tv Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Congressional Ceremony CSPAN April 2, 2018 7:04pm-7:57pm EDT
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>> i want to thank everybody for joining tousel brate the 200th anniversary of the birth of a great american, frederick douglass. we have a full slate of speakers to follow. we are honored to have with us today two descendents of frederick douglass, nettie washington douglas and her son, kenmore ris. she is the great granddaughter of booker t. washington and great great granddaughter. 200 years after his birth of
frederick doug glasses -- yes, we can applaud that. 200 years after the birth of frederick douglass, i believe it is fitting to ask, why do we remember him? yes, for his achievements, for what he suffered, for his oratory and his writing. for his principles, we remember him for all of that. why he of all men who wrote, spoke, suffered and accomplished? i believe we are attracted to douglass most because of the kind of man he was. in his youthful years, douglass was a slave, taught to read and with a heart born for freedom. he was sent to be broken. in that cruel system, every whip of the lash intended to breed servitude was just as likely to sew the seeds of bitterness. when he achieved his freedom, he had no doubts. there was no purpose in preserving a union conceived in the original sin of slavery.
he burned the constitution, having lived the reality of bonding he saw the guarantees of freedom and proclamation of a more perfect union as a lie. how many could endure such evil without giving in to the hopelessness and hatred. he did not give up home. he worked against them and slowly never sacrificed the clarity of truth. he came to see our nation, but as the foundation of the demise of that great evil. he grew in the faith man will
change. he could not hate the land or its freedom or principles. i cast all my care. i finally found my burden lightened. slaveholders not accepted. i abhor slavery more than ever. we remember douglass because of that choice. he chose not destroy but to redeem. he chose to redeem not through actions or ideas but again love of his fellow man. in the face of those who beat him and whipped him and set up a system that allowed the continuation of slavery he enneuroed his heart to words of dr. martin luther king before they were ever spoken. let no man ever pull you so low
as to hate him. every american knows we have a complicated history. filled as human existence is with contradictions and greatness. yet at the root, america is beautiful. we should demand as frederick douglass did, being purified in practice. we must know we can only hold to that promise and make that demand, as we as frederick douglass did, love america. its constitution, its principle and its people. or nation honors frederick douglass because in his live this man once held as property, taught us all what it means to be an american. thank you.
>> thank you, leader mccarthy. i'm chairman of the black caucus that represents millions across the country. i say good afternoon and happy black history month. i want to thank my democratic and republican colleagues with us for this historic celebration. our democratic leader, nancy pelosi is here. as many of you know, nancy is from baltimore, where frederick douglass escaped slavery and i want to thank her for hur strong, steadfast and principle leadership of our culture. thank you, leader pelosi. also, we have here our democratic whip, denny hoyer. denny is from maryland and proudly displays a portrait of
frederick douglass in his capitol offices and loves to talk about it. one of his favorite says is about the importance of investing in education, particularly at the early childhood level. the quote is it is far easier to build strong children, he said, than to repair broken men. i thank steny for helping keep frederick douglass' life and legacy alive in the halls of this congress. thank you, steny. the life and legacy of frederick douglass is something that should never be a partisan issue. i hope that continues. today, we celebrate the birthday of a man, like many slaves during his time, knew almost nothing about the day he was born. frederick douglass knew he was born in 1818 but he never knew the month or the day. he is quoted as saying i have no accurate knowledge of my age
never having seen any authentic records containing it he wrote in his autobiography. he decided february 14th would be the day he would celebrate and here we are on february 14th in the halls of congress celebrating the life of douglass just a few miles away from washington, d.c. and a few hours from the maryland plantation where he was born a slave. frederick douglass overcame obstacles no manor woman nor a child should ever have to overcome. he was born into slavery. in addition to knowing very little about the day he was born, he knew very little about the woman who gave birth to him because he was separated from his mother at an early age. the wife of one of his masters started teaching him to read but stopped when her husband
disapproved. he therefore had to keep himself how to read. he escaped slavery at the age of 20. he was working in a baltimore shipyard at the time and disguised himself as a sailor to escape. he's quoted as saying, i felt assured if i failed in this attempt my case would be a hopeless one. it would seal my fate as a slave forever. he wrote this in his autobiography, his second escape to be a free man. he became one of the most celebrated in his century. he is a testimony to resolve and resilience of being african-american, from property to the presidency, african-americans always make a way out of no way and make the impossible possible.
