Descendant of Booker T. Washington and Fredrick Douglas speaks on Founder’s Day
April 16, 2018
Dr. Kenneth Morris, Jr. delivered a message on students creating their own legacies through education during the Voorhees College 121st Founder’s Day Convocation.
Morris began his speech with a quick history lesson on his ancestors Booker T. Washington, who is his late great-great grandfather, and Frederick Douglas, who is his late great-great-great grandfather. He told the students they have, just as he has, greatness flowing through his veins and through education there is no limit to what they can achieve.
“Knowledge is power. My ancestors understood that education was the road to freedom, and it is a powerful tool once you obtain it,” Morris said.
Morris discussed the hardships that his ancestors endured to get the education they deserved. He said during slavery masters did not want their slaves to learn to read or write because it no longer made them fit to be a slave.
“It is important for young African-Americans earn a quality education that is afforded to them. What better place than right here at Voorhees because of the foundation previously laid out by Voorhees’ founder Elizabeth Evelyn Wright,” Morris said.
Morris went on to tell his childhood fantasies of touring Douglas’ home and wanting to always try on his shoes that remained in the historic home that laid along his bed side. He said he had the opportunity to slip his foot into those exact shoes years later during a photoshoot, but decided not to.
“I had huge shoes to fill and no one but my great-great-great grandfather could. Instead of trying on his shoes, I decided to create a legacy of my own,” Morris said.
He said to the students that they can take steps in the right direction of achieving greatness of their own but must receive an education to do so. Morris recalled Washington’s efforts to teach himself to read and write after being emancipated at the age of nine.
“There are legacies such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright sitting among us today right here in this room waiting on us to move upward and onward,” Morris said.
“All of you can be the names mentioned in future history books of people who have done great things and make your marks,” Morris said.
Nijah Davis, a junior majoring in sports management, said it is ironic that our ancestors paid unthinkable prices for an education that many of my peers take for granted today.
“I am learning what it meant for Elizabeth Evelyn Wright to attempt several times to establish a school. I am going to finish my degree at Voorhees to make her and myself proud,” Davis said.
Following Founder’s Day convocation, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony in honor of the opening of the Voorhees College Historical Museum. The museum is located on the 2nd floor of the Wright-Potts Library. The museum chronicles the institution’s history from Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, who established the Denmark Industrial School, patterned after Tuskegee Institute, to Voorhees becoming the first Historically Black College and University to be established by an African-American woman that is still in existence.
President W. Franklin Evans said he wanted to leave his own presidential legacy behind at Voorhees. When the institution’s historian Richard Reid came to him with the initial plan, he was all in. He later brought Herman “Skip” Mason, director of library services, to assist with bringing this project to fruition.
“The museum is not only a historic moment for the city of Denmark and Voorhees College, but for me as well as the ninth president of the institution. This project is long overdue. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright persevered through many setbacks, because of her determination the doors of Voorhees College are still open today,” Evans said.
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