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Black history interwoven with suffrage centennial

Tubman, Wells and Douglass helped both movements

OW Staff Writer | 2/13/2020, midnight

Duster has written, published and contributed to a total of nine books, two of which include the writings of her great-grandmother: “Ida in Her Own Words” and “Ida from Abroad.” She gives presentations about her work to make sure that Wells’ legacy does not fade from public memory.

“I learned at an early age that my great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells, was a force to be reckoned with,” Duster writes in one of her articles. “At the end of the 19th century, as an investigative journalism pioneer, she uncovered and documented in meticulous detail the violence of lynching.”

In 1913, Wells founded the Alpha Suffrage Club, the first African-American women’s group that advocated for the right to vote. The club aimed to give a voice to Black women who had been excluded from other suffrage organizations. Although women in Chicago were granted the right to vote in 1910, Whites tried to ban Blacks from voting altogether.

As Wells stated in her autobiography: “We (women) could use our vote for the advantage of ourselves and our race.”

Kenneth B. Morris Jr., is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915). His mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the daughter of Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington) and Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass).

Morris contributed to the afterword to “Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American.” He also wrote the forward to the 2017 centennial edition of the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,” which the Library of Congress named one of the 88 books that shaped America.

Douglass, whose biography was published in 1845, escaped slavery as a young man and devoted his life to ending it through his abolitionist speaking engagements. He became an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. Later, he used the platform of his newspaper, the North Star, to enlist petitioners to sign the declaration supporting women’s rights.

A believer in the equality of all, Douglass was the only African-American to attend the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, held in upstate New York, where he spoke in favor of women’s suffrage.