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Arts Features
Every day there are exciting things going on in Rochester's cultural arts community. Classical 91.5 hosts collaborate with and create highlights of various arts organizations, musicians and artists in and around our community.

Honoring Frederick Douglass in word and song

J. Adam Fenster
University of Rochester Photo

A descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington says Rochester should be the permanent home of an organization dedicated to their legacies.

Kenneth Morris is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington. His non-profit organization, the Douglass Family Initiatives, provides educational programming about modern day slavery and the prevention of human trafficking.

Morris says his team is looking at properties in Rochester that could be the organization's new headquarters, and he will consider feedback from the community about the possible move.

"We started looking at cities that were significant in the life of Frederick Douglass. Rochester, to me, seems like it should be the epicenter of everything Douglass, not only locally, but nationally and internationally.

Morris was a guest on WXXI's Connections with Evan Dawson on Monday.

Morris says there isn't a timeline for the move, but he's optimistic it will happen.

The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives was founded in 2007 and is currently based in Atlanta.

Credit April Franklin / WXXI
From left: Carvin Eison, who is helping lead the bicentennial events honring Frederick Douglass, Olivia Kim, sculptor, and Nettie Washington Douglass, a descendant of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

Morris also talked about the effort at a program held Monday night at Hochstein Performance Hall. He was there along with David Blight, author of a new biography called "Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom."

The event at Hochstein took place on the 171st anniversary of the inaugural edition of Frederick Douglass's first newspaper, the North Star, which he published soon after arriving in Rochester. Blight's lecture happened at the same venue where Douglass's funeral was held in 1895, when it was Central Presbyterian Church.

The event at Hochstein on Monday night included a rendition of "Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass," from a rare piece of sheet music recently acquired by the University of Rochester.

On Tuesday, Blight will join Kenneth Morris Junior, who is a direct descendant of Douglass, at a program being held on the RIT campus from 10am to noon at Wegmans Theater at the MAGIC Spell Studios Building.