Frederick Douglass’ 1854 speech

In honor of Black History Month, throughout February, we will be highlighting black leaders, alumni and organizations that have made an impact on the Case Western Reserve community and society as a whole.

Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist and ex-slave, visited Cleveland several times to bolster the anti-slavery movement, often speaking directly to black activists.

In 1854, during one of his visits, Douglass delivered Western Reserve College’s commencement speech. The speech refuted common arguments favoring slavery, and urged students to fight for abolition. Douglass’ visit to campus is recognized by the historic site marker outside of the Allen Memorial Medical Library on Adelbert Road near Euclid Avenue. The marker also notes that the home of Horatio Cyrus and Martha Cozad Ford, a stop on the Underground Railroad, stood nearby.

Today, Kelvin Smith Library is hosting a panel discussion titled “The Journey Ends to Begin, VOICES A Century Apart: Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr.” The free discussion will feature Douglass’ commencement speech at Western Reserve College, and panelists will compare the spoken words of each historical leader. A light lunch will be provided. Get more details and RSVP.