WXXI AM News

"One Million Abolitionists" national book project comes to Rochester

Apr 4, 2018

Ken Morris
Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

"One Million Abolitionists" is an initiative to get Frederick Douglass's autobiography The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass into the hands of one million students nationwide.

And some of those books are coming to Rochester, with the help of Writers and Books and the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

The announcement was made at the Frederick Douglass R center, with the help of a direct descendant of Douglass. Ken Morris is the great great great grandson of Douglass, and the great great grandson of Booker T Washington. He is President of the Douglass Family Initiatives.

Morris says they understand that one million books is a lofty goal, but in his travels with the group has heard how the book has affected people.

"My whole life I’ve had people of all ages come up to me and say I first read this book when I was in middle school or high school or college. They always seem to remember how old they were, what grade they were in. But the common theme and thread that I’ve heard my whole life is that this is a book that changed my life. Frederick Douglass' words changed my life."

Students lined up to have Morris sign their copy. Morris says the best part of his work is interacting with kids across the country.

"They gave me a lesson on Frederick Douglass. And a lesson on Rochester. And they were checking to make sure I think that I was really a descendant because they were asking me questions about the family, and when did Frederick Douglass pass away, what year, how old he was, they were quizzing me."

Credit Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Ten year old Jurnee Acoff was sitting in the front row at the event. She said it was exciting to meet Morris.

"I love history in school, and I really like Frederick Douglass and Harriett Tubman and Susan B Anthony because they sort of changed the world and they made it so history can be better and they spoke out their words."

This is the bicentennial commemoration of Douglass' birth.

One generous Rochester citizen, Michelle Daniels, donated over 2,000 books to be distributed in Rochester; those will be given out at city R centers.