Program Series: Taking One’s Freedom

February Program Series on Freedom

Explore with Us:

Exhibit / Collage Making / Lecture / Book Discussion / Resources

In February, we will be taking a closer look at the notion of freedom, primarily through the lens of Frederick Douglass’ journey to his own freedom. Take some time this month to explore the meaning of freedom through our programs. Visit our exhibit, participate in an intergenerational art program and a special lecture, and contribute to a book discussion. You’ll be sure to come away with some new ideas and insights about freedom!  Our Library Resources can help you continue your exploration of the life and work of Frederick Douglass.

All events are listed below, with links to register where needed.


From Slavery to Freedom: The Journey to New York City



The Library will host Frederick Douglass From Slavery to Freedom: The Journey to New York City, a traveling exhibition, from Saturday, February 10 through Wednesday, February 28. The exhibit is provided by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Drawing upon Douglass’ own words from his autobiography and materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, the exhibition will look at Douglass’ life under slavery and his daring journey to freedom. It explores the question, “What aspects of his youth shaped his determination to be free?” Visitors may gain a deeper understanding of Douglass’ quest for freedom and the difficult choices he made. These choices can resonate for Americans today who are facing great challenges in achieving their goals and dreams.



Make a Freedom Collage

FEBRUARY 10 from 9:30am to 11:30am


Creating a collage can be a powerful means of self-expression for young and old.  We welcome artist, photographer, teacher and mentor Mansa Mussa , who will lead an intergenerational program creating Freedom Collages from 9:30-11:30am. Completed collages will be displayed in our Gallery space throughout the month.

Please register your group if you plan to attend.

“Collage is use to explore ideas, [and] advocate concepts…But just as often it is the consummate means of personal visual expression and distinct visual vocabulary…”

-Gerald Brommer in Collage Techniques Book

Collage Techniques, a Guide for Artists and Illustrators




Frederick Douglass: Reader, Preacher, Orator

FEBRUARY 10 at 2pm


Professor Douglas Jones, Rutgers UniversityDr. Douglas Jones of Rutgers University will present Frederick Douglass: Reader, Preacher, Orator, a lecture about Douglass’ public speaking career, which ranged from local preacher to world-renown orator.  Professor Jones will discuss the religious and secular contexts that gave shape to Douglass’ rhetorical style and helped make his speaking career so memorable. Light refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Please register if you plan to attend.

Read some of Douglass’ speeches in our database African-American History Online (Scotch Plains Library card required to log in.)

Frederick Douglass Speaking
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. “Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave, on an English platform, denouncing slaveholders and their religious abettors.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1852.




Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave

FEBRUARY 15 at 7pm


Book cover: Never CaughtOn Thursday, February 15 at 7:00pm, Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps returns to the Library to discuss the book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. A limited number of copies of the book will be available to borrow beginning February 1.  Stop by or call the Reference Desk at 908-322-5007 x 204 to reserve a copy.  Registration is required as well.

Further reading:

In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington.”  New York Times article about Ona Judge and Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s determined quest to bring her story to light.


“There’s a myth of the North as free, but her story shows how complicated that was…”


Additional Resources at the Scotch Plains Public Library

Books (Print) – all are available to borrow:


In the Words of Frederick Douglass: Quotations from Liberty’s Champion


“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.”

“Frederick Douglass has left one of the most extensive bodies of significant and quotable public statements of any figure in American history. In the Words of Frederick Douglass is a rich trove of…nearly seven hundred quotations by Douglass that demonstrate the breadth and strength of his intellect as well as the eloquence with which he expressed his political and ethical principles.’  (From the publisher)


Book Cover: Giants : the parallel lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham LincolnGiants : The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln


“…long before they ever met, they read, virtually memorized the same six books or authors, and that was central to their self-making.” -NPR interview with author John Stauffer, 2009

 “Stauffer manages the nifty trick of reinterpreting the familiar story of Lincoln, the Civil War and slavery by introducing Douglass as an important character in this narrative. Douglass was disappointed with Lincoln at first, but grew to become friendly with the president. This fascinating book will be of interest to popular audiences and academics alike.” -Star Ledger 


The Radical and the Republican BookThe Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics

“Douglass’s views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln….Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there.  -Publishers Weekly




Frederick Douglass biographyFrederick Douglass

“…the author presents the known facts of Douglass’s stormy life and reveals the man behind the icon: his complex and ambiguous friendships with William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown and other figures of the day; his gossip-stirring relationships with several dynamic white women; his controversial tenure as U.S. minister to Haiti near the end of his life. McFeely analyzes Douglass’s autobiographical writings, probing insightfully into the complicated psyche of this heroic figure.” -Publishers Weekly





The Portable Frederick DouglassThe Portable Frederick Douglass

The Portable Frederick Douglass includes the full range of Douglass’s works: the complete Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, as well as extracts from My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass; The Heroic Slave, one of the first works of African American fiction; the brilliant speeches that launched his political career and that constitute the greatest oratory of the Civil War era; and his journalism, which ranges from cultural and political critique (including his early support for women’s equality) to law, history, philosophy, literature, art, and international affairs, including a never-before-published essay on Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. –From the Publisher

Research Databases


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  • Bloom’s Literature -find reference sources, literary criticism, the full-text of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and more.

Bloom's Literature Database