Photo and story by Daniel Shaw-Remeta / Contributing Writer
Kevin Greene, the great-great-grandson of famed African-American social reformer Frederick Douglass, hosted a round-table discussion on campus Thursday about the Douglass family lineage and his role in teaching the legacy of Frederick Douglass throughout his own life.
Greene was the keynote speaker at the 22nd annual Unity Luncheon, a tradition where the university honors Middle Tennessee’s “unsung heroes” and those that have made outstanding contributions to the community, in the Student Union Ballroom on Thursday. Upon being asked to speak at the Unity Luncheon on campus, Greene asked the university if he could give a more personal talk for students and guests to attend on campus in the spirit of Black History Month.
“The roundtable is informal, and I like to have conversations,” Greene said. “So, I basically go over some of the history of the Douglass family, slightly touching on Frederick Douglass himself, but going more into my direct line of ancestors that people don’t know a lot of information about. I love talking about that and then interacting with people where they ask me questions.”
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland and taught himself to read and write as an adolescent. Through reading, he developed an ideological opposition to slavery and became an outspoken abolitionist, public speaker and writer in favor of equal rights for all people.
The conversation he led during the round-table is what Greene refers to as the “Douglass Tree.” During the Douglass Tree discussion, Greene presented artifacts and pictures, explained the bloodline of the Douglass family and spoke about some of the stories surrounding the life of Frederick Douglass.
“This isn’t a conversation about Frederick Douglass because you guys learned about him basically the same way I did,” Greene said. “I had to read his books just like all the scholars and professors had to. What I really enjoy doing most is just talking to people about the family.”
Greene outlined the lives of Frederick Douglass’ children and mentioned some of their accomplishments, such as one as of children attending Harvard University. He also discussed how being a Douglass impacted their lives during a time when most other African-Americans in the United States were slaves. He spoke extensively about his grandfather, the property he owned and how his mother was raised.To tie it all together, he told attendees about his passion and dedication to telling stories and sharing the history of his family and recommended that they read Frederick Douglass’ memoirs.
Greene has been a human resources specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the past 10 years and is a U.S. Army veteran. His talk was one of several events on campus held in celebration of Black History Month.
This year’s theme for MTSU’s Black History Month celebration is “African-Americans in Times of War: Current Day Warriors for Social Justice.”
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