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Douglass family nonprofit to move to Rochester

Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass

The family of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass plans to make Rochester the new home for the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

The announcement was made this week by Douglass’ great-great-great grandson, Kenneth Morris Jr., and his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass. The nonprofit’s current home is Atlanta.

“Every day since 2007, our organization has been building a body of work around the question, what would Frederick Douglass be doing if he were here today?” Morris said. “We began by joining the struggle to end modern forms of slavery. FDFI is now recognized as a leader in human trafficking prevention education.”

FDFI is an abolitionist organization co-founded by direct descendants of Douglass and Booker T. Washington. FDFI combines lessons from the legacies of Douglass and Washington, and its mission is to advance freedom through knowledge and strategic action.

“In order to effect change on specific challenges facing this community and many other communities around this nation and the globe, we want to leverage our experience in confronting the deeply rooted dilemma of slavery, of human trafficking,” said FDFI Co-founder Robert Benz, describing the organization’s vision for its work in Rochester. “In Rochester, Douglass found ‘no soil better’ to grow, harvest and share his passion for the pursuit of freedom.”

In January, Mayor Lovely Warren and County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo proclaimed 2018 as “The Year of Frederick Douglass,” encouraging Rochester residents and visitors to celebrate Douglass’ life and legacy.

Rochester was Douglass’ home from 1847 to 1872, and he lived here longer than anywhere else in his life. While in Rochester, Douglass published his newspapers, the North Star and Frederick Douglass’ Paper. He helped friends Amy and Isaac Post in Underground Railroad activities, hosted runaway slaves in his own home, gave speeches, supported women’s suffrage alongside Susan B. Anthony and more before moving his family to Washington, D.C., after his house on South Avenue was burned down.

Douglass died at his home, Cedar Hill, in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, 1895. He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.

FDFI, which has helped install statues of Douglass around town, has been a leader in implementing human trafficking prevention education curricula in classrooms nationally since 2007.

“When I stand in this city that my great-great grandfather called home and chose as his final resting place, I realize that all Rochester residents are heir to his legacy and members of the Douglass family,” Washington Douglass said. “Rochester is where his legacy will continue to live. I think together we can make great things happen here.”

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