frederick douglass' story is a tribute to african-american americanism even when it hasn't loved us. we fought for this country and we have in history helped save this country from itself. slavery, jim crow, lynches, a few of those examples. in a letter from a newspaper publisher, frederick douglass wrote i am one of those who think that the best friend of a nation is he who most faithfully rebukes her for her since. we would be wise to remember his words now. frederick douglass was an american patriot who truly helped make america great. we should celebrate his life and legacy everyday. thank you and may god bless you.
>> good afternoon. i'm senator tim scott and i have the pleasure of representing the great state of south carolina. i'm happy to see a bipartisan coalition of members of the house and senators here today. always good to see the speaker of the house, paul ryan with us. thank you very much. >> as i think about the memory of frederick douglass, i think about the challenges that he faced, the nation he lived in, a man born in bondage, but his spirit was always free. it was matter of time before he would experience it physically. when i think about our responsibilities today to remember the legacy of frederick douglass, it is not simply to celebrate a life lived in struggle and then his success, but to remember the
responsibility that leaders today have to build upon the foundation that he established, a foundation that focuses on economic freedom and the power of education as two of the key pillars to make sure this nation lives up to its fullest potential by making sure that americans trapped in distressed communities experiences freedom, freedom that so many, so many that went before us died to purchase. i also think about how often how many nights men and women suffered the whip, denied education yet the indomitable spirit of men and women like
frederick douglass rose to the occasion and created a path not with fire but was swept with tears and with blood. those are our forefathers of this great nation. those are the men and women we are to celebrate, and then rise up as leaders of this nation and go into places where too many of our brethren still live. to honor his memory is not to simply look back, it is to look forward with the responsibility of seeing it is my responsibility to be my brother's keeper.
>> mr. speaker, madam leader, mr. whip, other distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, i am jim clyburn and i'm proud to represent the sixth congressional district of south carolina. speaking to an audience in montgomery, alabama, in 1957, martin luther king jr., whose 89th birthday we celebrated last month, said this. life's most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others. in my not so humble opinion, no american whoever lived answered that question more productively than cedric douglass, born into slavery a few miles from here on maryland's eastern shore, in
1818, frederick douglass became a fugitive from injustice in 1838 and lived in rochester, new york from 1847 to 1872. he became ally 81 of the women suffrage movement and was present at seneca falls in 1848. at the international conference on women in 1888, douglas urged the men present to -- and i quote -- get out of her way. and let the women lead the suffrage movement. he became the lion for the anti-slavery crusade. robert smalls, born into slavery
in buford, south carolina, in 1839, was enamored with and influenced by frederick douglass. smalls escaped from slavery on may 13th, 1862. and made his way to washington, d.c. later that year, smalls accompanied and sat next to frederick douglass at a meeting with abraham lincoln to discuss the plight of blacks in america. according to the calendar, this meet took place while lincoln was contemplating and discussing with his cabinet the issuance of the emancipation proclamation. douglass was idealized by many. one of whom was a young man
named richard rena, who made a pilgrimage, a self-described pilgrimage to rochester to visit who he called the grind man. according to him, it was an ideallic meeting. he further wrote both the hero and the hero worshipper were in their elements. he would go on to become the first african-american to enroll in and graduate from harvard university, in 1873, he became the first african-american professor and librarian at the university of south carolina, which i proudly represent in this body. as we celebrate the 200th
anniversary of his birth and prepare to commemorate the 50th anniversary of martin luther king jr.'s death, let's reflect upon douglass' immortal words, and i quote. those who profess to freedom yet appreciate education. without crops, without plowing up the ground, without rain, without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful rope of its many bodies of waters. the struggle may be a moral one or it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical but it must be a struggle. power concedes nothing without a
