Douglass descendant to share heroic legacy at Lovett Library

by Kristen Holmes
Posted 2/9/23

Kevin Douglass Greene lived a relatively private life before he was ready to embrace the legacy that comes with his historic middle name.

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Douglass descendant to share heroic legacy at Lovett Library


Kevin Douglass Greene lived a relatively private life before he was ready to embrace the legacy that comes with his historic middle name.

Back then, he was at ease in the obscurity of just being Kevin, the military kid, college athlete and Army serviceman. It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that Greene decided to step into the light surrounding a legendary shadow.

“It’s not like you want to run around and tell people that you are related to Frederick Douglass,” he said. “but I started to think about how I want to continue the legacy.” 

For Greene, the great-great grandson of the famed abolitionist, orator and author, stepping into the spotlight of being a Douglass began with baby steps: a display of family heirlooms at one Army base,  leading a discussion of his family tree at another. Now, years later, he has participated in programs up and down the East Coast, and he will bring his presentation to Northwest Philadelphia on Wednesday, Feb. 15, as part of an event called Douglass Week in Philadelphia.

Greene will lead a discussion of Douglass’ life at the Lovett Memorial Library in Mt. Airy on Wednesday in an event that will also include music by coloratura soprano Hazelita Fauntroy Hayes and an exhibit of Civil War artifacts by Lest We Forget Slavery Museum in Germantown. The presentation is free, open to the public and begins at 5:30 p.m. 

Greene’s visit is being sponsored by Hands Across Philadelphia, an organization that advocates for the education and advancement of young people in tech careers such as coding and emerging fields such as artificial intelligence.

“Frederick Douglass traveled the world telling his story, so we want to encourage young people to tell their own stories,” said Nicole Ross, president of the organization.

The story of Frederick Douglass – recounted in a series of memoirs including “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”  – is one that begins when he was a child born into enslavement in Maryland. He eventually escapes the cruelty of his enslavers to become a free man in the North and the legendary figure that historians write about.

Greene will discuss his ancestor’s life story not only with an audience on Wednesday evening, but also with a group of school students from the Jenks School in Chestnut Hill, and  the Henry, Emlen, and Houston Schools in Mt. Airy. The school presentation also will be at Lovett on Feb. 15, but earlier that day.

Jenks’ 8th graders are studying the works of Frederick Douglass, said principal Corinne Scioli. “They were so engaged, we wanted to give them an opportunity to meet a descendant of Frederick Douglass and once we shared the news, they were so excited.”

Greene will chat with the students, reflecting on the story of an ancestor whose historical significance hit Greene in the 6th grade while on a trip from California, where he grew up, to Maryland where his great-great grandfather was born.

 “I got to visit the Douglass home in Cedar Hill, Md.,” Greene said. Surrounded by relatives and longtime friends of the Douglass family who recounted stories and reminisced, Greene realized the significance of his family connection.

“But I appreciated that I was still able to grow up as Kevin Greene, make mistakes, like everybody else and not have to feel like I was disgracing the name or anybody else,” he said.

Greene, who was born in Paris, France, traveled frequently as the child of a career Army veteran. He lived in Thailand for a while, but grew up mostly in California where he attended college, played college football, and eventually decided to join the Army. He served for 20 years, retiring in 2003 and is married with five children. It was during his military career that he began sharing more about his famous ancestor.

First, he displayed family heirlooms at an event at his Army base. That led to newspaper interviews. Then came the invitations to speak. He met Ross several years ago, and regular treks to Philadelphia began. During his talks, Greene also discusses others in the family who were notable for their own achievements. He distributes books to students including a Douglass family edition of the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.”  The family’s nonprofit, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, includes a publishing imprint and also lobbies for racial equity, equal opportunity in education and advocates for an end to human trafficking.

Greene believes that Douglass would be happy about the mission his family has embraced.

 “As much as things have evolved, some things haven’t changed and that’s why we do some of the things we do,” Greene said. “Hopefully, he would be proud that his legacy [is staying alive] through us.”