Frederick Douglass was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Although the abolitionist and author lived in New York and Massachusetts after escaping slavery, he spent the last years of his life in Washington, serving as a U.S. Marshal and the city's recorder of deeds, and living at a 15-acre estate in Anacostia named Cedar Hill.
It is at Cedar Hill, now the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, where the National Park Service will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Douglass's birth on Feb. 17 and 18. (Douglass's actual birth date is unknown, and he chose to celebrate it on Feb. 14 later in life.) National Park Service spokeswoman Pya Langley says the two-day celebration will be the biggest celebration of Douglass's life at any Park Service site this year. “Some of our other sites highlight his life,” she says. “But this is the only site 100 percent-dedicated to Frederick Douglass in the [NPS] system.”
This weekend's festivities are not the only way to honor one of America's greatest statesmen: There are tours and events around the area throughout February.
Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Birthday Weekend, Feb. 17-18
Two days of celebration include tours of Douglass's home lead by Park Service rangers; walking tours of historic Anacostia; Douglass's speeches delivered by the student winners of the Frederick Douglass Oratorical Contest; performances of spirituals and brass band music; family activities, including puppet shows and interactive demonstrations; and discussions by authors and historians. Free shuttles will run from the Anacostia Metro Station to Cedar Hill both days. Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most events take place at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, 1411 W St. SE, while some are held at the Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE. Free.
Abraham Lincoln rose to national prominence after debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas in 1858. This evening of alternative history at the National Archives building begins with actors portraying Lincoln and Douglas looking back at their debates about slavery, followed by a “debate” between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. While Lincoln and Douglass met on multiple occasions, they never faced off about their views in a public forum. This program uses their own writings and speeches about slavery and equality to imagine what might have happened if they did. 7 p.m. The National Archives' William G. McGowan Theater, Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street NW. Free, reservations recommended.
I am Frederick Douglass, Feb. 23
A wide-ranging evening looking at Douglass's life and legacy includes a screening of excerpts from the documentary “Enslavement to Emancipation,” about slavery in Washington; a panel discussion; music from members of the National Symphony Orchestra; and actor LeCount Holmes Jr. portraying Douglass. 7 p.m. The Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Free.
Both Douglass's bicentennial and the 34th anniversary of the Banneker-Douglass Museum are celebrated with special tours and arts and crafts activities for younger visitors. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Banneker-Douglass Museum, 84 Franklin St., Annapolis. Free.
'Bent But Not Broken', through May 19
Artist Ulysses Marshall, who received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Maryland Institute College of Art, has created mixed media collages honoring “the spirit and legacy of Frederick Douglass” for Maryland's African American Heritage museum. Opening reception Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Banneker-Douglass Museum, 84 Franklin St., Annapolis. Free.
William Ridgely, who leads living history walking tours of Maryland's capital city for Colonial Tours of Annapolis, has created a special two-hour tour focusing on the experiences of African Americans in Annapolis from 1632 to the present. It includes a stop at the Chase-Lloyd House, the home of Maryland governor and U.S. Sen. Edward Lloyd. Frederick Douglass, who was a slave on one of Lloyd's plantations, wrote about Lloyd's cruelty in the autobiographical “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Daily at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tours depart from the Annapolis Visitors Center, 26 West St., Annapolis. $17 adults, $12 students aged 10 to 17, 9 and younger free.
A seven-foot statue of Frederick Douglass, presented by the city of Washington to the U.S. Capitol's art collection in 2013, is featured on a 45-minute walking tour of the Capitol Visitor Center called “Freedom Fighters in the Capitol Collections.” Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. Capitol Visitors Center, First and East Capitol streets. Free.
The most photographed American man of the 19th century, Douglass appears many times in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Images of him are on display in the museum's permanent exhibitions “American Origins” and “The Struggle for Justice.” Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. Free.