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Adirondack Abolitionist families reunited after 153 years

Descendents of Frederick Douglass and John Brown continue to fight slavery in the modern world together

Alice Keesey Mecoy and Kenneth B Morris Jr. stand next to Robert Shetterly’s portraits of their great-great-great grandfathers; Frederick Douglass and John Brown.

Alice Keesey Mecoy and Kenneth B Morris Jr. stand next to Robert Shetterly’s portraits of their great-great-great grandfathers; Frederick Douglass and John Brown. Photo by Katherine Clark.

— In August of 1859, radical abolitionist John Brown and Frederick Douglass, American Social Reformer and freed slave, met for the last time after working closely together for over a decade to bring about social change and help escaped slaves through the underground railroad.

For nearly 153 years, the Brown and Douglass families never met again.

On Nov. 30, the gap was closed by less than ten steps as Alice Keesey Mecoy walked across the room to meet Kenneth B. Morris.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you,” She exclaimed as the two hugged.

Mecoy, the great-great-great-granddaughter of John Brown, and Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass, closed the gap of time between the two families with their first in-person meeting at the 150 year anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation event at North Country Community College Campus.

“The families were friends up until 1859,” Mecoy said. “The last time they talked was in the quarry in August prior to Harper’s Ferry when Douglas told John Brown it wasn’t a good idea and he wasn’t going to participate (In Harper’s Ferry).”

Brown and his group of 21 men were caught had gone to capture the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry hoping to start a revolution to end slavery. Though they were captured and later executed, Douglass later said their efforts were the basis for the end of slavery.

From then on when the families would see each other, Mecoy said for one reason or another they just didn’t communicate and ultimately drifted apart.

Today, Mecoy and Morris continue the legacy of their abolitionist ancestors through the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, of which Morris is the founder and president and Mecoy on the board of advisors, one of many organizations she serves on. It exists to serve two purposes: to preserve and honor the legacy of Frederick Douglass and to create awareness about modern-day slavery in an effort to expedite its demise.

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