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Douglass wrote more than one autobiography and became a well regarded and often photographed orator. His insightful, searing and rhetorically powerful words speak across the centuries.
In July 2020, Douglass’s descendants read his speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” each word resonating with the protests in the streets and the chants of “Black Lives Matter.”
America, at the start of the third decade of the 21st century, is still in need of Douglass’s words. However, his actions fighting slavery eventually moved from words and speeches to embracing militant actions, recognizing that words can fall on deaf ears and that people find int easier to listen than to act. In these trying times, America is facing the dueling pandemics of racism and Covid 2019. What will it take for us to act and create the country Douglass dreamed of?
Presented by: Professor Piper Kendrix Williams who is the co-author of "The Toni Morrison Book Club." The University of Wisconsin Press, 2020. She also co-edited "Representing Segregation: Toward an Aesthetics of Living Jim Crow." SUNY Press, 2010. She is the Chair of and associate professor in the Department of African American Studies and jointly-appointed in the Department of English at The College of New Jersey.
She is currently working on "Black Roots, Black Voices and Emancipatory Practices in African American Literature and Culture", book-length study, which explores the through-line that connects slavery to mass incarceration, and the attending forms of segregation and police violence. This project posits that in the African American literary tradition black writers imagine the future, alternative times, and different realities to proclaim their freedom and autonomy in a country that has failed to do so for over 400 years.
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