LOGAN, Utah — An audience of students, educators and community members enjoyed a “visit” from the 19th-century abolitionists Fredrick Douglass and Lucretia Mott during a program on Monday evening at Utah State University.
“It was like really meeting the real Fredrick Douglass. He just did such a great job. He is so educated and he knows his information so well,” said Christen Rose, a local English teacher who has a love for Douglass’s book, “The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass.”
The “conversation” with Douglass and Mott was held as part of this year’s Bennion Teachers’ Workshop at Utah State University. Each year the workshop explores “the concepts upon which democracy is built, the conditions under which it flourishes, and the dangers to its existence.”
This year the theme is “Gender, Media and Suffrage in the United States.” For Monday’s program, Douglass and Mott were portrayed by the living-historians Nathan Richardson and Renée-Noelle Felice.
“They had a deep knowledge of the characters, but also the context of the time that they lived in,” said Steffanie Casperson, a local community member who attended the event.
Casperson said she brought her children to the program because she had recently taken them to some of the places where Douglass spoke in Boston. She said she was excited for them to learn more about his life and the life of Mott.
“I wanted my children to hear that older context, to hear some of the struggle,” Casperson said. “Anything you can do like this where people are live and they are speaking in first person I think is such a deeper, richer experience than reading about it in a book.”
Monday’s program was organized to have a casual, conversational feel. Richardson and Felice took turns presenting in-character on Douglass and Mott. The two then had a conversation with each other about key events in both the abolition movement and the beginning of the suffrage movement.
Richardson and Felice also engaged with the audience as their characters. Richardson invited children from the audience to help him as he told his story, and the two of them both answered questions from the audience.
Overall, Casperson said the event reminded her of the power she has to make a difference.
“Sometimes I have to go, ‘I have a voice.’ And I can speak and advocate for myself. I don’t need the agreement of the men around me,” Casperson said.