Amis­tad Com­mit­tee cel­e­brates Fred­er­ick Dou­glass

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - NEWS - By Clare Dig­nan mdig­nan@hearst­medi­act.com @clare_d13 on Twit­ter

NEW HAVEN » The life and work of Fred­er­ick Dou­glass, the fa­mous African-Amer­i­can abo­li­tion­ist who helped rally black sol­diers to fight for the Union dur­ing the Civil War, was hon­ored Satur­day in recog­ni­tion of how his work still res­onates.

The event, ‘New Haven’s Re­sponse to Char­lottesville,’ was held in Criscuolo Park, where Dou­glass once spoke to the 29th Col­ored Reg­i­ment, an all-black vol­un­teer reg­i­ment mus­tered in 1864 out of Fair Haven, ac­cord­ing to con­necti­cuthis­tory.org.

Kelly Mero, pres­i­dent of The De­scen­dants of the Con­necti­cut 29th Col­ored Vol­un­tary In­fantry, can trace her her­itage back to a soldier from the 29th reg­i­ment through her fa­ther, Har­ri­son Mero. She said that mak­ing a con­nec­tion be­tween Dou­glass’s work and the na­tion’s racial cli­mate is im­por­tant be­cause his work is still as rel­e­vant to­day as it was 200 years ago.

“What makes it dif­fer­ent is when Dou­glass was alive, few peo­ple not of color were among his crowds,” she said. “To­day, so many peo­ple are com­ing to­gether to ag­i­tate and speak out in fa­vor of di­ver­sity.”

The cel­e­bra­tion was or­ga­nized by the Amis­tad Com­mit­tee to com­mem­o­rate the up­com­ing 200th an­niver­sary of Dou­glass’s birth. The com­mit­tee was formed in 1988 to ed­u­cate about and honor the African cap­tives aboard the schooner Amis­tad who at­tempted to re­volt in 1839 and were brought to New Haven. Af­ter a trial held there, the Africans were freed by a U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion.

Nathan Richard­son, who por­trayed Dou­glass at the event, said he feels hum­bled by the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure. He is a poet, author and spo­ken word per­former on “The Fred­er­ick Dou­glass Speak­ing Tour.” His per­for­mance was a cre­ative por­trayal taken from speeches and bi­o­graph­i­cal ma­te­rial of Dou­glass’s life.

“I’m for­tu­nate for not only what I’m rep­re­sent­ing but that I’m do­ing it at a time where I’m part of such a mon­u­men­tal shift,” Richard­son said. Speak­ing about the protests and counter protests of white su­prem­a­cists in Char­lottesville in Au­gust he added, “I’m hope­ful that what we see is not a resur­gence, but the be­gin­ning of the end, the last breath.”

New Haven res­i­dent Don Richard­son said he knows ev­ery word of Dou­glass’s famed speech “What to a slave is the Fourth of July?” which was re­cited at the event. He said one of his fa­vorite quotes by Dou­glass is “men are whipped of­ten­est who are whipped eas­i­est.”

“There are so many life lessons I’ve learned from Dou­glass that I share with peo­ple,” he said. “The im­por­tance of Dou­glass is that he stood against it (racism) when it was more dan­ger­ous to the life of him and his fam­ily and friends.”

The morn­ing fea­tured mu­sic by the Her­itage Cho­rale and a key­note ad­dress by the Rev. Dr. Fred­er­ick J. Streets of Dixwell Con­gres­sional Church.

All the speak­ers talked about unity, equality, di­ver­sity and stand­ing up for those val­ues.

“Be­ing ac­cept­ing, those were Dou­glass’s words and that’s what our words were to­day, rec­og­niz­ing our one­ness,” Mero said. “And New Haven is rich in that.”

CLARE DIG­NAN / HEARST CON­NECTI­CUT ME­DIA

Nathan Richard­son por­trayed his­tor­i­cal abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass dur­ing a cel­e­bra­tion of his life and work at the his­toric site where Dou­glass spoke to sol­diers in the Con­necti­cut 29th Col­ored Reg­i­ment dur­ing the Civil War.

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