Co-Founder & Chairwoman
Booker T. Washington once said, “Through education, we must lift the veil of ignorance.” Those historic words gave us insight into the answer for African-American success in America. Today, Ms. Nettie Washington Douglass brings those words to life through her continuous efforts to enlighten people everywhere.
Born in the historic town of Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, Ms. Douglass has the unique distinction of being “heir of two great Americans.” She is the first person to unite the two bloodlines of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass. Through the union of her mother, Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington) and her father, Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great grandson of Frederick Douglass), she is the great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington and the great great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass.
Both of her great ancestors were history makers who paved the way for many African-Americans. Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) freed himself from the chains of slavery to become a great orator, author, journalist, statesman and diplomat. Called the “father of the civil rights movement,” Frederick Douglass is credited with successfully urging Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) had a vision of equal education for the African-American when he established Tuskegee Institute in 1881, a Land Grant School, that has become one of America’s most prestigious, historically, Black Colleges, now known as Tuskegee University. He also founded the National Business League and was advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Ms. Douglass is a renowned speaker. As a small child, she began representing one or both of her famous ancestors at special events. Later, she chose to keep a low profile, while directing her attention and energy to what she describes as her “career of choice” – that of raising her family. Her three children now adults, and with the urging of many, Ms. Douglass has again begun to share her ancestry.
Presenting the first 1950 San Francisco minted Booker T. Washington Commemorative Half Dollar to Joe DiMaggio; speaking at the New York State Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary Celebration in 1977 (where she received a citation naming her Ambassador of Goodwill); being commissioned a Kentucky Colonel; having a day named in her honor in Easton, MD; making her “acting” debut in Rochester, NY, and speaking at City Hall in Hamilton, Bermuda are just a few of Ms. Douglass’ numerous and varied appearances. While she gets tremendous pleasure and enjoyment from her “living history” presentations to students throughout the country, still vivid in her memory is what she describes as her most heartwarming experience to date. Ms. Douglass accepted the challenge to assist in the fund-raising efforts of the award-winning Frederick Douglass High School Marching Band of Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Douglass’ commitment to these students proved to be successful, thus allowing them to accept the invitation of Bermuda officials to perform in the Bermuda Day Parade. The Frederick Douglass High School Marching Band has the distinction of being the first “off island” band to be invited to perform in Bermuda’s second largest holiday celebration. “Witnessing an entire country embrace ninety-six students from an inner-city school is an experience I will treasure always.”
Ms. Douglass served as the national spokesperson for the “African-American Heritage Check Series.” She was instrumental in successfully introducing the check series to the Riggs National Bank of Washington (DC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Credit Union and the Bank South Corporation of Georgia, now known as Bank of America. In recognition of this celebrated endeavor, Ms. Douglass was given a “key to the city” of Memphis, Tennessee by its mayor and a citation from the mayor of Washington, DC.
Ms. Douglass considers her greatest honor to be the publishing of one of her speeches with the most noted speeches of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington: “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?” and the “Atlanta Cotton Exposition” speech, respectively. The speeches were featured in “Vital Issues – The Journal of African American Speeches.”
Ms. Douglass is a past volunteer for the United Negro College Fund (founded by Dr. Frederick D. Patterson, the third President of Tuskegee Institute) and the Georgia State Games. She served on the Board of Directors for the Friends of Frederick Douglass Museum in Washington, DC.
Ms. Douglass works in the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, Office of Communications and Public Outreach. Additionally, she is currently working on a book.