Throughout history, books have taught that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. But there were others who also played a role.
The first goal of 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the namesake of the Douglass Gym on Olivia Street in Bahama Village, was emancipation for the slaves, then racial equality and finally feminism. He fought for those beliefs all of his life.
Kenneth Morris Jr., great-great-great grandson of Douglass, and great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington, has followed in the footsteps of his ancestors.
A modern-day abolitionist, he has taken up the cause of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, especially in terms of the sexual exploitation of children.
"I thought slavery ended with Frederick Douglass," Morris said Friday afternoon. "After reading a story in National Geographic about modern-day slavery seven years ago, I was very touched. I couldn't look my two daughters in the eyes and do nothing."
Morris will present "History, Human Rights and the Power of One" at the Douglass gym at 5 p.m. Sunday. He will also be speaking at Florida Keys Community College at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
On June 19, Morris and his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, attended the dedication of the Frederick Douglass statue at the nation's Capitol. The seven-foot bronze statue of Douglass joins fellow black Americans Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth on permanent display in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall.
Descendant of the two most towering male figures in black history prior to Dr. King, Morris, who now lives in California, heads the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative (FDFI), devoted to preventing human trafficking.
According to coalition founder Tim Gratz, the effort to bring Morris to Key West began many months ago after Gratz heard Morris speak at the National Day of Prayer in Washington, D.C., early last year.
The coalition had sponsored rallies to increase local awareness of human trafficking, especially that of children.
"There's even a local connection," Gratz reported. "Frederick Douglass was once U.S. ambassador to Haiti and he stopped in Key West en route to Haiti."
Since 2007, FDFI achievements include reaching approximately 60,000 middle and high school students through the Frederick Douglass Dialogues Tour; appearing on television, radio and in newspaper articles (including CNN, Newsweek Video, PBS, the Washington Post and USA Today); creating the Abolition Day Project allowing students to bring awareness of human trafficking to millions of people all over the United States; and initiating H.R. 929, the House resolution to recognize Abolition Day internationally as well as the work of Frederick Douglass and FDFI toward ending slavery.
In addition, Morris has given lectures about his family history at universities all over the country, including Columbia University, Morehouse College, Kennesaw State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Tuskegee University, Virginia Tech and Yale, the coalition reported.
For Morris, the location of his talk makes it extra special.
"It is a humbling experience to walk in a place named for my great ancestor," he said. "I am looking forward to this visit to Key West."