Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Descendant of abolitionist Frederick Douglass offers inspirational message at SIU

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Kevin Douglass Green (fourth from left) visits with SIU students who hold copies of a book written by his great-great grandfather, noted abolitionist Frederick Douglas, in Carbondale, Illinois.

The great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass, a prominent Black historical figure, visited the Southern Illinois University campus in early February and spoke about the importance of investing in young people.

In an interview, Kevin Douglass Greene said that one of his favorite messages from the famous Douglass is: “It’s easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.” 

Douglass Greene said that one of the most important ways that society does that is through education. He told the young Black students in the audience to take advantage of their education even if they don’t see the use of it immediately. “Not everything you learn today has to be used today … No one can take your knowledge from you,” he said.  

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Douglass Greene’s meet-and-greet with students and faculty was part of Black History Month celebrations in Carbondale. The event took place at Morris Library on Feb. 2 and was hosted by the African American Museum of Carbondale. 

Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist who published his first book, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” Douglass’ book not only gave insight into the treatment of enslaved people but it also brought hope. Douglass did what many thought to be impossible, and that was reading and writing. The book was published in 1845 and the impact still reigns today since Douglass’ story is taught in many schools across America.

Kevin Douglass Greene said he travels the country speaking to people about his great-great grandfather because he wants to keep his message of hope alive for today’s young people. He stressed how important education was to lifelong success. 

The event left a positive impression on participants. Dr. Joseph Smith, a professor of Africana Studies at SIU, was one of the individuals who came out to meet Douglass Greene. 

“I learned that him [Kevin Douglass Greene] and the family are talking about Frederick Douglass not from a historical standpoint, but as an ancestor… and what does it mean to continue that type of legacy,” Smith said. He added that even Kevin Douglass Greene passing out the books to the young students is a way for him to carry on the legacy.

Another professor of Africana Studies, Caleb McKinley-Portee, said that Douglass Greene left a big impression on him. 

“It was very surreal to be able to meet a direct descendent of Frederick Douglas who’s still utilizing his ancestors work and the advocacy for abolition and understanding how racial justice is still a prevalent issue today… so much of what is said in this book [Frederick Douglass’ narrative] is still applicable today,” McKinley-Portee said. 

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 Another attendee, Joshua Garder, a freshman studying engineering at SIU, said that Douglass Greene told him to never give up, and left him with this advice: “Take one thing at a time, don’t eat the whole grapevine at a time. And don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you have to do”. 

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