HBO has announced that the documentary “Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches” will debut on Feb. 23 at 9 p.m.. The network revealed the air date in an announcement on Tuesday.
André Holland will read excerpts from Douglass’ autobiographies. Additionally featured to contextualize the speeches are scholars David Blight, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Sarah Lewis and Keidrick Roy, artist Bisa Butler, poet Nzadi Keita and Douglass’ descendant Ken Morris. Gates executive produces the film, which is based on Blight’s 2018 biography “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.” Blight also serves as historical consultant.
Each of the selected speeches represents a different stage in 19th century history and in Douglass’ life. Whitaker performs 1841’s “I Have Come to Tell You Something About Slavery,” which was Douglass’ first public discussion about his experiences being raised as a slave. Majors performs “Country, Conscience, and the Anti-Slavery Cause,” Douglass’ 1847 address to the American Anti-Slavery Society after returning from the British Isles, which he found to be more equitable than the United States. Beharie performs “What, to the Slave, Is The Fourth Of July?” in which Douglass, in 1852, spoke on the contradiction of the Declaration of Independence with the continued institution of slavery. Domingo performs “The Proclamation and a Negro Army,” Douglass’ 1863 response to the Emancipation Proclamation and call to allow Black men to fight in the Civil War. Wright performs 1894’s “Lessons of the Hour,” in which Douglass urged America to eliminate prejudice and look to its founding principles.
Douglass was born a slave in Maryland in 1818 and escaped at age 20. Having taught himself to read and write, he became a globally known writer and speaker and one of the leading voices of the abolitionist movement. He continued to fight institutionalized racism until his death in 1895.
“Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches” is a McGee Media and Inkwell Media production. Julia Marchesi serves as director. Alongside Gates, executive producers include Dyllan McGee and HBO’s Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller and Sara Rodriguez. Oluwaseun Babalola produces. Derek Ambrosi serves as editor.