The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday November 26th

Chapel Hill and Carrboro celebrate Frederick Douglass

<p>A Frederick Douglass puppet present by artist Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins at the Frederick Douglass at 200 Kickoff Celebration on Thursday night.&nbsp;</p>
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A Frederick Douglass puppet present by artist Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins at the Frederick Douglass at 200 Kickoff Celebration on Thursday night. 

Orange County will be holding a series of events over the next month to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ birthday.

The events, which will be hosted by the Chapel Hill—Carrboro NAACP, will highlight Frederick Douglass’ contributions to both society and the arts. They will be free and open to the public.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP First Vice President James E. Williams Jr., who advocated for the celebration, hopes the events will honor Douglass for his transformative influence on both the United States and the international community. 

“In essence, this is is an opportunity to reflect on what the past, particularly as it relates to Frederick Douglass, has to teach us in the present,” Williams said. 

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. He edited a Black newspaper for 16 years and gained fame for his passionate speaking and writing skills. Douglass was a famous anti-slavery activist and reformer with three published autobiographies before his death in 1895. 

According to the Library of Congress, Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln and helped convince him that abolition should be the goal of the Civil War.

“Individually, he was a phenomenal person if you give thought to what he was able to accomplish in his lifetime,” Williams said. 

Williams praised Douglass for his ability to not only overcome the brutality of slavery, but flourish as a champion of advocacy and the arts.

“You go from somebody for whom reading was a crime to somebody whose use of words was prolific in the history of this country,” Williams said.

Williams hopes the event will bring the local academic community together, and encourages students to participate in the festivities.

“I would hope that the university and either students, professors or departments seriously take advantage of this opportunity,” Williams said. “Because I do think it opens up some pathways to addressing the most critical issues that we are confronting today."

Chapel Hill town council member Nancy Oates believes the Douglass events are important because they will allow the community to view life through another perspective.

“We strive to welcome all people, and I think having people understand the history of the black experience is very important,” Oates said.

The events will conclude with a facilitated discussion of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass held at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said copies of The Narrative will be distributed to schoolchildren in the district.

“It’s amazing to think that words that someone said so long ago can still resonate and be so timely and important in today’s America, but they are,” she said.

Lavelle said readings of Douglass’ work have been held in the past. She hopes the events will open the local community to discussion. 

“He really does a good job of trying to put you in the shoes and in the body of somebody who you might be on the opposite side of an issue with,” Lavelle said.


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