Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wolves in Sheeps' Clothing - Appropriation of Frederick Douglass' Name to Push Conservative Agenda

While working on an update on a post on the number of Black Congress members, I came across this website which, for me, has some glaring inconsistencies.

The Frederick Douglass Foundation 

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass

- We Believe in the Sanctity of Human Life and the Protection of Traditional Marriage

Does anyone else think there's  something wrong here?

First they quote Douglass:
"where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them"
 Then they offer their values which include:
"Protection of Traditional Marriage"
Isn't "protecting traditional marriage" (by preventing same sex marriage) a form of "organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade" gays?

But it's not over yet.

"The Largest Christ-Centered, Multi-Ethnic and Republican Ministry in America"
Founded by Timothy Johnson, Dean Nelson and Troy Rollings, The Frederick Douglass Foundation is a national Christ-centered education and public policy organization with local chapters across the United States which brings the sanctity of free market and limited government ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing our nation. We are a collection of pro-active individuals committed to developing innovative and new approaches to today's problems with the assistance of elected officials, scholars from universities and colleges  and community activist.

"[S]anctity of the free market" was the term that caught my attention here.  And, of course, above, "Republican Ministry."  Do these guys have any idea how similar this is to radical Muslims calling for Sharia law?

Not only is this organization appropriating* Frederick Douglass' name and legacy, they are also appropriating the Bible.

[NOTE:  I'm not linking to their website.  I don't want to help them out with links.  But if you want to go there, you can figure out how to google it.]

The Home Page (but none of the others) does have a disclaimer saying they are not associated with the Frederick Douglass Family Association and links to that organization whose president is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass.  I tried to contact them to determine how the disclaimer and the link got up, but have not had any responses to my email and phone call yet.

There is a blog about Abolitionist John Brown, by Brown biographer Louis A. DeCarlo Jr..  One post there is about how the Frederick Douglass Foundation appropriates* Douglass' name and legacy and twists the truth to support the agenda to recruit black Republicans.  It includes a description of the blogger's conversation with Kenneth B.Morris, a descendent of Frederick Douglass and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, a modern anti-slavery organization. NOTE:  The word family here. 
"Among the many points of interesting conversation, Kenneth mentioned his family’s frustration at the appropriation of Frederick Douglass’ name by this new generation of black political conservatives. The Douglass family descendants are particularly disappointed that one group of black conservatives have actually named themselves "The Frederick Douglass Foundation," although their political philosophy is not consistent with the Douglass family’s understanding of the Douglass legacy. While the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is primarily devoted to opposing all modern forms of slavery going on in the U.S. and worldwide, it is not organizationally indifferent to the historical and political aspects of the Douglass legacy and they do not agree with or support the appropriation of their great forefather’s name by short-sighted, self-interested conservatives, whether black or white.
Before we parted, Kenneth encouraged me to devote some attention to this problem, at least in pointing out the historical inaccuracies underlying the contemporary “Frederick Douglass Republican” rationale. In so doing, I hope this is a salutary contribution in honor of one of the greatest liberators and leaders of the modern era. Of course it goes without saying that in this John Brown blog, there will always be room for anything, great or small, pertaining to Frederick Douglass."
You can see that post - exposing the inaccuracies - here.

My guess, though, is that actually it was put together by white Republicans who then recruited Black Republicans because, well, white guys couldn't be doing this. More on this further down.

Charity Navigator didn't have anything listed for either of these groups.

Guidestar, another website that evaluates non-profits, says that the Frederick Douglass Foundation, registered in Montana,  lost its tax exempt status:
"This organization's exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence is warranted."
Here's their page on the organization.

Actually, there is one in Washington DC too,  which has a little more information.  It says the organization was founded in 1988.

Screen shot from Guidestar on Frederic Douglass Foundation**
Yet Tim Johnson, Dean Nelson and Troy Rollings are listed as the founders of the FDFoundation on the Foundation website.  And in a speech he gave on September 29th, 2012 at the Paulding County TEA Party rally, posted on YouTube (@1:45), Johnson says the Foundation was started four years ago.  The whole thing smells of and sounds like the Koch brothers and their conservative buddies to me.  But it makes sense they set up the foundation 24 years ago knowing they would use it one day.  I don't have proof that's the case, but I can speculate until I have hard evidence I'm right or wrong.  There are lots of examples of 'grassroots' organizations like this being set up by wealthy conservative interests.

The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation has a more positive review on Guidestar.

Essentially, from what I can tell, the Frederick Douglass Foundation is a Republican website being used to recruit African-Americans.  It purports to stand for the ideals of Frederick Douglass, but it seems like they are taking the name and then using it in ways that suit them, but do not accurately reflect who Frederick Douglass was and what he stood for. 

But I did look up the leaders listed on their website:  Timothy Johnson, Dean Nelson and Troy Rollings. The Alternet has a long article on Timothy Johnson, vice president of the North Carolina Republican Party. 

It seems that his nomination in 2009 to the NC GOP party leadership didn't sit well with some members and a local television station reported  that Johnson had been convicted in 1996 of a felony domestic violence change.  Alternet reports another domestic violence conviction and questions about the dates of his military service and the authenticity of his Phd.  They say it came from a diploma mill that had no teachers.  Just secretaries who handled the money and the diplomas.

In a rather amazing YouTube video posted with that Alternet piece, Johnson meets with two NCGOP party folks to prove to them the facts of his military service.  It says in the article that it was made and posted by Johnson's friend.  The YouTube description says it shows him proving his military record.

And was the person who posted this really Johnson's friend?  It shows a very irritated Johnson who is clearly annoyed at these white men questioning his documents and asking why no one else has ever had his military service questioned. 

