By Staff –
The school currently sits on the same property as Douglass’ former home, which burned down in 1872.
In addition, over 300 people have presently signed a petition in favor of renaming the school after Douglass or his wife in some form or fashion, and Douglass’ great-great-great grandson, Kenneth Morris jr., has also written a letter to RCSD school board president Van White, which was presented to White during the meeting.
“I am the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick and Anna Douglass, and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives,” Morris said. “I write to you on behalf of the Douglass family. It has come to our attention that a public meeting is scheduled this evening to discuss renaming James P.B. Duffy School in honor of the Douglass family. We humbly suggest that the school be renamed for Frederick and Anna Douglass.”
Reportedly, White has said there were several proposals presented regarding the name change during the meeting, and the board will likely make a decision by next year.
Supporters of the name change have also said they hope it would help the school move beyond the death of a former autistic student at the school, Treyvan Rowe, who died earlier this year.
The school is currently named for James P.B. Duffy, a former local congressman who passed away in 1969.
Read the full text of Morris’ letter below.
Van Henri White, Esq.
Rochester City School District
131 West Broad St.
Rochester, NY 14614
Dear President White,
My name is Ken Morris. I am the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick and Anna Douglass and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. I write to you on behalf of the Douglass family. It has come to our attention that a public meeting is scheduled this evening to discuss renaming James P.B. Duffy School in honor of the Douglass family. We humbly suggest that the school be renamed for Frederick and Anna Douglass.
Anna Murray Douglass was introduced to the world on the pages of our great ancestor’s first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published in 1845. After escaping slavery in 1838 and landing in New York City, Frederick had this to say about his desire to have Anna join him: “I wrote to her immediately after my arrival at New York, (notwithstanding my homeless, houseless, and helpless condition,) informing her of my successful flight, and wishing her to come on.” When Anna arrived the Reverend J.W.C. Pennington joined them together in “holy matrimony.” Frederick wrote, “I shouldered one part of our baggage and Anna took up the other, and we set out forthwith. Anna would now share the burdens of life with me.” They had five children, twenty-one grandchildren, and were married for 44 years until her passing in 1882.
Anna Murray was as committed to the cause of the abolition of slavery as her husband. She was a conductor on the Underground Railroad helping to ferry freedom seekers through their home, which stood on the site where the Duffy School is located. It is safe to say that Anna spent more time there than Frederick due to his extensive travel schedule.
It is vitally important to continue to lift up the life and legacy of our great American hero, Frederick Douglass. It is equally as important to elevate the heroine who shared the burdens of life with him and made his work possible.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.