About Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”
We learned in school about great leaders like Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington; how they helped shape the world around them. Legacies like these and the issues they faced, however, can seem far removed from our own lives when presented in the context of history lessons.
They’re not far removed.
Modern-day slavery and Racism remain two of America’s most persistent problems. This is a critical time for the next change makers to emerge who will, perhaps, be inspired but, unquestionably, informed by leaders and events of the past.
Why Rochester, NY?
Frederick Douglass called Rochester home longer than anywhere else. During the 25 years he lived here, he published his weekly newspapers, The North Star and Frederick Douglass Paper. In Rochester, Douglass was a vital part of the Underground Railroad, he gave one of the greatest speeches in American history – What to the slave is the Fourth of July? – and he supported the work of the women’s rights movement.
From 1847 to 1872, he called this city his home and chose it as his final resting place as well, in Mount Hope Cemetery. The spirit of Frederick Douglass lives on, but there is still much work to be done; in Rochester, NY, and around the world.
With its return to Rochester, the Douglass family comes full circle signifying the continuation of the Abolitionist and AntiRacist movements that Frederick Douglass championed here.
Our Remarkable Family Lineage
Our founders, Ms. Douglass and Mr. Morris are direct descendants of Frederick Douglass, The Great Abolitionist, and Booker T. Washington, the famed educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute.
Through the union of Ms. Douglass’s mother, Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington), and her father, Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass), our founders unite the bloodlines of two of the most influential names in American history.
Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass
Charles Remond Douglass
Joseph H. Douglass’s Family: Fannie Howard Douglass, Blanche, and Frederick III
Frederick Douglass III, Nettie II, and Booker T. Washington III
Nettie II and III (Honey) with Josephine Baker
Meet Our Team
Abolitionist & Director Emeritus
Booker T. Washington
Educator & Director Emeritus
Nettie Washington Douglass
Co-Founder & Chairwoman
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.
Co-Founder & President
Robert J. Benz
Co-Founder & Executive Vice President
Hank Rubin, PhD
Founding Director of the Frederick Douglass Center for Collaborative Leadership
Dr. Hank Rubin is responsible for developing and leading the Frederick Douglass Center for Collaborative Leadership, a backbone program within FDFI, established to support and strengthen the individual and collective impact of antiracism and antipoverty leaders; particularly those in civic, community and non-profit roles that can contribute to building strong children and families.
FDFI Staff & Senior Advisors
Kristin M. Leary
Senior Advisor & Co-Founder of the Frederick Douglass Ireland Project
Kristin M. Leary provides strategic and political government relations consulting to both nonprofit and for-profit clients as Founder and Principal at Leary Ventures in Washington, D.C. She has over 20 years of experience building coalitions and partnerships among diverse groups and interests around policy issues.
Hon. Teta V. Banks, Ed.D.
Jeremy Scott Alexander
Director of Government Affairs
VP, Strategic Partnerships
Erica Mock has a career in sales spanning over 18 years for multiple major corporations. For the past six years she has dedicated her focus as an expert in integrated security systems for verticals spanning from healthcare to government.
Kevin Douglass Greene
Great-great-grandson, Frederick Douglass
Wayne Preston Harris
Senior Law Enforcement Advisor
Senior History Advisor
Richard Newman is Professor of History at Rochester Institute of Technology and the author or editor of seven books, including Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers, Abolitionism: A Very Short Introduction
Senior Curriculum Advisor
Rebekka Boysen-Taylor is a middle school teacher, curriculum author, and educational researcher in rural northern Idaho. Each winter, her Palouse Prairie 7th-grade students study the roots of racism, historic and modern-day slavery, and abolition.
Board of Directors
Nettie Washington Douglass
Co-Founder & Chairwoman
Mr. Szymanski is a government affairs consultant in Washington, D.C. and Partner with The National Group, LLP. At The National Group, he counsels public and private sector clients on a broad range of federal legislative and regulatory issues. He is a former member of the Obama Administration and, in 2009, was appointed to the U.S. Department of State.
Documentary Filmmaker & Community Organizer
Sybil Azur is a mother of two, writer, documentary filmmaker, and community organizer. She is the Chapter Chair of Climate Reality Los Angeles’s 100% Committed Committee, and led the team that spearheaded the initiative to transition the Los Angeles Unified School District to 100% clean, renewable energy. Sybil is currently earning an M.F.A. in screenwriting, with the goal of creating content that furthers social and environmental justice issues.
Negelle Morris is a business leader with over 25 years of experience working within multiple clinical and corporate environments where her focus has been in direct patient care, healthcare leadership, sales strategy development, and patient access. She currently leads a team of 600 employees as Commercial Vice President at Novo Nordisk Inc., a global pharmaceutical company specializing in the treatment of Diabetes, Obesity and other rare diseases.
Gabrielle (Gabi) Koeppel is of counsel to Kelliher & Salzer, LLC. Gabi is a development and legal consultant for senior members of real estate development companies and individual investors on all aspects of zoning, site plan approval and other public entitlements, transportation issues and environmental matters, leasing, construction, design, and finance, including negotiations with anchor tenants and department stores, financial partners, lenders, sellers and purchasers.
Filmmaker & Owner, ImageWordSound
David W. Blight
Yale Professor of American History, Author, Director of the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition
Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
140 E. Main Street
Rochester, NY 14604
Jon P. Getz, Esq., Partner
Vahey Getz LLP
144 Exchange Blvd, Suite 400
Rochester, New York 14614
585-262-5130 | Fax: 585-262-3474
Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (Initiatives) is a 501(c)3 public charity – EIN #26-0757405
Click here to view FDFI’s IRS Determination Letter