Series of events honoring Frederick Douglass' 200th birthday planned

ORANGE COUNTY (December 20, 2017) -- Several organizations and community groups are planning events in 2018 to commemorate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass through music, readings from his autobiography and several visionary art performances.

The series of performances kicks off Jan. 18 with a community celebration at the United Church of Chapel Hill. Visionary artist Tarish Pipkins, aka Jeghetto, will unveil his newest creation, a Frederick Douglass puppet and multi-media performance. Mary D. Williams, acclaimed gospel singer and scholar, will celebrate Douglass by singing the story of the African-American experience - from slavery to abolition and beyond.

“Frederick Douglass was a transformative figure within the development and history of this nation,” said James E. Williams, Jr., former public defender for Orange County and a member of the committee planning the bicentennial events throughout the county. “He escaped from slavery and became one of the critical figures in propelling this nation toward the abolition of slavery. In those bleak times, he had a vision and a hope for a better life, and he fought for that. He was truly a remarkable person whose contributions to our nation deserve to be celebrated.”

Douglass was born in February 1818, although his exact birth date was not recorded. Congress approved and President Trump signed legislation in November creating the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission as part of a nationwide celebration of the 200th birthday of the famed 19th-century abolitionist, writer and public servant.

The yearlong celebration began when all local governments in the county adopted a proclamation recognizing Dec. 6 as Abolition Day.

The events are funded by Orange County, the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Carrboro, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, the UNC Center for the Study of the American South, Orange Organizing Against Racism and Marion Phillips.

As part of the celebration, the organizations purchased 1,000 copies of a commemorative edition of "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave." The books will be distributed throughout the community, with an emphasis on youth, as part of the national One Million Abolitionists effort led by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

The FDFI is seeking to print one million hardcover copies of the book in 2018 to be given to young people, who will be asked to create service projects to address an urgent social justice issue present in their community.

  • Click here for an updated listing of scheduled events.