Photo: The program
Photo: Performance
Photo: Lincoln and Douglass
Photo: A Walk To Respect
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect

About

In 2020, as part of Honoring and Onward, in partnership with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, The Patterson Foundation announced a staged reading of a new one-act play, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect — written by award-winning playwright Beth Duda, with original spoken word poetry by Cedric Hameed.

In 2023, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect went on the road. Two shows were held at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., welcoming hundreds of attendees.

This was a moving production where Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist leader and former slave, and Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, clashed in their ideologies regarding race, politics, and slavery. Frederick Douglass, a true radical with a fiery spirit, believed in racial equality for everyone. Douglass dedicated his life, writings, and career to abolishing slavery everywhere. Abraham Lincoln, cautious and considered, while opposed to slavery, was first and foremost a patriot intent on preserving the Union at all costs. These two self-made men, at a time when our divided nation faced annihilation, faced their differences with courage and compassion, forging a friendship that helped to end the Civil War and reunite our nation. Through their own words, we explore the walk of these two great American leaders from conflict to understanding.

In 2020, Abraham Lincoln was portrayed by Michael Krebs, but due to his unexpected passing, Jeffrey Atherton stepped in. The Patterson Foundation as well as the cast and creative team dedicated the performance to Krebs and honored him at the Lincoln Memorial. "We hold him in our hearts as we continue our journey with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect," said Duda.

Jeffrey Atherton holds a bachelor's degree in music and theatre from Florida State University and a master's in computer education from Nova South Eastern University. He was a choir director in school and church before moving to NYC to pursue a professional acting career. His acting credits include Higgins in My Fair Lady, Charlemagne in Pippin, El Gallo in The Fantasticks, Fagin in Oliver, Saunders in Lend Me A Tenor, and various television and film appearances as well as several decades as a voice-over artist. Jeffrey also works with physicians as a communications coach, is an acting and vocal coach, and runs a digital marketing studio. When asked where he is from, Jeffrey Atherton answers, "Born in Hanover, NH, raised in Sarasota, FL, matured in NYC, and came to Denver, CO, to raise a family." The family includes his beautiful wife, Natalie, and three adult children, Justin, Raechal, and Serea.

Frederick Douglass was portrayed by Joel PE King. King is a native of East Saint Louis. Graduating from SIU Edwardsville, Joel attained a B.A. in Studio Arts with a minor in music and theater. King is an entrepreneur, performer, writer, director, and producer. His production company, JPEK CreativeWorks was established post-college and has had great success in creating quality, courageous, socially driven stage plays. King has received three city proclamations, two cover stories (Riverfront Times and Zoom Magazine) and a groundswell of support for his stage works: Real Life, Issues of Love and Stand Your Ground. King’s theatre credits include Amen Corner, The Color Purple, The Sam Cooke Story and Knock Me a Kiss at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Spunk, Raisin in the Sun, Colored Museum, Immigrant Project, In the Blood, Dutchman, Big River, Damn Yankees, Bubblin Brown Sugar, Real Life Hip Hopera, and Complacency of Silence for which he received a Kevin Kline nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical. King has attained leading and supporting roles in independent films and television.

Spoken Word Poet, Cedric Hameed served as the narrator. Cedric Hameed is a fierce arts advocate and believes that local, national, and global change can be accomplished through expression. Evidence of his philosophy can be seen in the students and parent voices of Visible Men Academy. A native of Schenectady, N.Y, Cedric grew accustomed to using words as an escape from his harsh realities. He never realized it would be the blueprint for creating a life-changing platform. "Poetry saved my life, literally! I see the world in metaphors and similes. And, when you can see in the abstract, you can create. I can see the world we can all create!"

Click here to learn more about the ways you can bring this inspirational performance to your community or contact playwright Beth Duda: bDuda@thepattersonfoundation.org.

 

“Phenomenally thoughtful and creative approach to historical theater.”

“Could be the source of constructive and meaningful conversations about race, reconciliation, and mutual respect.”

“Americans today need more historical stories like this. We can learn so much from the unlikely friendship that developed between Lincoln and Douglass and the example their friendship.”

FAQs

Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about this initiative...

Why does The Patterson Foundation support this initiative?

The Patterson Foundation strengthens the efforts of people, organizations, and communities by focusing on issues that address mutual aspirations, foster wide participation, and encourage learning and sharing. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect is a theatrical experience that inspires meaningful conversation about how people with different opinions and agendas can come together around shared aspirations to produce positive change.

What is the purpose of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect?

How can we find our way to understanding? Where can we find common ground? Who has left us a blueprint for creating the trust that transcends differing opinions and ideologies? We may discover some answers by looking back more than 150 years to the words spoken and written by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in this powerful staged reading by award-winning playwright Beth Duda, with original poetry by Cedric Hameed. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect provides us with a powerful example of two men with different opinions and agendas coming together against all odds to produce positive change.

What is the impact of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect?

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect inspires us to place our shared aspirations above our differences. Every performance and showing of this piece is followed by a panel-led audience discussion that challenges us to consider how the story of Lincoln and Douglass can provide a blueprint for finding common ground in our modern era. By placing people, community, and shared responsibility at the center of our lives, we will create a more just, fair, inclusive, and hopeful society for all.

What other work is connected to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect?

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect is a part of the Aspirations to Actions initiative. Aspiration to Action's objective is for our community to take aspirations and turn them into actions that will result in positive change. This initiative can change how our community approaches issues and develop innovative, collaborative partnerships that may not otherwise have formed.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect emerged in 2020, in partnership with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, as part of The Patterson Foundation's Honoring & Onward initiative, celebrating the Foundation's first decade of impact through people, organizations, and communities while continuing to connect, learn, share, evolve, and strengthen its efforts to realize shared aspirations.

In February 2023, The Patterson Foundation took Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect on the road for performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

How can I see Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect or bring it to my community?

The Patterson Foundation collaborates with various organizations to present Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect for both school and community performances. 

View the highlight video recorded at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Who can I contact about Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect?

For more information, contact Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect initiative lead Beth Duda: bduda@thepattersonfoundation.org.
Go beyond what it means to use respect as a critical tool to build a vibrant society by exploring the one-act play, Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass, A Walk to Respect.
(total time: 9 minutes 4 seconds)

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