Monday, September 17th • Part of The Walden Woods Project Stewardship Lectures • Co-sponsored by the Robbins House
Frederick Douglass visited Concord numerous times between 1841-1844 (persuaded early on by Mary Merrick Brooks, above) to spread his message of antislavery activism with stories about his own enslavement from birth to age twenty. Last week Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. followed his great-great-great grandfather’s footsteps to Concord, speaking at the Walden Woods Project about modern day slavery and the power of education and awareness to end it. Mr. Morris was as inspirational and engaging an orator as his ancestor must have been, and believes they both had a calling to do their work.
Ken grew up under the long shadow and “weight of expectation” of his famous forefathers. He described visiting his family summer home where “the steely eyes in a larger than life portrait of Frederick Douglass followed me whenever I tiptoed by.”
Ken’s extraordinary lineage flows through his mother’s family, when his grandmother, Nettie Hancock Washington II (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, famed educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute), and his grandfather, Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great grandson of Frederick Douglass, called “the father of the civil rights movement”) bumped into each other on the campus of Tuskegee Institute and married three months later. When Ken’s mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, was born she was the first to unite the bloodlines.
Ken began his career as a singer, and later became a partner at a leading marketing and entertainment firm. When Ken first heard about human trafficking, he was motivated to act because he couldn’t look his young daughters in the eyes and walk away.
In June 2007, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI) was co-founded by Mr. Morris, his mother Nettie Washington Douglass, and Robert J. Benz. Their mission is to advance freedom through knowledge and strategic action. Based on their experience and the opinions of leading experts in the ﬁeld, FDFI founders believe that education and awareness are the ﬁrst step to ending human trafﬁcking in our lifetimes.
In 2018, to honor Douglass’s 200th birthday, FDFI will print one million hardcover copies of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave and give them to young people in schools across the country. They then ask the readers of this special Bicentennial Edition to create service projects to address an urgent social justice issue present in their community. The goal of the “One Million Abolitionists Project” is to see one million young people working toward equality in the spirit of Frederick Douglass.
“When we work with students,” Ken’s mother has explained, “we can accomplish several things at once: provide an interesting narrative about an important period in our history that is often overlooked; inspire modern Abolitionists; provide timely information that may prevent young people themselves from becoming victims and help create better world citizens.”
Ken Morris, we can’t help thinking after his talk, would have made his famous ancestors immensely proud.