Jeffrey Wright and More Honor a Legend in 'Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches' — First Look

Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches premieres on Feb. 23 on HBO

A new HBO documentary special is taking a closer look at a major historical figure's legacy.

The new special, titled Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches, intends to dive deeper than the average traditional biographical documentary. The one-hour feature aims to explore the life and career of Frederick Douglass, one most famous anti-slavery activists in American history.

To help highlight his life's work, actors Denzel Whitaker, Jonathan Majors, Nicole Beharie, Colman Domingo and Jeffrey Wright were tapped to perform excerpts from five of Douglass' most iconic speeches. Scholars David Blight and Henry Louis Gates Jr. provide further context for the speeches alongside André Holland's readings from the icon's autobiographies.

The chosen experts represent an array of moments occurring in 19th Century America as well as stages of Douglass' life.

jeffrey wright
Courtesy of HBO

PEOPLE's exclusive look at the upcoming documentary sees Wright, 56, and the other selected stars reading some of Douglass' greatest speeches.

"Our newspapers are daily disfigured by ghastly horrors," Wright reads, a line from an address titled The Lessons of the Hour, which Frederick gave at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington, D.C. in 1894.

An impassioned moment by Majors, who reads a line from 1847 address Country, Conscience, and the Anti-Slavery Cause, is previewed, too: "Overthrow this system of slavery, which is crushing them to the earth."

Frederick Douglass: In Five Speeches
Courtesy of HBO

The turmoil that Black Americans faced in Douglass's years, and the torch the anti-slavery advocate took up are explained in-depth, too. "Imagine that you have to dispel doubts about your full humanity every time you picked up a pen," literary critic Gates Jr. says. "Having to fight that battle over and over every day. That's the life of Frederick Douglass."

Douglass began advocating for equality after he escaped slavery in Maryland in 1838. He became a well-known political and religious figure for his anti-slavery writings. Douglass died in 1895 in Washington D.C. He was 77.

Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches premieres on Feb. 23 on HBO.

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