Hillsdale graduate students in Washington, D.C., welcomed a new visiting professor this fall, Lucas Morel, to teach on the life and statesmanship of Frederick Douglass.
Morel, the John K. Boardman Jr. professor of politics at Washington and Lee University, is currently teaching a one-credit intensive course on Douglass for Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship campus in Washington, D.C.
Morel has spent 22 years at Washington and Lee University, where he is on sabbatical from his position for the 2020 – 2021 academic year. In addition to the course on Frederick Douglass, Morel will teach a class on the modern civil rights movement.
Morel has been a friend of Hillsdale College since he met College President Larry Arnn while getting his Ph.D. at Claremont-McKenna College in California. At the time, Arnn was president of the Claremont Institute, where Morel is a senior fellow. Morel also taught the summer master’s program in American history and government at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. Before teaching at Washington and Lee, Morel taught for five years at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
According to Matthew Spalding, dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship and professor in constitutional government, Morel is a well-known figure among several professors at Hillsdale College. So far, Spalding said, Morel’s course has been a hit with Hillsdale’s graduate students.
“It’s a very popular course, students are really enjoying it,” Spalding said.
Students will answer questions such as: “Is the Constitution pro-slavery or pro-liberty?” and “What is the best way to abolish slavery in the American federal system?” To accommodate working students in Washington, D.C., the class meets on two weekends in the semester — for an hour and half on Friday, Oct. 23, and Friday, Nov. 13, and on the two subsequent Saturdays from 9 a.m. — 4 p.m. with intermittent breaks.
Student Anna Fronzaglia said she’s enjoying Morel’s class.
“This class is an unearthed, intellectual treasure,” Fronzaglia said.
Fronzaglia spoke favorably of Morel’s teaching style and expertise.
“Professor Morel is a gifted storyteller who masterfully unlocks the magnanimity of the historical giant and statesman, Frederick Douglass,” Fronzaglia said.
Morel’s areas of expertise include American government, political philosophy, Black American politics, and the life and statesmanship of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The professor’s twitter handle is even @LincolnDouglass.
Morel is working on a book entitled, “Lincoln, Race, and the Fragile American Republic,” and has written two other books on the subject of Lincoln’s statesmanship, “Lincoln and the American Founding” and “Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government.” Morel is also the author of numerous other articles and essays on subjects ranging from the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Antonin Scalia’s jurisprudence to religious freedom to America’s racial divide. Morel says he believes Douglass to be a statesman, “only perhaps rivaled by that of Lincoln.”
Morel said Douglass would “have a ton to say” if he were alive to see the current state of race relations in America.
But, Morel said he believes Douglass’ understanding of “the constitution and equal protection under the law” would place him on the wrong side of conventional thinking today, especially in regard to affirmative action policies. Morel said Douglass would have opposed affirmative action as a proponent of a “color-blind Constitution.”
What Douglass was fighting against in his day was the fact that, “many citizens, especially white citizens, weren’t being consistent,” in applying the law equally to blacks and whites, and he wouldn’t have favored preferential treatment for either.