A Word on Life and Art

Douglass was a real person who lived at a particular time. We at FDBC care about history, the facts, and evidence. Any statement we make in our name about the historical Douglass will be responsibly sourced and verifiable. At the same time, recognizing Douglass's love and embrace of the arts, we delight in the ways he continues to inspire art in virtually every medium.Through visual arts, jewelry, theatre, spoken word, murals, video and more, Douglass is continually reimagined and made new. FDBC is pleased and proud not only to bring you information, news, and resources about the historical Douglass, but also to feature art and artists inspired by Douglass, celebrating both Life and Art.


LITERATURE

 

Frederick Douglass

By Robert Hayden

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,   

usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,   
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,   
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more   
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

From Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Copyright 1966 by Robert Hayden


Sculpture

Rochester, New YorK

The statue of Frederick Douglass, located at Highland Park Bowl, was originally placed at Central Ave. and St. Paul Street in 1899. City moved it to Highland Park in 1941. (4/2/1928)

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Nearly eight feet tall, the statue gazes down on the courtyard and garden near the Phillip’s Archway at West Chester University


Murals & Paintings

 

New Orleans

Portrait of Frederick Douglass. Part of "Project Be" (Photo courtesy of Skylar Fein)

Roxbury, South Boston

On the corner of Hammond and Tremont streets in Roxbury. The mural was designed and painted by the Mayor’s Mural Crew. Photo by Anulfo G. Baez

 

SCHOLARSHIP

Leigh Fought, Women in the World of Frederick Douglass 

(Oxford University Press, 2017)

  • A readable biographical study of the life of the great abolitionist through his relationships with women, from his grandmother and mother, to his wives, daughter, and female collaborators.
  • Fleshes out female figures in Douglass' life-- including his grandmother Betsey, mother Harriet, wives Anna Murray and Helen Pitts-- despite there being few records in their own words.
  • Highlights Douglass' complicated relationships with family and a range of female activists, friends, admirers, and adversaries.

Robert S. Levine, The Lives of Frederick Douglass

(Harvard University Press, 2016)

Frederick Douglass’s fluid, changeable sense of his own life story is reflected in the many conflicting accounts he gave of key events and relationships during his journey from slavery to freedom. Nevertheless, when these differing self-presentations are put side by side and consideration is given individually to their rhetorical strategies and historical moment, what emerges is a fascinating collage of Robert S. Levine’s elusive subject. The Lives of Frederick Douglass is revisionist biography at its best, offering new perspectives on Douglass the social reformer, orator, and writer.

Out of print for a hundred years when it was reissued in 1960, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) has since become part of the canon of American literature and the primary lens through which scholars see Douglass’s life and work. Levine argues that the disproportionate attention paid to the Narrative has distorted Douglass’s larger autobiographical project. The Lives of Frederick Douglass focuses on a wide range of writings from the 1840s to the 1890s, particularly the neglected Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892), revised and expanded only three years before Douglass’s death. Levine provides fresh insights into Douglass’s relationships with John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and his former slave master Thomas Auld, and highlights Douglass’s evolving positions on race, violence, and nation. Levine’s portrait reveals that Douglass could be every bit as pragmatic as Lincoln—of whom he was sometimes fiercely critical—when it came to promoting his own work and goals.


John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, Celeste Marie-Bernier: Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American

(W. W. Norton, 2015), with Epilogue by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Afterword by Kenneth B. Morris Jr.

A landmark and collectible volume—beautifully produced in duotone—that canonizes Frederick Douglass through historic photography.

Picturing Frederick Douglass is a work that promises to revolutionize our knowledge of race and photography in nineteenth-century America. 

…. Now, as a result of the groundbreaking research of John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Douglass emerges as a leading pioneer in photography, both as a stately subject and as a prescient theorist who believed in the explosive social power of what was then just a nascent art form. he comprehensive introduction by the authors, along with headnotes for each section, an essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an afterword by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.—a direct Douglass descendent—provide the definitive examination of Douglass' intellectual, philosophical, and political relationships to aesthetics. Taken together, this landmark work canonizes Frederick Douglass through a form he appreciated the most: photography.


Films, Plays, Interpretation / Performance

Featuring soon

Featuring soon