Our Ancestors' Wildest Dreams - Life Lessons from the Frederick Douglass Global Scholars Program

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By Keshia Abraham 

When I reflect on the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows program and the impact on young, exceptional students from across our country, I think of the words of Frederick himself, “my hopes were never brighter than now.” 

Imagine, to date, 30 gifted, talented young people who are the leaders of the next generation have been fully funded to study abroad in London and Cape Town as Frederick Douglass Global Fellows and through this program an additional 68 students studied at various CIEE centers throughout the world in the summer of 2019.  These students are walking in the legacy of a man who freed himself from one of the greatest horrors known to man and one which affected people across race, class, and cultures. 

Everywhere we go during the program we carry a copy of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass with us and spend time reading the text in spaces Douglass, his contemporaries and their ancestors could not have imagined these young people in, like Blenheim palace (where Winston Churchill was born), Stormont (Parliament in Northern Ireland), a monument to Mary Seacole in London, a mural to Frederick Douglass in Belfast. 

And they are thriving, and talented and brilliant representatives of institutions committed to helping them see themselves as a majority in a world with practices that often attempt to minoritize them.  And they do not come alone as singular individuals but rather as representatives of their families, sharing their specific and unique cultures in safe and brave spaces curated to facilitate deep and meaningful intercultural learning and introspection. 

Each year on this journey, from application to selection to preparation to full participation, students have consistently marveled, as I imagine Douglass did, at the wonderful opportunities that come from stepping out into the world in pursuit of higher learning and global citizenship.  For Douglass, journeying to the UK literally changed the course of his life and the life of his family, and by proxy all of our lives.  From what we see in the transformation of our fellows, the same could be said for them.


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