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Suffering, Struggle, Survival: The Activism, Artistry, and Authorship of Frederick Douglass

Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of black studies and personal chair in English literature, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, and co-editor-in-chief, Journal of American Studies, Cambridge University Press. On the bicentenary of Frederick Douglass’s birth, we commemorate the many sides of the man: the abolitionist, statesman, autobiographer, orator, reformer, essayist, politician, and, not least of all, father. In this lecture held on February 25, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Celeste-Marie Bernier traces the activism, artistry, and authorship of Douglass alongside the sufferings and struggles for survival of his daughters and sons: Rosetta, Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., Charles Remond, and Annie Douglass. As activists, educators, campaigners, civil rights protesters, newspaper editors, orators, essayists, and historians in their own right, his children each played a vital role in the freedom struggles of their father. They were no less afraid to sacrifice everything as they each fought for black civic, cultural, political, and social liberties by every means necessary. No isolated endeavor undertaken by an exemplary icon, the fight for freedom was a family business, as the Douglasses’ rallying cry lives on to inspire today’s activism: “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”