February is another month of holidays–Valentine’s Day, and of course, Presidents Day, which celebrates the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But there is another famous birthday in February–that of the former slave, orator, and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. In fact, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which originated what was once called “Negro History Week,” chose the second week of February in 1926 for the observance in order to honor the birthdays of Lincoln and Douglass. (In 1976, “Negro History Week” was expanded to become what we know as “Black History Month”).
Saturday, February 11th, 2012 was a celebration of the 194th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birth, and the Washington Revels Jubilee Voices marked that occasion with a performance at his former estate, Cedar Hill, in Southeast Washington. The group shared songs, stories, and readings from Mr. Douglass’ time, including the stirring reading, “Men of Color! To Arms!” an essay used to encourage African American men to join the Union Army.
The famous leader of the abolitionist movement died in February 1895 at age 77. Born into slavery, Douglass escaped to spend his life fighting for justice and equality for all people. His tireless struggle, brilliant words, and inclusive vision of humanity continue to inspire and sustain people today.
The theme of this year’s event was “Abolition,” and featured programs on Frederick Douglass’ work, as well as the ongoing fight against slavery today. US Ambassador CdeBaca delivered the keynote address, and winners of the annual oratorical contest, open to students across the country, recited excerpts from a Frederick Douglass speech.