February 18, 2022

25th+ Anniversary of Frederick Douglass Institute to be Celebrated on February 23

FDWest Chester University’s Frederick Douglass Institute, which is the first of its kind and the leader among Douglass institutes in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, is celebrating the Institute’s 25th+ anniversary in a way that ties the issues of the past to the issues of the present. University of Maryland Distinguished Professor of English and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Robert S. Levine will deliver the celebration’s keynote address, “Impeachment: Frederick Douglass and Andrew Johnson After the Civil War,” on Wednesday, February 23, at 1 p.m. in Philips Autograph Library, located at 700 South High Street. A book signing and informal conversation with the renowned scholar and author will follow for members of the WCU community and guests. Professor Levine draws his talk from his most recent work, The Failed Promise: Frederick Douglass, Reconstruction, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (W.W. Norton, 2021). The afternoon-long celebration is open to the public free of charge.

The Failed Promise has been applauded by numerous scholars, including Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow. According to Gates, “In this engrossing new book, Robert S. Levine has penned a nuanced and detailed study of the ‘hopes and frustrations of Reconstruction’ during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. While focusing on the relationship between Johnson and Frederick Douglass, the author also includes the views of numerous African American writers who witnessed Johnson’s transformation from self-styled ‘Moses to Black People’ to betrayer of Reconstruction. The Failed Promise is a lesson for our times as we continue to confront our nation’s unfulfilled promise of racial equality.”

Levine’s visit is particularly relevant to the Institute’s 25th+ anniversary celebration as West Chester University’s relationship with Frederick Douglass is quite personal. On February 1, 1895, just days before his death, Frederick Douglass delivered his last public lecture on the University’s campus. A statue of Douglass, which was erected in 2006 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, is featured in the University’s Academic Quad and commemorates his last public lecture.

“West Chester University is especially proud of the ongoing work of the Frederick Douglass Institute and its efforts to provide compelling programming that deepens multicultural studies throughout our University,” said West Chester University President Chris Fiorentino. “We are deeply honored to have Professor Levine with us to celebrate the Institute’s historical importance to this University and to the Chester County community. As we pay tribute to the ideals that Frederick Douglass outlined so eloquently, I would hope that he would be proud of West Chester University as it continues to raise its hand high to act as a catalyst for U.S. social change and for its eagerness to increase cultural competency at a time when much work remains.”  


About the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University

The Frederick Douglass Institute is an educational and cultural resource for advancing multicultural studies across the curriculum and for deepening the intellectual heritage of Frederick Douglass, the former slave, distinguished orator, journalist, author, and statesman. The mission of the Frederick Douglass Institute at West Chester University of Pennsylvania (FDI) is to maintain the legacy of Frederick Douglass before the campus community, local community, region, and the nation. Douglass’ legacy is sustained through the highest quality of academic programming that promotes excellence in scholarship, teaching and institutional advancement. Guided and inspired by the spirit of Douglass, the Institute aims to create opportunities to build a better community for all to fulfill our destiny as human beings.


Through the leadership of WCU, there are Frederick Douglass Institutes at all 14 campuses of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education; collectively, the Frederick Douglass Institutes are known as the FDI Collaborative. For more information, please see the following link: https://www.wcupa.edu/_academics/fdouglass/

Back to top of page.