demand. it never did and it never will. >> thank you. i'm congressman andy harris from maryland's eastern shore, one of the co-sponsors of the bicentennial bill. frederick douglass was born a slave in maryland. he persevered and rose to become a fierce advocate for liberty and equality. a prolific author and gifted statesman and ultimately a true icon of american history. he was indeed an american hero who left an imprint or america's history and surely one of america's favorite sons. i'm honored to be here what would have been his 200th
birthday in all likelihood to celebrate his life and legacy. last year i had a chance to visit the house on the eastern shore where frederick douglass spent parts of his childhood. it was humbling to see first hand the circumstances under which frederick douglass and the other enslaved peoples on that plantation lived. for me, that experience highlighted the awesomeness, perseverance and dedication to the pursuit of justice truly embodied the american dream. it's important to recognize douglass was more than just an abolitionist. the true believer in american way of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. he once wrote quote where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel society is an organized conspiracy to oppress,
rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. he truly understand america's premise on the idea of liberty, opportunity and equal justice under the law. i look forward to working with my colleagues here in congress and my fellow commissioners to celebrate the memory of frederick douglass and our shared goals of equality, justice and freedom. finally, i want to give a thank you to my colleagues from congress here today from both sides of the aisle to help pass this legislation creating the bicentennial commission and for president trump for signing the legislation into law and to speaker ryan for giving me the honor to serve on this commission. i look forward to working with my fellow congressman to
celebrate frederick douglass' work, truly a life experience for all americans. thank you. >> i'm congresswoman eleanor homes norton. i represent the residents of the district of columbia, where frederick douglass spent the majority of his life as a free man. like many born of slaves, frederick douglass did not know his birthday, we commemorate his 200th birthday today, february 14th, the day this self--made man chose as his birthday. i am grateful to majority leader kevin mccarthy and congressional black caucus chair, cedric richmond for organizing this congressional commemoration and
to fellow members of the frederick douglass buy centennial commission who will be sworn in today. i thank congressman day in harris and senator chris van hollen, who with me, authored the law establishing the bipartisan commission. frederick douglass' gifts to our country was so bountiful, so national and international in scope we might pass right over the majority of his life as a free man living in the district of columbia. perhaps many knew douglass built his home cedar here in anacostia, east washington because it is now a national historic site visited by
thousands every year. but who knew dug glassouglass s howard university trustee and traveled around the world and the resident was a staunch republican. the party of his good friend, abraham lincoln? who knew douglass was appointed by three different republican presidents in local positions in the district of columbia, to the then upper chamber of the board of directors council, then as d.c. recorder of deeds and then as u.s. marshall for the federal and for the district of columbia court.
who knew that frederick douglass ran in the primary for delegates of the house of representatives, the position i now hold, but was defeated by another republican who became a member of congress. watch out, eleanor. who knew that republican presidents were always in search of new ways to use douglass' enormous talents, appointing him to serve as u.s. minister to haiti and assistant secretary of the commission of inquiry to santa domingo. who knew? who knew that frederick douglass could not live in the district of columbia without becoming a champion for d.c. residents to have the same rights as
americans who live in the state. who knew? not even frederick douglass knew or could have envisioned that the nation would celebrate the 200th year of his birth in view of a frederick douglass statute donated by the residents of the city frederick douglass called home. thank you very much. >> i can't tell you how excited i am to be here today. i'd like to thank rita mccarthy for giving me the opportunity to speak today. my chairman, frederick richmond of the congressional black
caucus for being such a great influence and leader in my life in congress. i'd like to thank all of my colleagues here also. today, we celebrate a man who was a fighter. he fought for his own freedom and for human dignity at a time where it was dangerous for a black man to rise up and fight. frederick douglass was a legend when he was alive and larger than life. it's appropriate we celebrate him on valentine's day. i want to talk about why it's appropriate to talk about him today. not because today is the day he chose to have as is birthday but the driving force behind the things he has done. he was born into slavery and he never wanted to be known as a happy slave. that's why when you see his picture he's incredibly stern, he has a serious look on his face. even when he lived here in d.c.
