AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass, Kenneth Morris Jr. He’s also the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington and the founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. Kenneth Morris Jr. joins us from Irvine, California.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Your thoughts on Donald Trump’s words, the president of the United States, about your great-great-great-grandfather?
KENNETH MORRIS JR.: Well, I’m in California, so when I woke up and my phone was ringing off of the hook and I heard what he had said, my first reaction was, “Wow! The gift of Frederick Douglass has been given again on the first day of Black History Month.” Last year on Black History Month, February 1st, Google honored Frederick Douglass with its Google doodle of the day. And that act introduced the legacy of Frederick Douglass and his life and contributions to the country and to the world, to millions of people. And then, when I heard that Donald Trump said that Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job, I thought, “OK, well, this is great. This gives us an opportunity to be able to introduce and talk about his legacy and his life to a wider audience.”
AMY GOODMAN: Amazingly, Frederick Douglass was trending at some point on Thursday. He was as popular on social media as Beyoncé and her pregnancy announcement. So—
KENNETH MORRIS JR.: Yeah, I have—I have two young daughters, and they were very proud that Frederick Douglass was number one over Beyoncé.
AMY GOODMAN: So this is an incredible educational moment. Can you talk about Frederick Douglass’s life and what people around the world should know about him?
KENNETH MORRIS JR.: Well, both of my ancestors, Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, were born into slavery. And they were born into the most horrific conditions that a human being could be subjected to. But yet, through the power of education, both of my ancestors understood from a very young age that education equals freedom.
And for Frederick Douglass, at the age of nine years old, he was sent from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he was born on a plantation, to go to Baltimore to be the house servant for his master’s brother. And when he got there, his slave mistress had never had slaves before, and she didn’t know that it was illegal to teach him to read and write, so she began to teach young Frederick his ABCs. But when his master found out about it, he got angry, and he forbade it. And he looked at Frederick, and he looked at his wife Sophia, and he said, “You cannot teach a slave how to read and write, because if you do, it will unfit him to be a slave.” And Frederick looked at his master, and he heard that message loud and clear, and he understood right then and there that education would be his pathway to freedom.
At the age of 20 in 1838, he would have the courage to run away from slavery. He would eventually settle in New Bedford, Massachusetts. And instead of just saying, “I’m free now. I’ll start a family and get a job,” he looked back, and he saw that there was this institution of legalized slavery that needed to be dismantled. And he, along with the other abolitionists, got to work and worked on ending slavery. He became an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln, and then a statesman, the first African American to be nominated for vice president. He was counsel general to Haiti. And his contributions really tell us that he was a true American hero.
Yes Douglass was nominated as VP. He ran on Presidental ticket with a woman who is leader of the women suffrage. From Wikipedia:
Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
And yes, Douglass was for women’s rights and supported women suffrage.From Wikipedia:
In this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world.