Frederick Douglass descendants kick off One Million Abolitionists Project

Frederick Douglass' family talks about history

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Frederick Douglass, a slave who taught himself how to read and write, became an orator, journalist, and civil rights advocate.

His legacy lives on in his words and ancestors.

"It hit me... hands that touched the great Frederick Douglass and hands that touched the great Booker T. Washington, also touched mine."

Those powerful words and imagery came from Kenneth B. Morris Jr., the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington.

"What I hope to do for you guys today is make history come alive," Morris said.

He and his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, are the direct descendants of those American heroes.

She has the blood of both running through her. When asked about that, she says it gives her chills "from top to bottom."

They were in D.C. at the Library of Congress to kick off the One Million Abolitionists Project.

The goal: to take copies of Douglass' first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave, and give it away to one million students.

Morris says they "would like to see one million young people taking his words and starting to think about their own condition of oppression."

Jonah Spiva, from the Washington, D.C. Latin Public Charter School, received the first book.

 "It means a lot; I'm also honored," he said.

Each student from the school in attendance has a 4.0 grade point average. The significance of the day and the mission isn't lost on them.

"I can try to educate my neighbors and my family about what I learned," Jonah says.

Through the One Million Abolitionists Project, Ken and Nettie want to affect change directly. By handing out books to these young people today, they hope they've taken the first step.

The Frederick Douglass Family Initiative, the non-profit Ken and Nettie started, says it wants students who receive the book to be little Frederick Douglass's working against modern day slavery and other social injustices.

Click here for more on the One Million Abolitionists Project.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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