Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
In commemoration of Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan officially announced 2018 to be the “Year of Frederick Douglass” during a Feb. 13 ceremony at the Maryland State House.

The Maryland native who escaped slavery and later became a famous abolitionist, author, and orator chose Feb. 14 as his own birthday, because there were no records of his actual date of birth. 

Gov. Hogan presented a signed proclamation of the “Year of Frederick Douglass” to two of Douglass’s descendants during the Feb. 13 ceremony, held in the same building where Frederick Douglass also delivered an address in 1874.

“Frederick Douglass’ contributions to society transcend race, nationality, or religion, and his fight for human rights and equality still resonates to this day,” said Gov. Hogan, who is Catholic.

In the days since Frederick Douglass’s lifetime, “as a state and as a nation, we have struggled, and we have made progress,” said Gov. Hogan. “Here in Maryland, we will never forget that we owe much of that progress to trailblazers like Frederick Douglass.”

Gov. Hogan also introduced a new driving tour called “Frederick Douglass: Following in His Footsteps.” The 131-mile journey highlights significant sites in Maryland related to the life of Frederick Douglass, including his birthplace on the Eastern Shore and the city of Baltimore, where he escaped to freedom.

“It is our hope that people from across the country and the world will visit Maryland” to learn about the life of Frederick Douglass, the governor said.

Gov. Hogan noted that Harriet Tubman, another icon in the abolitionist movement known for leading enslaved people to freedom in the Underground Railroad, is also from Maryland. He noted that portraits of both Douglass and Tubman are displayed at the governor’s mansion that he currently resides in, so “I get to honor them every day walking around the house.”

He also pointed out plans are underway to erect new statues of both Tubman and Douglass on the grounds of the Maryland State House to “help us ensure their legacies are formally and permanently cemented in Maryland’s history.”

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., the great, great, great grandson of Frederick Douglass and also the great, great grandson of Booker T. Washington, said, “this is a great, great honor” for Douglass’s family.

Morris presented Gov. Hogan with a bicentennial copy of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass’s autobiography that he published in 1845 after teaching himself how to read and write. The book became popular so quickly after he wrote it that he had to leave the country to hide from the master that he had escaped from just seven years previously. Eventually, some of his abolitionist friends bought his freedom for $711, allowing him to return to the United States and continue his abolitionist work.

The organization Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives hopes to give out one million copies of the book to young people during this year, encouraging them to start service projects in their communities and work toward equality like Douglass did.

During the ceremony, documentary quilt storyteller Joan Gaither unveiled three Frederick Douglass quilts. Each quilt represents a location in Maryland that somehow shaped Frederick Douglass’s life and legacy, and includes quotes from Douglass, such as, “I did not love Maryland less. I loved freedom more.”

The quilts were again presented on Feb. 14, during the dedicatory and groundbreaking ceremony of “Frederick Douglass Park on the Tuckahoe,” a new park less than a mile from Douglass’s birthplace along the Tuckahoe River in Talbot County.

A full schedule of events for the “Year of Frederick Douglass” can be found here.