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What can we learn from… Frederick Douglass?

Friday 16 February @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Pitcairn Building, South College, University of Durham

The event is free but please register via Eventbrite.

Living Freedom ‘University Salons’ are for all students keen to explore and debate ideas on the past, present and future of freedom.

Our ‘What can we learn from…?’ events explore important thinkers and the emergence of key ideas. A short, accessible talk is followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. Together we will interrogate thinkers and their ideas and assess their relevance for freedom today.  Everyone is welcome to come along.

Frederick Douglass and Emancipation
Frederick Douglass is the renowned ‘prophet of freedom’: the most important African American of the 19th century, who escaped slavery to become a leading abolitionist, the greatest orator of his day and a leading writer of the era.

But Douglass was a complex figure who confounds many contemporary expectations. A fierce defender of freedom dedicated to the cause of Black civil and political rights, Douglass was also a radical patriot, committed to the Republican Party, and often politically at odds with younger African Americans.

Where today’s decolonisation movement derides ‘Western culture’ and ‘Eurocentrism’ and instead values ‘indigenous knowledge and ways of learning’, Douglass honed his literary and oratorial skills through by studying Cicero, Milton, Socrates, Cato and others. Is he right to emphasise a universalist outlook that celebrates our shared common humanity? What can Douglass tell us about the challenges to freedom today?

DR ALKA SEHGAL CUTHBERT, director, Don’t Divide Us
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert is an educator, academic, author and campaigner. She is director of Don’t Divide Us (DDU), the UK’s ‘common-sense voice on race’. DDU make the case for colourblind anti-racism based on freedom and tolerance and believe that everyone should be treated as an individual worthy of respect regardless of race, religion or the colour of their skin.  Alka is author of the Letter on Liberty series pamphlet The Dangers of the new anti-racism. She has written widely on education issues, including What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, Subjects and the Pursuit of Truth published in 2017.


Living Freedom University Salons are supported by the Ian Mactaggart Programme, established to foster a culture of open debate, independent thinking and free expression among young people in the UK, especially students. It is administered by the Free Speech Union.


Friday 16 February
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Pitcairn Building, South College
Mount Oswald, The Approach
Durham, DH1 3LD United Kingdom
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