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American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words Review

This past weekend, I saw American Prophet: Frederick Douglas in his own words, and I was blown away. As someone who has read one of Frederick Douglass's books, I loved how authentic this musical was to his words. A lot of the dialogue and songs come from Frederick Douglass and they are masterfully intertwined into the storyline.

As some of our readers know, here at the business athlete we love to support creatives and performers. There are some performances that I have found to be spectacular while others I wasn’t as excited about. But this is one show that I can honestly say had me enraptured for every moment. The show starts with Frederick Douglass reciting a monologue about the importance of the Black person being recognized in America. = We then see how his life unfolds, and how he became known as such a great orator and thought leader for the American perspective on race. I appreciate that his text and his writing and his thoughts and words were not compromised for the sake of music or for funny dialogue. The text itself was true to what he originally wrote, no matter how heavy or hard it was for some to hear.

Frederick Douglass's writing is honest and unfiltered, which could have led the creative team to want to dilute some of the dialogue. Unfortunately, in many shows that speak on the issues of racism and slavery, they try to make the dialogue digestible for all audiences, ensuring that others are not left uncomfortable. But one thing that I appreciated about this production was that they did not do that. They left his words as is and incorporated them into the show to let everyone know the severity of slavery and what people like Frederick Douglass witnessed and went through.

Another thing that I appreciated about this production was that women did not go unnoticed. One of the main story arcs was of his wife Anna, and how she played an instrumental role in helping Frederick be known as an abolitionist. There’s even one moment of the show where she steps back to say that women are often forgotten in history and while people may always remember his name will they remember hers? She speaks about how many women are usually sidelined and behind the scenes and while she will do anything to help her husband she often wonders where her legacy lies. I appreciated that they took the time to tell the story of Anna because there are so many women, especially Black women that do not get the heroic song and dance as others do. They do the silent work that often goes unnoticed, but in this show, it was not.

What was my favorite part you may ask? Mine was the unfiltered truth of Frederick Douglass explaining what the Fourth of July means to him. As a person of color in this country, this is always a day that I’ve had mixed emotions about. Celebrating the Fourth of July should be a day of feeling unison within the country but often, leave many of us divided even in 2022. It is startling, frustrating, and sad that words written in 1852 are still true to this day. The actor recites, "what to the American slave is the Fourth of July? A day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim." You could feel in that moment the theater grew silent because so many of us know we still feel like that to this day. It takes true artistry for the production team, and an actor to have the audience feel that and resonate with the words that were written centuries ago.

So, if you were in the Washington DC area I encourage you to see this show. The cast is marvelous, the creative team is phenomenal, and everyone behind this production has obviously put their heart and soul into it. But overall, I think it will resonate the most with what it’s like to be Black in America in 1852 or 2022. Many of the words spoken then still hold true today. The show ends with one of Frederick Douglass his most known writings, if there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Information about the show can be found here:

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