Prophet of Freedom: Honoring Frederick Douglass in Word and Song

November 27, 2018

More Information:
For Media Only: Jessica A. Kaufman (585-274-1057,

MEDIA CONTACT: Sandra Knispel, 585.200.7571 (cell)


A culmination of Rochester’s 200th anniversary celebration of Frederick Douglass’s birth 


*Renowned Yale University historian and Douglass biographer David Blight will speak about Frederick Douglass’s life in Rochester

*Live performance by two Eastman School of Music students (Jonathan Rhodes, tenor, and Lee Wright, piano) of a rare Douglass song from 1847 (only two surviving copies worldwide)—not performed in more than a century, and spirituals coordinated by Thomas Warfield, a singer and director of dance at RIT.

*Spiritual invocation and commentary by three members of the Rochester clergy: Rev. Julius Jackson, Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, and Rabbi Peter Stein

*Welcome by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren

*Surprise announcement from Ken Morris, great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass 

When? December 3 at 7 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm) 

Where? Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 N. Plymouth Ave, Rochester 

Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester are co-sponsoring an historic event to celebrate Rochester’s most famous abolitionist.  

Prophet of Freedom: Honoring Frederick Douglass in Word and Song will take place on December 3 at 7 p.m. at the Hochstein Performance Hall. Renowned historian David Blight, whose new book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, has just been published to glowing reviews, will be the featured speaker. “We are thrilled to co-sponsor this event with the University of Rochester and bring David Blight to Frederick Douglass’s longtime home,” says Richard Newman, professor of history at RIT.

 The event, which is free and open to the public, also features special musical performances, including a rendition of the “Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass,” a rare piece of sheet music recently acquired by the University of Rochester. Originally published in 1847 in Great Britain, where Douglass fled to avoid re-enslavement after publishing his first autobiography, the song depicts Douglass as a heroic freedom fighter. The song, not heard in more than a century, will be performed by two Eastman students. Acquired by the University of Rochester earlier this year at auction, the sheet music is only the second copy known to exist—the other is held at the British Library.  

Follow this link for more information about the rare sheet music

“This exciting program will allow the entire city to reflect more deeply on the life and legacy of Douglass during the bicentennial of his birth,” says Jessica Lacher-Feldman, assistant dean and the Joseph N. Lambert and Harold B. Schleifer Director of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation at the University of Rochester. Reviewers have hailed Blight’s new biography as “brilliant,” “moving,” and “monumental.” The result of over a decade of research on Frederick Douglass, the book includes new insights from a private collection of letters to the Douglass family. According to Blight, the Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University, Douglass was among the most famous Americans of the 19th century and one of the nation’s most original and enduring voices. “For all who wish to escape from outward or inward captivity, they would do well to feel the pulses of this life and to read the words of this voice,” writes Blight.  

The lecture will pay special attention to Rochester’s importance in Douglass’s life: not only will the program take place on the 171st anniversary of the inaugural edition of Douglass’s first newspaper, The North Star, which he published first on December 3, 1847, soon after arriving in Rochester. Blight’s lecture in Hochstein Performance Hall will also occur in the same venue where Douglass’s funeral was held in February 1895, when the building was still Central Presbyterian Church. 

A book signing will follow the event. While the event is free and open to all, we ask that people please register at Eventbrite to make sure there are enough seats. 


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