UVA First-Year Student Named One of 12 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows

March 31, 2023 By Mandira Banerjee, mb2my@virginia.edu Mandira Banerjee, mb2my@virginia.edu

University of Virginia first-year student Gregory Perryman has been selected as one of only 12 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows. The award, which attracted more than 600 applications from around the country, allows students to conduct a comparative study of social justice leadership in the United States, South Africa and Ireland. 

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Perryman hasn’t declared his major yet, but said that his academic interest centers around global sustainability and public policy. He first heard of Frederick Douglass as a high school student, when his history teacher, a UVA alum, handed him an autobiography and urged him to consider the University.

“At that time, I started to reckon what it meant to be an advocate for a multi-racial democracy, like Douglass,” Perryman said. 

The Frederick Douglass Global Fellows award is co-sponsored by the Council on International Educational Exchange and Ireland’s government, and honors the 1845 meeting between 27-year-old abolitionist Frederick Douglass and Irish reformer Daniel O’Connell.

In his short time at UVA, Perryman – who grew up in Cleveland – is already honing his interests. After taking a University Seminar, “Designing a Carbon Neutral Future,” Perryman has “become involved in working with eco-entrepreneurs in Ghana virtually and pitching my own climate tech business idea through the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup.”

His interest in social justice comes from his grandfather. A pastor born in Jim Crow-era Alabama, Perryman’s grandfather later was active in civil rights work throughout Cleveland. “Now 95 years old, he still emphasizes to me to always fight for love. It’s his lifelong commitment to reconciliation and justice that fuels me,” Perryman said.

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Perryman said he is looking forward to his first trip abroad, where he will trace the footsteps of leaders like Douglass and former South African President Nelson Mandela and meet leaders who are driving positive change in their communities. “This experience will help me further shape what servant leadership looks to me and explore the intersection of social justice and climate justice in South Africa and Ireland,” he said.

He urges his fellow students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, to consider venturing abroad. “There are so many amazing resources, including at UVA, to make this possible and affordable,” he said.

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Mandira Banerjee

Global Affairs Communications Officer