One could argue, had he allowed anyone else a chance to say anything, they could have told him that he's being asked because someone has challenged his record.  But it's also easy to understand a black man's anger here.  And you can see here also the man who was convicted of domestic violence.  This is one of the burdens of racism in the US.  He's served in the military, he's embraced Christ, he's embraced the Republican Party, but he can see that he's still just a black man.

I'm willing to accept the notion that racism might have been behind the challenge to Johnson's credentials.  But there may also be something legitimate.  (And probably there are whites with questionable credentials that aren't challenged.)

I'm all for letting people serve their time (it said he "served 18 months probation") and letting people grow and develop.   I also know it is easier for blacks to be convicted than whites.  But I also believe in trust and verify.  And while I understand the pressure that some people might feel to get their resumes in order,  there's enough here to make one wonder.

A PhD would be a nice thing for the president of an educational foundation that
"is  committed to developing innovative and new approaches to today's problems with the assistance of elected officials, scholars from universities and colleges  and community activist."
But not having a PhD would probably be better than having one from a diploma mill that was shut down by the feds.

In 2011, when the NCGOP chairman resigned, Tim Johnson was defeated in his bid to be Chair by ex-Rep. Robin Hayes.

I haven't had time to research the other two founders.  I'll try to add something on them too, but no promises.  There are so many things to post about.  

*I've posted on cultural appropriation before and it's a topic I want to do more research on.  Basically, it's about stealing cultural images, ideas, identity - ranging from taking actual cultural items (such as the issue of museums taking archeological findings from the country of origin) to taking names and using them for one's own purpose - which seems to be the case here.

**Guidestar requires you register to get more information about an organization such as their IRS 990s.  But registration requires that you agree not to post information on the internet.  So I did not agree and I did not register.  What I have posted from Guidestar comes from the parts of their website that do not require registration.  


  1. Another interesting post. This must be disturbing for the family to have their ancestor's name hijacked for such purposes. Shades of Alveda King taking advantage of her Uncle's good name to promote things I'm sure he would not have been in favor of (see Bayard Rustin.)

    An alternate source for information on non profits and foundations the Foundation Center.

    The link to the IRS FORM 990 at that site can be posted directly. The rest of their use policies you'll need to investigate for yourself. In the case Of The Frederick Douglass Foundation of Washington D.C.; see page 7 at
    for the officers and directors on the 2010 filing.

    One of the directors listed, Emmett J. Rice has the same name as the father of Susan E. Rice (the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations), but it is unverified that this is the same person (Rice's father deceased in 2011.)

    Another link I found strongly suggests the foundation in D.C. has some tie to Howard University.

    It seems like someone should do a complete expose and explanation of who is who with respect to these Frederick Douglas Foundations. I didn't find one if someone has done one.

    1. Anon, thanks for your work! That's how I see blogs working at their best - people just building on each other's info.

      The DC one does look like it's connected to Howard University. So that leaves the Montana one to be the one that recruits Black Republicans? Or are there others?

      I'll make some notes in the post.

      Again, thanks.

  2. Many organizations have confusingly similar names. A reliable identifier is the Federal EIN (= Employer Identification Number) if the organization has one This shows on the Form 990. Another unique descriptor is a state and business entity id.

    Here is something interesting. Look at one of the Amicus Briefs filed in a recent high profile appeal. Check out the information on one of the three filers, (see both page 1 and 2.)

    That filer appears to be this entity.

    Click "Amendments" and then click the 'red eyeball' under View Document to view the "Articles of Incorporation" document. This may well be the organization referred to at this post at the Louis A. Decaro Jr. blog. Look at the names on the
    incorporation document. There may be more to this.
    In this case a description would be: State of Maryland Entity Name: FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOUNDATION, INC.
    Dept ID #: D13151436

    However, it is not yet clear which of these organizations is the one "Founded by Timothy Johnson, Dean Nelson and Troy Rollings."

  3. "The DC one"- More than one D.C. one.

    "connected to Howard University"- unconfirmed.

    "So that leaves the Montana one to be the one that recruits Black Republicans?" - Unlikely but not confirmed.

    "Or are there others?"- Yes

    One should be able to confirm on what organization's behalf the Amicus Filing was made, that is not at all clear.

    Also needing to be answered: What was the intent of the Dept ID #: D13151436 filing and who was behind it? What purpose (if any) did it serve?

    Blogger ate this comment three times. I'll be back later.

  4. This is getting curiouser and curiouser.

    The link to the California Prop 8 Trial is a biggie.

    But I don't think that is the organization in Baltimore. That is signed by Frederick Douglass IV and while he

    "was recently appointed to the James Madison Book Award Advisory Council by Dr. Lynne V. Cheney, wife of U.S. Vice President, Richard Cheney."

    It also says that:

    "President Bill Clinton invited FDIV to the White House to confer with him about issues affecting contemporary youths."

    From FDIV website

    The documents in Baltimore have a 21217 zip code and on the FD Organization website, the zip is 21225. My guess is they had financial trouble. I don't think they aren't connected with this the Black Republicans. They appear to be real FD folks, he does FD impersonations.

    Perhaps we should shift to email on some of this. While I like it all being here for other readers, it just might be easier for some of this. You can email me here.

    Also need to follow up on the other two organizations in the amicus as well as the attorneys. Lynn D Wardle is a law professor at BYU. But the other attorney Stephen Kent Ahed is mysteriously unavailable on Google. Almost as if it were scrubbed from Google. I did find him in this post when I looked for the third counsel, Lincoln C. Oliphant. They all seem to be from Utah, though Oliphant teaches at Catholic University and was a Congressional staffer.

    Sorry about your blogger comment troubles. I have little control over that, but I know what you mean and I cut and paste my longer comments in case they disappear.


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