Legislation commemorating the chosen birthday of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was signed into law on Monday. The resolution declares Feb. 14 as Frederick Douglass Day in New Jersey.
Legislation commemorating the day cleared the full Assembly in March and was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy this week. The legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.
“Frederick Douglass was the Father of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Wimberly. “His life’s work to end slavery was the foundation for all who came after and worked to end racial injustice in this country. Honoring Mr. Douglass in this way ensures New Jersey children now and in the future understand the importance of his contributions to history.”
Douglass was a renowned African American abolitionist, human rights activist, author and public speaker. He was born into slavery in or around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, but his exact birthdate is unknown. During his lifetime he chose to celebrate his birth annually on Feb. 14. Douglas escaped from slavery in 1838 at the age of 20 and began attending and giving speeches at abolitionist meetings.
In 1849, Douglass visited New Jersey when he was invited by abolitionists in Newark. During a speech he spoke against slavery at the First African Presbyterian Church. Slavery was abolished in New Jersey in 1846, just three years prior to Douglass’ visit.
“Frederick Douglass’ legacy is one of self-determination, activism and freedom,” said Reynolds-Jackson. “We celebrate his legacy as well as his work to secure the freedom of slaves through education, activism and journalism. We can see his spirit alive in the movement we see today for racial justice and equality and an end to violence.”