More than 120 years ago, prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered his last public lecture on West Chester University’s campus.
Now, the importance of his life and work will get even larger exposure at the state university, thanks to a gift from West Chester Borough’s first African American mayor, Clifford E. DeBaptiste.
The university beginning next fall will host a lecture series on Douglass in honor of the 200th anniversary of his birth, the school announced.
DeBaptiste, who served as mayor from 1994 to 2002 and also is founder and CEO of DeBaptiste Funeral Homes, will present the university with a $50,000 gift on Wednesday to fund the program.
The lecture series will bring experts on the famed orator and statesman to the campus, university officials said, beginning in October with James Trotman, author of Frederick Douglass: A Biography.
Douglass delivered his last public lecture on West Chester’s campus on Feb. 1, 1895, and died 19 days later. The university currently is home to an institute in Douglass’ name and features a statue of Douglass in the academic quad, commemorating that lecture. There also are plans for a conference in April.
“It is quite fitting that his legacy remains a rich part of our everyday history,” said West Chester president Christopher Fiorentino.