April 24, 2024

Preview: UT celebrates Frederick Douglass Day

Students will have two opportunities at UT this week to celebrate the legacy of Frederick Douglass.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s English Department will be sponsoring two events this week in celebration of 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass. These events are a continuation of UT’s Black History Month programming.

Douglass Day began in the early 20th century following his death in 1895. Black communities decided they would continue to honor his legacy by proclaiming Douglass’ Feb. 14 birthday a holiday.


On Feb. 13, students can attend a plenary talk by Professor Derrick Spires of Cornell University. His presentation titled “Frederick Douglass and the Practice of Citizenship” will begin at 3:30 p.m. in the John C. Hodges Library Auditorium.


The main event will take place on Feb. 14. For the third year in a row, students can come celebrate Douglass’ birthday with a slice of cake. A live stream from the Colored Conventions Project, a research project dedicated to creating a digital archive of 19th century black organizing, will be shown.

This year the celebration will also include a transcribe-a-thon of Anna Julia Cooper’s works. Cooper was a well-known black feminist writer and educator living at the same time as Frederick Douglass. The celebration will be in Room 209 of Hodges Library and the Mary Greer Room from noon until 3 p.m.

UT English Department professor Katherine Chiles, who has been helping to plan this event, is hopeful students will understand why Douglass is celebrated years after his death.

“We celebrate Frederick Douglass’s contributions toward Black equality and social justice,” Chiles said. “We continue to celebrate it both to recognize his work and to be inspired to continue to work toward racial justice in the U.S.”

More information on Frederick Douglass Day and Julia Cooper is located on the University Libraries’ website.

Other Black History Month activities are listed on UT’s calendar and the Office of Multicultural Student Life’s website.


Featured photo courtesy of University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s calendar

Edited by Libby Dayhuff and Ciera Noe

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