Spike Lee Set to Direct Roger Guenveur Smith’s “Frederick Douglass Now” – Your Black World

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By: Victor Ochieng

President Donald Trump was right after all, when he said that abolitionist Fredrick Douglass “is being recognized more and more.” Now renowned filmmaker Spike Lee is set to direct the movie adaptation of the historic figure – which is a one-man play by Roger Guenver Smith.

Douglass was a former slave, who was the first to speak in favor abolition before Abraham Lincoln. According to Digital History, “Frederick Douglass rose from slavery to become the leading African-American voice of the nineteenth century. At an early age, he realized that his ability to read was the key to freedom…. Frederick Douglass was a compelling force in the anti-slavery movement. A man of moral authority, Douglass developed into a charismatic public speaker. Prominent abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison recognized his oratory skill and hired him as a speaker for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.”

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Smith’s one-man play starts with him rapping personal lines mashed-up of slavery references and U.S contemporary life. Moving on, he quotes parts of Douglass’ essays and letters. And as Variety reports, at the show’s finale, he sings from his own text stating, “If there is no progress, Frederick Douglass is still alive.”

According to Smith, the show is more of a labor of love. He started working on “Frederick Douglass Now” back when he was still an undergrad at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Variety writes that, “He began performing the hour-plus monologue more than 20 years ago and has been honing and updating it ever since.”

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Celebrating him is very significant, as he is described as, “Frederick Douglass has been called the father of the civil rights movement. He rose through determination, brilliance, and eloquence to shape the American nation. He was an abolitionist, human rights and women’s rights activist, orator, author, journalist, publisher, and social reformer. Committed to freedom, Douglass dedicated his life to achieving justice for all Americans, in particular African-Americans, women, and minority groups. He envisioned America as an inclusive nation strengthened by diversity and free of discrimination.”

Other stars will also take part in the project, including jazz artist Branford Marsalis and Marc Anthony Thompson – who is also the same person who worked with Smith and Lee for “Rodney King” and A Huey P. Newton Story.

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Variety writes that on top of this project, “The actor will interview Lee onstage Friday at Mexico’s Los Cabos Film Festival, where Lee will receive a tribute for his contribution to cinema history and talk about his career and approach to directing. Lee’s latest film, “BlacKkKlansman,” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.”

Buffalo8, which is based in Santa Monica, California, will have the honor to work on the film. The company which was founded eight years ago, is the same one that also worked on Rodney King.

Variety reports that currently, “This year sees Douglass’ Bicentenary celebrations. “Rodney King” is currently streaming on Netflix.”


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