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“One Life: Frederick Douglass”: Connecting Art and Protest

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0566
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(National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Frederick Douglass was the preeminent African American voice of the 19th century and among the nation’s greatest orators, writers, and intellectuals. Born into slavery, he became a leading abolitionist, civil rights activist, and as the most-photographed American of the 19th-century, a public face of the nation.

An exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, “One Life: Frederick Douglass,” explores the life and legacy of Douglass, a radical activist who devoted his life to abolitionism and rights for all.  It showcases over 35 objects, including a pamphlet of his oration “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”; two of his three autobiographies—My Bondage and My Freedom and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself; a letter from Douglass to Lincoln; portraits of activists in Douglass’ circle, such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth; and portraits of Black leaders Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes, all of whom carried on his legacy. 

The exhibition’s guest curator John Stauffer, the Sumner R. and Marshall S. Kates professor of English and of African and African American studies at Harvard University, and consulting curator Ann Shumard, the National Portrait Gallery’s senior curator of photographs, discuss the intimate relationship between art and protest through prints, photographs and ephemera.

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