University of Maryland historian Richard Bell explores the many facets of Frederick Douglass' incredible life as well as his family and career, and considers his impact upon our modern struggle to advance the cause of Black freedom in the United States.
Frederick Douglass was a visionary—a prophet who could see a better future that lay just beyond reach. His talents were nothing short of extraordinary and he put his exceptional gifts to use in the service of freedom, driving American slavery into the grave.
After the carnage of the Civil War, he played a central role in the re-founding of American Republic as well, and spent decades afterwards defending and perfecting it. Douglass, though, is so much more than another great man on a pedestal. He was the slave who dreamed of being a senator. He was the unlettered child with no formal schooling who wrote three autobiographies, becoming one of our greatest literary figures. His life bursts with contradiction and with change. He was the dignified, brilliant, and courageous freedom fighter who could sometimes be insecure, vain, and arrogant. He was the outspoken feminist who treated his own long-suffering wife like his servant. He was the fire-breathing insurgent who would eventually become an out-of-touch elder statesman. To understand how the boy born into bondage in 1818 became the Frederick Douglass that we hold in such esteem today, we must understand this man’s visionary genius not as innate, God-given, and infallible, but instead as the imperfectly beautiful product of growth, of change, of self-doubt, and of struggle.
Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and is author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for teaching faculty in the Maryland state system. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Learn more here.
Sponsored by Friends and Foundation of Howard County Library System with support from Howard County Historical Society, Carroll County Public Library, Kent County Public Library, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County, Washington County Free Library, and Worcester County Library.
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