About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Frederick Douglass, 19th-Century Civil Rights Activist: His Legacy Today"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 18, 2018

Good evening. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives, whether you’re here in the theater or joining us through YouTube. Tonight’s program—“Frederick Douglass, 19th-Century Civil Rights Activist: His Legacy Today”—is presented in partnership with the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and we thank them for their support.

Before we hear from our panelists, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up in the next couple of weeks.

On Wednesday, October 24, at 7 p.m., we will host a panel discussion with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress called “Catch the Wave: Voter Discontent During Wave Elections.” During a wave election, one party suffers an extraordinary turnover. A bipartisan panel of former Senators and Representatives, who either exited or entered Congress as part of a wave, will discuss their experiences.

Then on Thursday, November 1, at 7 p.m., a panel of combat photographers who served in Vietnam as part of the Army’s Special Photographic Office will discuss their role and their work. This program is presented in partnership with the U.S. Army Center of Military History and in observance of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website— archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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In this bicentennial year of Frederick Douglass’s birth, we remember and honor him for the work he did to further the causes of freedom, justice, and equality.

His service to this country—as well as the service of his sons—is documented in records here in the National Archives. We have his letter accepting President Benjamin Harrison’s appointment to be Minister-Resident and Counsel General to Haiti, written on stationery marked “Cedar Hill,” his home in Anacostia. And the military service records of his sons Charles and Lewis document their Civil War service with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

But other records—not necessarily bearing his name—testify to his leadership in the causes of liberty and justice. His influence is seen in legislation and civic activism from the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and beyond.

It is this legacy of civil rights that we explore today and discover anew Frederick Douglass’s important work.

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To get this discussion started, let’s turn to Tara Morrison. She is the Superintendent of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC. She began her National Park Service career in 1996 as an archeology intern in Washington and rose to be the first Superintendent of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City.

Since December 2016, Tara has served as Superintendent of National Capital Parks–East, where she is responsible for the management and direction of national parks including the historic homes of Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Carter G. Woodson as well as Anacostia Park and parks that date to the L'Enfant Plan.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tara Morrison.