he was known as a lion of anacostia. partly because of his hair and the other part because of the people who knew him and knew him well also knew he had a heart as big as a lion. i want to tell you about the part that stuck with me as i studied frederick douglass. his mother. when he talks about his mother he remembers his mother as a woman who would lay next to him until he fell asleep. when he woke up she was out working and she was gone. he lost her at a very early age. but when he was asked about his birthday he didn't know because he was a slave. when he got to choose his birthday i don't know if people know this, the part that stuck with me he says his mother used to call him, her little valentine. that's why he chose february 14th as the day of his birthday. understand that the reason why i
think frederick douglass is such a driving force today is what drives us. it's not the anger. it's not the fight but it's the love that we have, the love people have shown us in our lives. his mother, his wife that stood by him through thick and thin. when we work today and we work to represent the people in our lives, remember, it's the driving force, it's a not hate. it's the love. one of the quotes i remember about frederick douglass, he said it is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men. that's what comes from love. it doesn't come from anger. we can learn something from frederick douglass. on this very special occasion, i would like to honor that legacy
of love. happy 200th birthday, frederick. >> good afternoon. i'm chris van hollen, senator from the state of maryland. we're very proud frederick douglass began his fight for freedom in the state of maryland and then went on to lead the abolitionist movement and a great leader in the women suffrage movement as well. great to be here with the speaker and leader, nancy pelosi. thank you for coming together for this really important tribute and occasion. to leader mccarthy and cedric richmond, the cdc, thank you for organizing this gathering. i'm also honored we're here with
ken morris jr., the great great great-grandson of frederick douglass and to nettie washington douglass, thank you for keeping the spirit of frederick douglass alive. the two of them just returned from maryland's eastern shore, where there was a tribute to frederick douglass and his spirit of liberty and the change that he brought to our country. all of us marylanders are very proud of that legacy. steny hoyer, democratic whip, as well as andy harris, member from the eastern shore, and, of course, nancy pelosi from the state of maryland. we want to join the nation in this celebration. i also want to especially salute eleanor holmes norton for introducing this legislation in the house of representatives.
i was proud to join with her and andy harris introducing the legislation to establish a commission on the 200th anniversary of frederick douglass' birthday. the purpose of the commission is to better educate the country about the contributions of frederick douglass. of course, that will include his contributions to making a difference in the history of our country and in the history of the world. but it's also important because of the lessons we learned from frederick douglass and how they can be relevant to us today. because as a result of his fight for freedom and the fight of so many in the civil rights movement, we have become a more perfect union, but we also know we have a long journey still ahead. to reach that goal.
it was frederick douglass who said, and i quote, we have to do with the past only as we can make it useful for the present and the future. and that is what the charge of this commission is all about. not just the history, but how we can make it relevant today. frederick douglass had lots of good advice for us that is very relevant at this moment today. many of the statements he gave have already been cited. to add to those, i would add these. if there is no struggle, there is no progress. to suppress free speech is a double wrong. it violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. finally, those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops
without plowing up the ground. in frederick douglass' memory, let's keep plowing the ground for freedom and for a more perfect union. >> good evening. my name is kenmore ris. and i'm the great great great-grandson of frederick douglass. i'm also the great great great-grands great-grandson -- great great-grandson of booker t. washington. i'm so honored to be with you this evening to commemorate and
celebrate the bicentennial of my great ancestor, frederick douglass. i'd like to thank leader mccarthy and cedric richmond bringing us together so we can talk about this great american hero. when i introduce myself to people and i say, i'm the great great great-grandson of frederick douglass and the great great-grandson of booker t. washington, not only is it a mouthful trying to spit out those greats, but it sometimes makes me feel far removed. you may be sitting there having a hard time trying to imagine what our connection is to douglass washington, like trying to picture what a billion dollars looks like with all those zeros. many people know or knew a grandparent and some of you may have even known a great-grandparent. that's how close i feel to both of my ancestors because, see, my
great grandmother, fannie douglas i was very close, lived to be 103 years old and she met frederick douglass when she was a little girl and porscha, lived to be 95, she was booker t. washington's daughter, i remember being a little boy and sitting on my great grandmother's act and say what he was like when she would call him the man with the great big white hair. i remember sitting on my aunt portia's lap and tell me about booker t. washington. as i was trying to wrap myself around these generations, i had the thought hands that touched the great booker t. washington and douglass touched mine and i stand one person away from history and one person away from
