Saturday, November 17, 2012

More Fred Douglass Intrigue - Fighting Prop 8 and Fake Descendents

The recent post on the appropriation of the name and legacy of ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, got one reader to do more research.  Meanwhile my email to the Frederick Douglas Family Foundation president Kenneth Morris was answered.  So what did we find out?

Thanks to great sleuthing by an Anonymous commenter, I got to this Amicus Brief to the California Supreme Court case that invalidated Prop. 8 which had banned same-sex marriage.

Did you see the Frederick Douglas Foundation, Inc.?  We'll get back to this below, but first let's look at where we are.  We have some more information and more questions. 

1.  There are a number of organizations using Frederick Douglass' name.
  • Frederick Douglass Family Foundation -  run by actual descendents of Douglass and whose mission is to fight modern slavery in the US and around the world
  • Frederick Douglass Foundation - set up to promote Black Republicans with a heavy emphasis on religion, whose mission includes anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage positions.  This is the organization that the previous post focused on.  I speculated that they looked like a typical Koch Brothers front, appropriating Douglass' name.  I don't know for sure who founded them or when.  Their website has the name of their founders.  Is this the Frederick Douglas Foundation that was founded in 1988 in Montana that is no longer current with the IRS?  It's not clear.
    FDC says they have many branch organizations and the Frederick Douglas Foundation of California website has much of the same information and words as the original.
  • Frederick Douglass Foundation of Washington, DC - This appears to be connected to Howard University, was founded in 1985 at least, and in 2010 was listed as having assets between $100,000 and $499,999.
  • Directions to source in Anon Comment at 11:15pm
  • Frederick Douglas Foundation - This one seems to be/have been located in Maryland.  Anon commenter got the previous link which goes to a Baltimore notice of foreclosure for a building and from their a copy of a form filing for non-profit tax exempt status that is signed by a Frederick Douglass IV.  
Frederick Douglass IV is a performer who claims to be the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass.  However this long Washington Post article seems to find no evidence of that and considerable evidence that the relationship is made up.  This was also what Kenneth Morris said in his email to me.  Lots of people make a living doing impersonations of famous people, but they don't claim to be actual descendents of them.

The anonymous commenter to the original post also uncovered a link between the Frederick Douglass Foundation and the California Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage.

One of the amicus briefs was filed by three organizations - one of which was, you guessed it, the Frederick Douglass Foundation.

Anonymous sent this link to a google-document - the amicus brief filed by, among two others, The Frederick Douglass Foundation, Inc.  court offered this information:


Amicus The Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) is a California corporation and states that it has no parent corporation, that it issues no stock, and that no publicly held corporation owns any stock of CURE.
Amicus The High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC) is not a corporation but is a service of Oasis of Hope International, Inc., a Maryland corporation. Oasis of Hope International, Inc. is not a publicly held corporation, it issues no stock, and no publicly held corporation owns any stock in HILC or in Oasis of Hope International, Inc.
Amicus The Frederick Douglass Foundation, Inc. (FDFI) is a Maryland corporation, issues no stock and has no parent corporation. Therefore, no publicly held corporation owns any stock of FDFI.
While I try not to jump to conclusions, it seemed pretty clear which of the Frederick Douglas foundations would be interested in opposing same-sex marriage.  It's a key part of their stated values.  What I hadn't noticed on their website was the Inc. after the name.  I went back and found this at the bottom of their webpages:

Copyright 2012. All content and rights are reserved by The Frederick Douglass Foundation, Inc. corporatio 

And here it says, "a Maryland corporation."   

Now I understood why Anonymous had believed that the Frederick Douglass Foundation was the Maryland entity.  And I realized that the page he'd sent me to was where Maryland corporations are listed and searchable.   

But I resisted that idea at first because the documents there were signed by Frederick Douglas IV.  While it seems that he's created the link to Frederick Douglass, he doesn't seem to be a right wing ideologue.  He's an entertainer who has found a following by dressing up like Frederick Douglass.  

So we still don't know for sure where the Frederick Douglass Foundation - that supports very conservative black politicians and opposes abortion and same-sex marriage - is legally registered.  Or who their backers are.  

But we do know that the setting up of their organization and some affiliates - the California one I listed above for example and a New York one I also ran across - and paying three attorneys to write an amicus brief doesn't come cheap.  And I can't imagine there are deep pockets among Republican blacks who want to support this sort of organization.  

My best guess at this point is it's wealthy, white, conservative deep pockets, like the Koch brothers. 

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