Living history

Descendant of civil rights leaders inspires VVHS students
Posted on 10/25/2017
Morris speaks about volunteerism, fighting human trafficking

VICTORVILLE — A descendant of two American civil rights heroes visited Victor Valley High School on Wednesday, aiming to inspire students to make a difference in their own community.

Kenneth B. Morris Jr., the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington, spoke about the legacy of his famous ancestors and the causes that he’s fighting for today. Morris heads Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, a charity that endeavors to “end human trafficking and all forms of servitude,” according to its website.

Students were captivated by the stories of Douglass (a former slave who played a central role in the abolitionist movement that led to the Emancipation Proclamation) and Washington (an educator and civil rights leader of the post-Reconstruction era).

Morris also recounted how these two famous families came together when his grandfather Dr. Frederick Douglass III met and married his grandmother Nettie Hancock Washington in the 1940s. He said neither knew the lineage of the other when they laid eyes on each other, and it was “love at first sight.”

While Morris knew and appreciated the history of his family from a young age, he spent much of his life downplaying it until about a decade ago, when he saw a documentary about human trafficking that moved him deeply. He founded Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives in 2007, with the goal of eradicating modern-day slavery.

Morris speaks at schools and universities around the country, and he uses Booker T. Washington’s words to inspire volunteerism: “If you want to lift up yourself, lift up someone else.”

VVHS history teacher Alicia Most met Morris when she and other Victor Valley Union High School District staffers took the “Footsteps to Freedom” tour of the Underground Railroad earlier this year. She invited Morris to speak to her class and other VVHS students throughout the day.

Most said hearing the stories of the hardships Douglass and Washington faced may help them “overcome adversities” they face in their own lives.

Morris told the students that even if they don’t know much about their own family tree, they “descend from someone who made a difference; I guarantee it.”

“You have history living in you,” he told them. “But the future depends on how you carry that forward.”

Visit to learn more about the organization.

Kenneth Morris
  • Victor Valley Adult School