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200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ Birth

WCU News 2018

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200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ Birth

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200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ Birth

State System Student Debate Tournament & National Scholars “Re-Image” Diversity, Multiculturalism, Social Justice

As Frederick Douglass delivered his last public lecture on West Chester University's (WCU) campus, on February 1, 1895, just days before his death, WCU's Frederick Douglass Institute (FDI) will lead its 13 sister institutes in a two-day examination of diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice upon the 200th anniversary of Douglass' birth. At the same time, FDI is fortunate to have its 20th anniversary coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which represented a Congressional response to American racism that legally ended Jim Crow.

The historic anniversaries prompt university-wide reflection. Beginning Thursday, April 5, 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., student debate teams from throughout Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) will take center stage arguing for and against the removal of confederate monuments from public property.

On Friday, April 6, 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., a number of national scholars will debate and discuss issues of social relevance that affect today's citizens in compelling and life-altering ways in a post-Frederick Douglass world. All sessions will be held on WCU's campus in Sykes Student Union ballrooms, 110 W. Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA.

4th Annual Frederick Douglass Debate 2018 on Thursday, April 5
Twenty-two teams of students from six universities will engage in competitive, judged debate as they argue for or against the following proposition: Confederate monuments should be removed from public property in the United States. After four preliminary rounds, teams with the best win/loss record will advance to semi-finals followed by the finals.

The championship round will conclude the competition. Universities competing include: Bloomsburg University (3 teams), California University (2 teams), East Stroudsburg University (5 teams), Indiana University (2 teams), Millersville University (7 teams), and West Chester University (3 teams).

Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Interdisciplinary Conference on Friday, April 6
Some of the nation's foremost scholars and experts on diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice will evoke robust discussion about the legacy of Douglass as it relates specifically to today's civil rights struggle, immigration, hate speech in the context of freedom of speech, race-based and wealth-based gaps in teaching, and more. A conference highlight will be a heated game where participants will play the roles of historical figures from 1845, divide into two teams to debate Douglass' narrative of slavery, vote on the best argument, and then debrief. Displayed for discussion will be 10 colorful, history-rich, handmade quilts, ranging in size from 55" x 44" to 90" x 90", that have been sewn by Lynette S. Jackson in Atlanta, GA to tell the vibrant story of multiculturalism.

Included among the many sessions will be an engaging discussion about the racial reordering in the popular Broadway musical Hamilton, as well as R&B pop star Beyoncé Knowles' use of the entertainment industry to spread messages of racial justice amidst the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement. Freedom of expression and society's complacency with hate speech and intolerance will also be explored, as well as research results that show an increase in academic achievement among African-American students who have been presented with learning materials that have been specifically designed to be culturally-relevant.

Motivating those at the two-day conference will be Dr. David Blight, professor of history at Yale University and director of Yale's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; and Dr. James Trotman, professor emeritus of English, founding director of the Frederick Douglass Institute at WCU, and the first convener of the Frederick Douglass Institutes on all fourteen campuses of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.

Learn more about the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University