Frederick Douglass Gets an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Rochester


Here is a taste of a piece at the University of Rochester web page:

The University of Rochester will recognize the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders, educators and humanitarians by bestowing honorary degrees, Eastman Medals, Hutchison Medals, and awards for scholarship and teaching. These awards will be presented at the 168th Commencement ceremonies on May 18, 19, and 20, and at the Simon Business School ceremony on June 10.

University Honorary Degrees

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)—Honorary Doctor of Laws

Frederick Douglass is widely recognized as the most important abolitionist leader in American history. Born a slave on a Maryland plantation in 1818, Douglass escaped to the North at age 20 with the help Anna Murray, a free black woman in Baltimore. The two eventually married and settled in Rochester where Douglass founded the abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, in 1847, which was later renamed Frederick Douglass’ Paper.

He taught himself to read and write and became an accomplished writer and orator. Before settling in Rochester, he traveled to Great Britain and Ireland to avoid recapture, and spoke widely to growing crowds. In Rochester, Douglass befriended Susan B. Anthony and took up the cause of women’s rights, attending the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York.

Douglass and Anthony were at the center of a prominent group of western New York activists who agitated for abolition and women’s suffrage under the common umbrella of human rights.

Douglass delivered many of his most famous speeches while in Rochester, including his 1852 Independence Day address, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” He published three memoirs: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881).

A prominent recruiter of African American soldiers for the Union Army, Douglass moved to Washington, D.C., in 1872. Later, he accepted a position as U.S. Marshal under President Rutherford B. Hayes. He would eventually serve in several roles under five presidents.

Douglass remained married to Anna until her death in 1882. He died at his home in Washington, D.C., in February 1895, and is buried in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery.

Douglass’ honorary degree will be accepted by his great-great-great grandson, Kenneth B. Morris Jr.