Co-Founder & President
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. descends from two of the most influential names in American history: he is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. 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). Ken’s life until the year 2007 could be described as distinguished yet decisively disengaged from his lineage until Providence called.
Ken continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Rochester, NY-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). His career and life path are driven by a clear focus on FDFI’s mission “To Build Strong Children and to end systems of exploitation and oppression.” He could not have predicted that one day he would so fully embrace and be defined by the characteristics that so closely defined his famous ancestors.
FDFI brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement, FDFI educates young people about all forms of forced servitude and inspires them to action. Current FDFI projects include PROTECT, a partnership with two California-based nonprofit organizations, 3Strands Global and Love Never Fails, to provide grade-level appropriate human trafficking prevention education to students from grade school to high school, and the One Million Abolitionists project, which with a wide range of partners including the National Park Service, History Channel, educational institutions, community organizations, and individuals will print and distribute one million copies of a special Douglass Family Edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people domestically and internationally.
An accomplished and prolific public speaker, Ken regularly appears before charitable organizations, local, state, and federal government agencies, and civic organizations, and presents to students across the country and internationally. He has lectured at universities including New Castle University in England, Columbia University, Morehouse College, UNLV, Tuskegee University, Loyola University Chicago, and Yale University. He has appeared on CNN, Democracy Now!, PBS, NPR, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, and the CBS Evening News. Ken is honored to have been a keynote speaker at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s annual conference in Vienna and Luxembourg.
Ken appeared in the 2022 documentaries Abraham Lincoln and The American Presidency with Bill Clinton on the History Channel, Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches on HBO and HBO Max, Becoming Frederick Douglass on PBS (October 2022), and 1000 Years of Slavery on the Smithsonian Channel. Previously, he appeared in the documentaries Civil Warriors and Rise Up: The Legacy of Nat Turner on National Geographic and Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color on the History Channel. He served as a consultant on the 2022 PBS documentary, Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom.
Ken contributed the foreword to the Douglass Family Edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, published in June 2023, the preface to Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour, published in February 2022, the foreword to the bicentennial edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave published in January 2017, and the afterword to Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American published in November 2015.
In 2022, FDFI inaugurated the Frederick Douglass Books (FDB) publishing imprint, with Ken taking on the role of publisher. FDB represents a partnership between Forefront Books and FDFI, with the mission of amplifying the voices of Black and Brown authors and establishing a pathway to publish books that are distributed into traditional retailers through Simon & Schuster.
Ken received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of La Verne in California in January 2012. In June 2012, he received the inaugural National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom’s Frederick Douglass Underground Railroad Legacy Award in recognition of his commitment to promoting social change through activism that addresses contemporary social issues. In January 2014, Ken was the first man to be awarded the Women’s E-News 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. In April 2016, he received the Anne Frank Change the World Award from the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. In November 2017, he received the National Association of African American Honors Programs Legacy Keeper Award. In 2018, Ken received awards, including the Award for Excellence from Washington College, Wind Beneath My Wings from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Frederick Douglass Medal from the Douglass Institute for African & African American Studies at the University of Rochester.
Before co-founding FDFI in 2007, Ken was a partner at C&A Marketing, a marketing and entertainment firm recognized as a leader in corporate meetings, incentive travel, and customized marketing programs. He has been a member of the board of directors for Kaleidoscope Arts Factory, a nonprofit youth performing arts organization, and the Dean’s Advisory Committee at the University of La Verne. Ken currently sits on the board of directors for the Frederick Douglass Ireland Project, the nonprofit Globe Lane, and serves as board president at The Young Americans performing arts organization. He is a former ambassador for the nonprofit organization Human Rights First. In November 2017, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi named him to the federal Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission, serving as Commission Chair.
Ken received a Bachelor of Arts Religion degree from the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies at the University of La Verne. As did Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, he firmly believes that education is the pathway to freedom.
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Frederick Douglass Field Dedication: Rutgers Newark
Frederick Douglass: Inventor of the Selfie
Soledad O’Brien interview on Matter of Fact
Democracy Now! Interview
Washington College Acceptance Speech of Douglass Honorary Degree
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