: National Park Service Celebrates Life, Legacy of Frederick Douglass

Last edited 09/05/2019

NPS photos of the Douglass' 197th birthday event
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site celebrates Douglass 197th birthday by sponsoring events on Feb. 13-14, 2015. View additional photos of the celebration on the park's Facebook page here.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site sponsored special events in historic Anacostia on Feb. 13 and 14 in recognition of Frederick Douglass' 197th birthday.

The site partnered with the Anacostia Arts Center, America's Islamic Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, the Anacostia Community Museum, the Anacostia Playhouse, the Anacostia Business Improvement District, and the Ward 8 Arts and Culture Council to present programs and activities honoring the abolitionist, civil rights advocate, author, and statesman.

“The National Park Service is proud to preserve the home of Frederick Douglass and this annual celebration of Douglass' birthday is an excellent opportunity to share how his life and legacy continue to inspire people today,” said Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail. “By working with partners and supporters who care about the community and its history, we were able to expand today's events and reach an even greater audience.”

This year's theme was "Frederick Douglass and Family." Workshops focused on genealogy and scrapbooking, and special tours and programs explored historic Anacostia during the time the Douglass family called it home. More than 400 visitors attended the programs.

The celebration kicked off earlier in the week when park rangers visited schools in Wards 5, 7, and 8. Rangers visited 12 elementary schools and one special-education campus. They talked to more than 700 students about the Douglass family tree and gave them genealogy worksheets to complete at home with their families.

The opening ceremony took place at the Anacostia Playhouse on Saturday, Feb. 14, and featured recitations from the winners of the 2014 Douglass Oratorical Contest and performances from the Washington Revels' Jubilee Voices. Historian Leigh Fought from Le Moyne College gave the keynote address.

Throughout the weekend, visitors were able to tour the grounds and historic house at Cedar Hill, Douglass' name for his estate, and see an exhibit in the visitor center interpreting the significance of family in Douglass' life. A professional actor gave two dramatic performances of Douglass' stirring “Lessons of the Hour” speech.

One of the highlights this year was a life-sized wax-museum figure that was temporarily loaned to the site from Madame Tussauds in Washington, D.C. Douglass is depicted circa 1879, wearing a simple black frock coat and trousers.

“This is our signature event,” District Manager Julie Kutruff said. “Each year we look forward to connecting with the community and sharing the legacy of Frederick Douglass. We use the Birthday Celebration to strengthen partnerships and increase public knowledge on a new aspect of Douglass' life.”

Staff from Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens assisted with programming. Boston African American National Historic Site and New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park graciously sent trading cards for the 54th Massachusetts, Charles Douglass, and Lewis Douglass, which rangers and volunteers passed out to visitors.

By: Nate Johnson, park ranger, Frederick Douglass NHS, NPS

Feb. 24, 2015

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