slavery. we're not that far removed from the history of slavery in this country. as president of the frederick douglass initiatives we have the honor and privilege to dialogue with tens of thousands of students around the country and work we do around anti-human trafficking with prevention and education and training of educators. when we have conversations with students, i think they sometimes tend to think when they look at the great heroes and heroins in history books they -- heroines in the history books they lived so long ago hard to think they overcame struggles and obstacles and rose up to benefit and help the lives of countless people. so i want to focus just a few moments on a period of frederick douglass' life at the foundation of the work we do with education of young people and getting them to understand the importance of education and freeing themselves
from mental bondage. frederick douglass born on the eastern shore of maryland into slavery, born into a black woman enslaved, to a white man. assumed the master was his father. never had pair of pants or shoes until he was 7 years old. he used to sleep headfirst on a corn sack with his feet hanging out on cold winter nights because that was the only way to keep himself warm. we heard earlier he only saw his mother about four times his whole life because she lived on a plantation 12 miles away. in order to see her son she had to work in the fields picking cotton sun-up to sundown and walk 12 miles in the middle of the night and spend a few precious moments with him until he fell asleep. around the age of 7 or 8 years old he had something called divine providence in his favor happen. he was chosen from among all the slave children on the plantation to go to baltimore to be the
house servant for his master's brother-in-law. when he got there, his slave mistress had never had a slave before and didn't know it was illegal to teach him to read and write and began to teach him his abcs. when his master found out about it and forbade the teaching and looked at frederick and his wife, sophia and said, you cannot teach a slave how to read and write. if you do, it ill unfit him to be a slave. it will unfit him to be a slave. frederick looked at his master and heard that message and said, if you don't want me to have this, i will do everything in my power to gain it. he understood right then and there knowledge was power and education would be his pathway to freedom. in honor of frederick douglass' bicentennial, the frederick douglass initiative has published a first edition of his narrative, first autobiography
first published in 1945, the library of congress named as one of the 48 books that shaped america. when he started to teach himself to read and write he started to break free from mental bondage and unfit to be enslaved and started to ask critical questions about enslavement and asked, god, are you ready for me to be a slave the rest of my life jnkts my master goes to church every morning and cherry picks versus that justice exploiting, rape and pillage and plunder his property and i can't wrap my mind around what it know is a peaceable clinthristianity christ. why am i a slave? why do you own me? he is unfitting himself to be a slave. in the autobiography of
frederick douglass into the hands of 1 million students, our plan by the end of the year, to distribute this book we want to inspire the next generation of leaders with the words of frederick douglass. being his descendants our whole life we had people of all ages and races come up to us many times with tears in their eyes because they were introduced to frederick douglass' words and always remember they were in a certain grade in college. what they want to say to us is thank you for inspiring me to be a leader in my church, my community, my school, my business. so i know the impact frederick douglass' words have on young people to get them to think about institution. when he settled in new bedford,
massachusetts, at the age of 20, he wasn't happy to settle down and get married to our great great great-grandmother, nan murray douglass, anna murray douglass, he challenged the institution of slavery. our government said it's legal to enslave you and illegal to teach you. thank goodness for all of us douglass and the other heroes did not turn away from that challenge or we would be a very different country than we are right now. with young people today, we want them to look at these institutions where in some cases systemic racism runs rampant and institutions conspire to keep foreign oppressed people and communities of color down, we want them in the same way to look and say, how do we go about changing things? how do we go about dismantling
these institutions so we can be a better country and we can live up to the promises that have been afforded to us. the last time i was in this space was 2013, when we dedicated this magnificent statute back here. it's good to be back, and to talk about frederick douglass, and to think about this idea that history lives in all of us. it doesn't just live in me because i descend from two people we heard of. history lives in each and every one of you. i had a 10-year-old girl say to me one time, she raised her hand and says, mr. morris, i researched my family tree and found my great great great grandmother was born into schaeffer ray. she taught herself to read and write in secret and escaped, became a successful businesswoman and philanthropist. she said, do you know what that means? before i had a chance to respond, she said, it means i
have greatness flowing through my veins, just like you do. we all have greatness flowing through our veins. history lives in each of us, but the future depends on how we carry that forward. with that, i want to thank leader nancy pelosi for appointing me to the bicentennial commission. i look forward to serving with the other commission members and thank you all very much. god bless you all. >> i want to thank ken for that amazing talk and all the speakers. now, i'd like to welcome all those appointed by the white house, senate and house of representatives to the frederick douglass bicentennial commission to the stage to take your oath of office. you can come on up.
