Proud to walk in his great-great grandfather's
Douglass IV is proud to live the life of his ancestor. The great-great
grandson of famed 19th century orator and abolitionist Frederick
Douglass, Frederick IV travels the United States with his wife re-enacting
his famous relative's life.
A graduate of Morgan State University, Frederick IV
resides in Baltimore and is the founder of the Frederick Douglass
Organization Inc., a nonprofit organization established to conduct
activities that bring the words of Frederick Douglass to life through
presentations to and dialogues with diverse groups.
Bankrate spoke to Frederick Douglass IV about personal
finances and the African American community.
Bankrate: Do you have
special expenses in re-enacting your ancestor?
Frederick Douglass: Not
really. There's the travel. No plastic surgery; my face seems to
resemble my great-great grandfather's. I have about four costumes.
My wife has a lot more, women seem to like to have more changes
of clothing. We had them made for us. We have them constructed according
to what middle-class black people were wearing in the 1800s. It's
a misnomer ... not every black person before the Civil War was a
slave. There was a successful middle class and intelligensia. We
portray my ancestor and his wife during their successful period.
We look at books and get the costumes made in Maryland and D.C.,
Bankrate: Your great-great
grandfather left Baltimore to go to New York; how did you end up
back in Baltimore?
Douglass: He went to
Rochester, New York, to found the paper, the North Star. Then, he
came back to D.C., and his home, Cedar Hill, is a national historic
monument, a tourist place.
Bankrate: What do you
think is the most crucial financial issue facing African-Americans
Douglass: Access to
the upper echelons of companies. There have been financial gains,
but still, there is a glass ceiling. It's true for women, too. I
think through perseverance and hard work, along with greater openness
on the part of companies, we'll break that. I really believe in
the American Dream.
Bankrate: Where do
you stand on the slave-reparations issue?
Douglass: The more
I find out about how wealth was gained in America, the more I'm
in favor. There are so many companies that were built with slave
labor. Imagine how productive you could be at college, even, with
slave labor ... slaves doing your homework, slaves doing your ironing,
cooking. Some schools, such as University of Virginia, had to pass
rules stopping people from bringing their four or five slaves to
school. If my family had the benefit of slaves, they could have
been accumulating wealth, instead of being stagnant.
Bankrate: In these
days of school budget cutbacks, do you have to find corporate sponsors
to underwrite your presentations to classes?
Douglass: There are
different ways it can be done. Sometimes, going to a classroom,
I will just do it on my own. But when I travel, those expenses have
to be met. The fundraising picture has really changed. I do it myself.
Bankrate: What do you
think the future of affirmative action will be?
Douglass: There will
always be a test to affirmative action. I still think it's necessary
to the field of education. I still support it. When barriers exist,
you still have to legislate equality. If the situation is not equal
the government has to intervene.