Downs Memorial Member, a Descendant of Frederick Douglass, Is Featured in African-American Lineage Story

February 03, 2011

"As we begin the month of February, we celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to the culture and history of the United States, and we take the opportunity to seek out new history makers of all hues and backgrounds."

So writes Erin M. Hawkins, general secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR), introducing a feature story involving a member of Downs Memorial United Methodist Church in Oakland. Downs "teaches us that within our pews are stories that connect us all to a historic Methodism that matched its piety with fervor for social justice," Hawkins continues.
Deep Roots, Good Fruits: The Family of Frederick Douglass – currently online at – is the story of one family's connection to a man who became one of America's most brilliant and distinguished statesmen.
"For so many African-Americans there is limited information about their lineage," says Jeneane Jones, GCORR Team Leader for Communications and Media Relations and the former director of communications for the California-Nevada Annual Conference.
"Stories were passed down among the generations about enslavement and survival, but slowly the emphasis shifted to locking away those family stories and memories in an attempt to find success in a free yet unequal society."
In "Deep Roots, Good Fruits," freelance journalist Henri Giles interviews Alice Withers, 93, the oldest living descendant of Frederick Douglass and a member of Downs Memorial since 1952.
"Today, in every community where we find injustice, we can also find connections to heroes from the past and those making history today," Hawkins says. "Why not dedicate this month to capturing those stories – on iPhones, flipcams, on paper – and celebrating those heroes? What a gift that would be for the church. Happy hunting!"
February is celebrated throughout the nation as African American History Month.