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Black History Month
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February 4, 2014

Black History Month: Ken Morris’ Legacy


Scott: February is a month where African-Americans are honored for their contributions to American history. And today, we start our celebration of Black History Month with a look at how one family is continuing the legacy of its ancestors. And Shelby Holliday has more.

Shelby: You have read about him in history books, and there are monuments like this all over the country honoring Frederick Douglass, the man who was born a slave but grew to become one of the most influential leaders in the movement to end slavery here in the U.S.

Even though slavery was outlawed in 1865, there are still millions enslaved around the world today. And as you will see, Douglass’ family is continuing his legacy for freedom. Ken Morris knows a little bit about black history.

Ken Morris: My grandfather was Frederick Douglass III, and he was Frederick Douglass’s great-grandson. And my grandmother, Nettie Hancock Washington, was Booker T. Washington’s granddaughter.

Shelby: That is right. Ken descends from not one historic African-American leader but two. Frederick Douglass, the leader of the abolitionist movement, and Booker T. Washington, a teacher and civil rights activist. But Ken hasn’t always embraced his past.

Ken: Can you imagine growing up and you see your ancestors, there are bridges that are named after them, they’re on schools and libraries. It can be pretty intimidating and that’s quite a vast, long shadow to grow up in.

Shelby: He avoided the shadow while building a successful career until a buddy passed along a magazine and Ken felt a pull he could not ignore.

Ken: And the cover story was 21st Century Slaves. And I reacted the way I think most people do. Slavery didn’t end with the work of Frederick Douglass.

Each and every one of us descends from somebody that made a difference.

Shelby: The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives was born to teach students about the 27 million people enslaved worldwide. Slaves – often children – are forced to work long hours, sometimes even making products we use, like clothing or electronics. Human trafficking, when humans are bought and sold as slaves, happens in more than 160 countries, including the U.S. Ken is hoping young people can help end this modern-day slavery. He has spoken to 60,000 students in the last five years.

Ken: And Frederick Douglass said, ‘It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’

Shelby: Five generations later, the work of perhaps America’s greatest antislavery activist continues and Ken Morris’s life makes a little more sense to him.

Ken: When he passed away in 1895, he thought slavery had ended. But the fact that it still exists, I would imagine he would expect his descendants to continue the fight.

Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.

Scott: For more stories celebrating the achievements of African-Americans throughout history, go to


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