February 14, 2018

Van Hollen Sworn in to Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission

Last night, on the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass' birthday, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen was sworn in as a member of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. Senator Van Hollen introduced the legislation to create this Commission in the U.S. Senate, which will plan, develop, and carry out events to honor and celebrate the life of Douglass in 2018. The Commission will be only the 16thcommemorative commission created by Congress since 1989 - only six of those commemorated specific individuals, and none of them were African American. Van Hollen is one of 16 members appointed to the Commission.

"The words and actions of Frederick Douglass were pivotal to the fight for freedom and justice in our country - I'm honored to join this Commission to celebrate his legacy this year," said Senator Van Hollen. "Douglass' legacy can be seen across Maryland and our country. Frederick Douglass' actions helped build a more perfect union, but we have long journey still ahead and the lessons he taught us are as valuable in lighting the way forward as they are in illuminating the past. As Douglass once stated, 'The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.' We should never stop fighting to move our country forward - it is my hope that this Commission will help further that goal."

Douglass was enslaved at birth in Talbot County, Maryland. At a young age Douglass learned to read and write, and in 1838, he fled Maryland and moved to New York. He later escaped to Great Britain to avoid being tracked down and returned to slavery. Ultimately, British Quakers paid for his freedom, which enabled him to return to the United States. He settled in Baltimore, Maryland in 1847, and he continued to be a leading abolitionist who campaigned against slavery and in favor of the right to vote throughout the East and Midwest.

He held significant positions within the government. He served as an Advisor to President Lincoln. He was also appointed to serve as the District of Columbia Legislative Council, the United States Marshall, and the Recorder of Deeds. He subsequently became the Ambassador to Haiti from 1889 to 1891. In Maryland, Douglass invested in several enterprises, especially those that would benefit the African-American community. These included housing developments in his old neighborhood in Fells Point (named Douglass Place) and at Highland Beach, a summer resort community outside of Annapolis.