Orange County government bodies declared December 6 as Abolition Day, recognizing the anniversary of the ratification of the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery.
This day served as an opportunity for the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Planning Committee to announce several 2018 events to celebrate and commemorate the heralded abolitionist.
According to head of the effort, former public defender James Williams, the events are being planned because next year is the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth.
“What we hope to do, what we plan to do and what we will do, I think, is to bring to the community some exciting programs related to Frederick Douglass,” Williams said in a recent interview on WCHL. “2018 is the bicentennial of his birth, and I think the members of our planning committee think that it is really important for our community to realize the significance of Frederick Douglass and his life, and the relevancy of this giant of a man even to this society, this country, this community today. We hope to use this bicentennial as an opportunity to shed some light on Frederick.”
Retired UNC professor and historian Dr. Reginald Hildebrand says that Douglass’ life helps us understand the 19th century.
“Of the many things that he did, and his ideas are still with us, he’d been president of a bank; he owned and edited two newspapers; he was ambassador to Haiti; he was a commission for the Dominican Republic; he was Marshall of the district of Columbia; he had worked with John Brown,” Hildebrand listed. “But the thing that we remember him most for is his mastery of the language and the power of his ideas.
“What Douglass understood, and this is part of why having this community read book his narrative is important, he understood the power of education, the power of mastering the language, both written and oral form. So when we remember Douglass and his ideas he still speaks to us because of the Fourth of July speech and because of what he said about the nature of reform. Not just his ideas but his ability to express those ideas with clarity and power.”
Williams, Hildebrand, and Orange County Commissioner Renee Price discussed Abolition Day and Douglass’ bicentennial on WCHL with Aaron Keck.
Williams says that while there are efforts to declare December 6 a national holiday, it’s good that towns and counties can declare or proclaim the day themselves so that people can recognize the significance and appreciate the day in history.
Photo via National Archives