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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.

— The pair were introduced via e-mail about three years ago, Mecoy said.

“I called him and told him this is historic because our families haven’t spoken since 1859,” Mecoy said. “So we broke the silence.”

Though both Morris and Mecoy have many generations that separate themselves from their empassioned ancestors, the pair say their lineage was something they did not embrace right away.

Morris, who is not only the related to Frederick Douglass, is also the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. Morris said the weight of the family heritage had taken a dark turn for his grandfather.

“Sometimes it makes me feel far removed from them by the great-greats,” Morris said. “My grandfather walked in his father’s shadow.”

Under the pressure of his lineage, being the first male in the union of the family of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas, his grandfather Frederick Douglass III took his own life.

Morris said because of what happened to his grandfather, there was less pressure put upon him to follow in the footsteps of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass.

“I ran away from this my whole life and now look where I am,” Morris said. “I think because I found this mission on my own as opposed to having it forced upon me, I find it much more meaningful than had it been forced.”

After working for 22 years in the business world and raising his two daughters with his wife, Diana Kavalis, he read an article about human trafficking that hit him close to home.

“People will look at us and say you have an obligation to pass it on because you have famous ancestors and my answer is always you have just as much of an obligation to pass on your family legacy,” Morris said. “I guarantee each and everyone of us if we research and go through our family tree we will find people that made a difference.”

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