Frederick Douglass Documentary In Five Speeches Gets Premiere At HBO

HBO Documentary will release the documentary Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches on February 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT via HBO and HBO Max, from executive producers Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Dyllan McGee. The project is inspired by David Blight’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

Actors Nicole Beharie, Colman Domingo, Jonathan Majors, Denzel Whitaker, and Jeffrey Wright will draw from 5 of Douglass’ speeches representing different moments from the tumultuous 19th century America and the anti-slavery activist’s long and celebrated life.

Contextualizing Douglass’ writings are scholars David Blight, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Sarah Lewis and Keidrick Roy, artist Bisa Butler, poet Nzadi Keita, and Douglass descendant Ken Morris who offer perspective on Douglass’ modern relevance and the unprecedented level of fame and influence to which he rose.

The speeches featured in the documentary are as follows:

“I Have Come To Tell You Something About Slavery” (1841) performed by Denzel Whitaker. At an anti-slavery convention, Douglass recounts his story of being raised as a slave publicly for the first time.

“Country, Conscience, And The Anti-Slavery Cause” (1847) performed by Jonathan Majors. Douglass addresses the American Anti-Slavery Society on his return from the British Isles which he found to be more accepting and equitable than his own country.

“What, To The Slave, Is The Fourth Of July?” (1852) performed by Nicole Beharie. Douglass reminds his audience of the continuing enslavement of his people, 76 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“The Proclamation And A Negro Army” (1863) performed by Colman Domingo. Douglass responds to the Emancipation Proclamation and calls for the Black man to be allowed to fight in the war.

“Lessons Of The Hour” (1894) performed by Jeffrey Wright. Douglass urges America to eliminate prejudice and look to its founding principles.

The documentary is directed by Julia Marchesi; produced by Oluwaseun Babalola, edited by Derek Ambrosi, narration by Andre Holland; historical consultant, David Blight; HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, and Sara Rodriguez.

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