Press Release

April 14, 2000

Bea Gaddy, Advocate for the Homeless and Baltimore City Councilwoman, to Receive Regents' Frederick Douglass Award April 20

University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. announced today that Beatrice "Bea" Gaddy, longtime advocate for the poor and homeless and a member of the Baltimore City Council, will receive the University System of Maryland Board of Regents' annual Frederick Douglass Award during a special ceremony on Thursday, April 20, at 11 a.m. in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore.

The event will be held in the Wheeler Auditorium on the third floor of the Pratt. Jesse J. Harris, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, will serve as master of ceremonies. Speakers will include the Hon. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in the Maryland General Assembly; Carla Hayden, director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library; Sheila Dixon, president of the Baltimore City Council; USM Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg; Nathan A. Chapman, chairman of the Board of Regents; the Rev. Lynwood Hudson Leverette, Sr.; Jacqueline Dunn, acting director of the Bea Gaddy Family Centers, Inc.; and Frederick I. Douglass IV, public relations director at Morgan State University and a direct descendent of Douglass. Music will be provided by the UMBC Gospel Choir from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A reading from Douglass's work will be offered by Frederick Douglass IV.

Since coming to Baltimore from New York in 1964, Gaddy has worked tirelessly to provide food, shelter, and basic human services to Baltimore's inner city poor. Gaddy served her first dinner for the homeless in 1981 when she fed 39 neighbors with the money she won from a lottery ticket. Three weeks later, she incorporated the Patterson Park Emergency Food Center into a nonprofit o rganization that would earn her national recognition for feeding hundreds of thousands of less fortunate people in Baltimore.

Langenberg said Gaddy's selection represents the real-world intent of the Douglass Award.

"There are many ways that great people have fought in the long struggle for civil rights," Langenberg said. "Some do it from a lectern, some in the committee rooms of statehouses, some in courthouses or corporate headquarters. But others, like Bea Gaddy, do their work in the actual presence of those who are oppressed. I think that is particularly admirable, because in every sense of the word it is a difficult job. It's the same approach that Martin Luther King Jr. took - a willingness to sacrifice one's own comforts for the sake of the basic rights of others."

Chapman said he has followed Gaddy's career for years, and was very pleased when she won a seat on the City Council last fall.

"That reminded me that our political system still works - an advocate with an agenda was elected to carry out that agenda," he said. "We could use a lot more Bea Gaddys in our public life."

While raising her own five children, Gaddy was laid off from work and became homeless. In order to feed her family, the young mother borrowed a trash can, took it around to local storeowners and asked them to fill it with leftover food. That experience created a clear mission for Gaddy, who has devoted her life since that time to helping Baltimore's needy. Over the years, Gaddy's work expanded to include a range of health and human services, particularly for women and children. She opened the Bea Gaddy Human Resource and Cancer Center, Inc., a one-stop health facility for the poor, as well as the Bea Gaddy Women and Children's Center. Today, there are three Women's and Children's Centers and eight Family Centers.

Gaddy has received 15 major honors and awards including the 1992 "Thousand Points of Light" award from President George Bush, the Marylander of the Year (1992), the Family Circle Magazine Woman of the Year Award, and the Humanitarian Award of the National Council of Negro Women. She received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Towson State University in 1993 and, in 1994, she was inducted into the African-American Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Gaddy was elected to the Baltimore City Council's 2nd District seat in September 1999.

The Frederick Douglass Award was established in 1995 by the USM Board of Regents to honor individuals "who have displayed an extraordinary and active commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, justice, and opportunity exemplified in the life of Frederick Douglass." Previous recipients include the Honorable Parren J. Mitchell, a member of Congress for the 7th District of Maryland (1996); Benjamin Quarles, scholar at Morgan State University (1997, posthumously); Samuel Lacy Jr., sports writer for the Baltimore Afro-American (1998); and the Hon. Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1999).

Statesman, publisher and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was the leading spokesman of American blacks in the 1800s. Born a slave in 1817 in Tuckahoe, MD, he devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and the fight for black rights. Douglass's name at birth was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, but he changed it when he fled from his master in Baltimore in 1838. He ended up in New Bedford, Mass., where he attempted to ply his trade as a ship caulker, but settled for collecting garbage and digging cellars. In 1841, at a meeting of the Massachusetts Antislavery Society, Douglass delivered a lecture on freedom that so impressed the society that it hired him to talk publicly about his experiences as a slave. He then began a series of protests against segregation, and published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in 1845.

Out of fear that his identity as an escaped slave would be discovered upon publication of the Narrative, Douglass fled to England. There he spoke out against slavery and was given funds by friends to buy his freedom. He returned to the U.S. in 1847, founded an anti-slavery newspaper in Rochester, NY, and took up the cause of economic justice for freed blacks. He accused American businessmen, including some who were abolitionist, of hiring white immigrants over blacks. He also fought successfully against segregated schools in Rochester.

Douglass's home was a station on the underground railroad, which helped runaway slaves reach freedom. When the Civil War began in 1861, Douglass helped recruit blacks for the Union Army. He discussed the immorality of slavery with President Abraham Lincoln on several occasions. Finally, he wrote two expanded versions of his autobiography - My Bondage and My Freedom, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. He died in 1895.


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739
Pager: 301/507-2316