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University of Rochester to award honorary degree to Frederick Douglass

May 9, 2018

This image is a portrait of Frederick Douglass taken Nov. 3, 1882 by Rochester photographer John Howe Kent
Credit Univ. of Rochester Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation

The University of Rochester says it will give its first ever posthumous honorary degree to Frederick Douglass during commencement ceremonies on May 20th.  He will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

UR officials say the university has a rich connection to the famed abolitionist, since it is home to the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African American Studies as well as serving as a collection of record for Frederick Douglass materials.

The text from the honorary degree announcement notes that, “Douglass delivered many of his most famous speeches while in Rochester, including his 1852 Independence Day address, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”

"He taught himself to read and write and became an accomplished writer and orator. Before settling in Rochester, he traveled to Great Britain and Ireland to avoid recapture, and spoke widely to growing crowds. In Rochester, Douglass befriended Susan B. Anthony and took up the cause of women’s rights, attending the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York.”

Douglass’ honorary degree will be accepted by his great-great-great grandson, Kenneth Morris Jr.

The University of Rochester will recognize the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders, educators and humanitarians by bestowing honorary degrees, Eastman Medals, Hutchison Medals, and awards for scholarship and teaching. These awards will be presented at the 168th Commencement ceremonies on May 18, 19, and 20, and at the Simon Business School ceremony on June 10.