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.”

– Frederick Douglass
Since its inception in 2007, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives has been advocating for a more equitable world on the issues of human trafficking and racism. Co-founded by Nettie Washington Douglass, her eldest son, Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., and Robert J. Benz, FDFI is headquartered in Rochester, NY — a place Frederick Douglass once called home.

Our Philosophy

Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives believes that all individuals are born free with equal rights. We are motivated, as was our namesake, to help secure personal freedom and rights for those that have been denied them. We are an apolitical organization with no religious affiliation. We are not bound to any one race, color, or creed but obligated to all.

Our Mission

To build strong children and to end systems of exploitation and oppression

Our Vision

A more equitable world without slavery or racism

History

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.

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Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass

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Charles Remond Douglass

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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

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Abolitionist & Director Emeritus

Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America’s first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later, he began publishing an antislavery paper called The North Star.
Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington

Educator & Director Emeritus

Booker T. Washington recalled his childhood in his autobiography, Up From Slavery. He was born in 1856 on the Burroughs tobacco farm, which, despite its small size, he always referred to as a “plantation.” His mother was a cook, his father, a white man from a nearby farm. “The early years of my life, which were spent in the little cabin,” he wrote, “were not very different from those of other slaves.”
Nettie Washington Douglass

Nettie Washington Douglass

Co-Founder & Chairwoman

Ms. Douglass is the great-great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass and the great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington. Her lineage is incredible and the story of how she has represented these legacies since she was a child is equally fascinating. FDFI is the next step in her journey.
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

Co-Founder & President

Mr. Morris is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great- grandson of Booker T. Washington. He is reviving the critical work of his ancestors in the key leadership role at FDFI. He continues a family legacy in anti-slavery, education and antiracism while helping to craft and implement innovative programming to address these persistent issues still facing communities today.
Robert J. Benz

Robert J. Benz

Co-Founder & Executive Vice President

Robert J. Benz is responsible for programs, policies, and strategies. He created and led the development of FDFI’s core philosophy of a preventive approach to human trafficking manifest today as the nation’s premier prevention education program, PROTECT. In Rochester, New York, Mr. Benz leads the organization’s Racial Equity initiative.
Hank Rubin, PhD

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.

Board of Directors

Nettie Washington Douglass

Nettie Washington Douglass

Co-Founder & Chairwoman, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

Co-Founder & President, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

David W. Blight

David W. Blight

Yale Professor of American History, Author, Director of the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition

David W. Blight, is the Sterling Professor of History, African American Studies and American Studies. The Sterling Professorship is the highest honor bestowed on Yale faculty. He was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for his biography, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” the film rights for which Michelle and Barack Obama purchased for their Netflix programming.
Todd Allen

Todd Allen

Entrepreneur

Mr. Allen is from New Jersey, born in Newark, raised in Livingston and educated at Montclair State University, earning a B.S. in Business Administration in 1985. He spent his career in the trading pits of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), buying and selling natural gas, crude oil, and gold futures and options.
Michael Szymanski

Michael Szymanski

Government Affairs Consultant

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.

Carvin Eison

Carvin Eison

Filmmaker & Owner, ImageWordSound

Carvin Eison is a filmmaker and owner of the production company ImageWordSound, recognized internationally for creating intensely powerful films that explore racial dissonance and social discord in American culture.

FDFI Staff & Advisors

Kristin M. Leary

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.

Hon. Teta V. Banks, Ed.D.

National Chair

The Honorable Dr. Teta V. Banks is a diplomat, human rights advocate, and educator. Originally from Liberia, she grew up in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of the late Dr. Victoria Banks and Rev. Dr. A.A. Banks, Jr., civil rights colleagues of Dr. King and Mrs. Rosa Parks.
Jeremy Scott Alexander

Jeremy Scott Alexander

Director of Government Affairs

Mr. Alexander currently works for Georgetown University in the Office of Technology Commercialization. In November 2016, he discovered that his 3rd Great Grandmother and her children were sold on the 19th of June 1838 by the Jesuit priests who led what was known then as Georgetown College.
Erica Mock

Erica Mock

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

Kevin Douglass Greene

Great-great-grandson, Frederick Douglass

Kevin Douglass Greene is a retired Army veteran.  He has spent over half his life in service to and continues to serve this country and its Veterans. Kevin is honored to continue supporting and educating our Military personnel and families.
Wayne Preston Harris

Wayne Preston Harris

Senior Law Enforcement Advisor

Deputy Chief Wayne Preston Harris (Ret.) grew up the son of a college professor father who later became a Baptist minister and a politically active mother. After living in numerous locations while his father taught at universities in Ohio and New York, they settled in Rochester, NY where he went on to serve with the Rochester Police Department rising to the rank of Deputy Chief.
Rich Newman

Rich Newman

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

Rebekka Boysen-Taylor

Rebekka Boysen-Taylor

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.

FDFI Interns

interns, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, Rochester NY
Ranita Williams (pictured at left)
Ewin Joseph (pictured at right)

Now that you’ve met our team, it’s time to get involved yourself! Contact us today!

Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
115 South Avenue
Rochester, NY 14604
Legal Counsel
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