Descendants Of Black Civil Rights Leaders And Icons Gather For A Historic Celebration At The White House


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The descendants of some of the most well-known civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s and other prominent historical leaders gathered at the White House for a special celebration of Black History this week. 

Attendees included the families of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Sally Hemings, Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Emmett Till.

They were greeted and addressed by Vice President Kamala Harris, who praised the descendants of “extraordinary American heroes” who, she said, embody the promise of the nation and the Constitution, NBC News reports. 

“They’ve passed the baton to us,” Harris said. 

After Harris, Stephen K. Benjamin, the White House Office of Public Engagement director, summarized the administration’s efforts, including Joe Biden’s signing of the legislation designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday and an executive order about police accountability.

The families known as The Descendants were there as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s celebration of Black History Month to honor their family histories.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” Kenneth B. Morris Jr. told NBC News. He is a descendant of Frederick Douglass and his first wife, Anna Murray Douglass. “Freedom’s torch has been passed to us,” he added. 

Morris is also a descendant of Booker T. Washington, he said. The Washington and Douglass families were joined by marriage in the 1940s.

Throughout his work and the work of his mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, Morris has focused on human rights and antiracism through the nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives he co-founded. Even though he helped organize the convening, he stressed that it was not a matter of one individual or a family. “It’s an equal collaboration. We are all coming together,” he said.

Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt is Harriet Tubman’s great-great-grandniece. The Washington, D.C. resident organizes an annual Harriet Tubman Day ceremony in the nation’s capital to raise awareness about her famous ancestors’ accomplishments. She said she was “excited” to meet the descendants of fellow freedom fighters.”

In addition to the official gathering, the families were invited to participate in various activities. As part of their itinerary, they were scheduled to visit the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Supreme Court, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as dinners and dialogue opportunities.


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