good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. honored and distinguished guests, my name is kayla port and i'm representing the general services administration this afternoon. on behalf of gsa it is my honor and privilege to confer upon each of you the oath of office as commissioners to the frederick douglass bicentennial commission. please raise your right hand and if you would please repeat after
me. i do solemnly swear and affirm that i will support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that will bear truth faith and allegiance to the same, that i take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that i will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which i'm about to enter so help me god. congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. [ applause ]
>> i want to thank everyone for joining us tonight, including speaker paul ryan and nancy pelosi and steny hoyer. i want to thank you, you raised an amazing son. i want to thank frederick douglass. i hope we go from today and for all of these speakers, we talked about his life if we could just rededicate ourselves to looking what he went through, looking what his struggles were, but looking at what he saw the greatness in this country and the striving to make it a more perfect union.
and i want to thank cedric richmond for being a part of this and putting it on. to all of you, thank you and god bless. [ applause ] tuesday, it is an early look at the road to the white house 2020 as ohio's republican governor john kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate, travels to new hampshire to speak at new england college. alive coverage from new hampshire starts on tuesday at 5:00 p.m. eastern over on c-span. tonight, on "landmark cases"
griswold v connecticut, of planned parenthood challenged a connecticut law banning the prescription and use of birth control. the supreme court ultimately ruled the statute to be unconstitutional and in the process established a right to privacy that is still evolving today. our guest to discuss this case are helen alvare, law professor at george mason university law school and rachel rebouche law professor at temple university. watch landmark cases tonight and join the conversation, our hashtag is landmark cases and follow us at c-span and we have resources on our website for background on each case. the landmark cases companion book, a link to the national constitution center interactive koouks and the podcast at c-span.org/landmark cases.
>> now a discussion about the history of the white house easter egg roll. american history tv recently interviewed landscape historian jonathan pliska about his book on the subject. he describes how presidents and first family have hosted the annual white house tradition since 1878 and what changes have been made along the way including the addition of bands, costumed characters, and keepsake wooden eggs. this is 25 minutes. >> jonathan pliska, you worked with the white house historical association to write a young reader's book about the white house easter egg roll. before we get into history, tell me about it today, how large is it in 2018? >> well, it would be a lot larger than it actually is except the popularity is so high and everybody wants to be a part of this that they generally cap the attendance at 30,000 to 35,000 people. >> where is it hold today?
>> it's held on the south grounds, the south lawn of the white house. that's what i like to call the president's backyard. >> and are the eggs real eggs? >> the eggs are sometimes real eggs. they also use these wooden eggs. >> i think we have some right here. yeah. they're collectibles. >> yes, definitely. but there are traditionally some real eggs used and in the past, it was all real eggs. >> who gets to go? >> well, anybody can go, but you need to submit your request online in advance, and then a lucky lottery winners get to go. the other thing is you need to have a small child with you, otherwise -- it really is an event for the kids. otherwise you'd just have a lot of adults like me wanting to go. >> your book really details a lot of the interesting history of this and has a long association with presidents. you suggest that the very earliest known connection might