Interdisciplinary Conference on Frederick Douglass [Abstracts due August 31, 2014]

After walking Cedar Hill in the early morning Douglass would settle at his desk, responding to and beginning new correspondence. Photo National Park Service, Frederick Douglass NHS.Interdisciplinary Conference on Frederick Douglass

CALL FOR PAPERS
The Frederick Douglass Institute (FDI) of West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCUPA), in celebration of its 20th anniversary, is calling for papers for its interdisciplinary conference on Frederick Douglass to be held on the WCUPA campus on October 15, 2014. WCUPA is the place where Douglass gave his last public lecture, titled “Against Lynch Law” on February 1, 1895, just nineteen days before he died. FDI has commemorated this event with both a historical marker formally issued from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2006, and with the recent dedication (October 1, 2013) of DeBaptiste Plaza, a place for all who come to our campus to reflect on Douglass and his connection to WCUPA, with an impressive, inspiring, life-size statue of a young Frederick Douglass as its centerpiece.

FDI is fortunate to have its 20th anniversary coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, represented a Congressional response to American racism that brought a legal end to Jim Crow, forever changing U.S. public policy. FDI considers this a unique opportunity to engage in extensive critical reflection and robust academic discussion about the life and legacy of Douglass, which is so integral to America’s ongoing civil rights struggle. Since the conference is interdisciplinary, papers may address Douglass’s work in relation to a broad range of topics, including, but not limited to the following: the 20th century civil rights struggle, feminism, mass incarceration, human trafficking, and voter ID Laws.

Papers may also address Douglass’s work either on its own or in relationship to other 19th century African-Americans such as David Walker, Ida B. Wells, Henry Highland Garnet, Alexander Crummell, Maria Stewart, etc. Papers are welcome from any academic discipline. Again, the topics listed here are merely examples of what FDI is looking for at our conference. Other topics pertinent to Douglass and his legacy are also welcome.
WCUPA is located in West Chester, Pa. and is the county seat for Chester County, Pa. West Chester, Pa. is approximately 25 miles southwest of Philadelphia, Pa. For those participants who will be flying to the conference, the Philadelphia International Airport is the nearest airport to the university.

Please submit a 250-500 word abstract to fdouglass@wcupa.edu no later than August 31, 2014. Authors will be notified of acceptance by September 10, 2014, and completed papers (approximately 3,000 words for 20 minutes of reading time) will be due no later than October 10, 2014.

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Frederick Douglass subscription to “The Anacostia Press” [1894]

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

SOURCE:

Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress [Subscriptions, Folder 1 of 2 - Series: Financial Papers, Image 29]

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Receipt for a year’s subcription to the “People’s Advocate” [August 26, 1882 - August 26, 1883]

Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers

Library of Congress, Frederick Douglass Papers

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“Douglass would play baseball with the children” [undated interview with "Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson"]

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

In researching the upcoming Death and Life of Old Anacostia I have had the chance to review the exhibit records for The Anacostia Story: 1608 – 1930. Last Friday I reviewed Box 217 which is replete with Douglass references. Here’s one particular item that caught my attention which appears to be an early draft of The Anacostia Story.

“One of the few prominent black families recorded as living in Uniontown was the Wilkinsons. Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, the widow of an early black school administrator, recalls her husband describing Frederick Douglass and his estate. ‘My husband’s family lived on the street which the Douglass home fronts (W Street) and Douglass would play baseball with the children. Mr. Wilkinson was a clerk in the Pension Office and very political and he and Mr. Douglass would argue about current events.'”

Questions / Comments:

What is the source of this quote? I could not determine its origins in reviewing the draft. It’s not from a story in the Star or Post.

Garnet C. Wilkinson “presided for nearly 40 years over of Negro Division of the Washington public schools before desegregation,” according to his obituary in the Washington Post on 29 January, 1969. The same article said that Wilkinson moved to Washington from South Carolina when he was 8. If he was born in 1879, this means he moved to Washington by 1886 or 1887. In the 1887 Washington City Directory there is a “Wilkinson” on Nichols Avenue and another “Wilkinson” listed as living in Hillsdale. Could this have been the family of Garnet C. Wilkinson?

If this is, in fact, taken from Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, she died in June 1942 while her husband was still living. Wilkinson remarried. Is this from Wilkinson’s second wife? When was it taken?

In early February 1978, the DC Public Library system opened the Garnet C. Wilkinson Branch inside the elementary school with the same name. Wilkinson had been a member of the Library’s Board of Trustees from 1959 – 1965. At the event, according to the Washington Post, Caroline Wilkinson, the widow of the honored, spoke. This timeline is consistent with what looks to be an oral interview taken from Caroline Wilkinson in the 1970s.

When Douglass died in 1895, Wilkinson couldn’t have been much more than 16 years old. How could he have been a clerk in the Pension Office at such a young age?

Lastly, it appears that Garnet C. Wilkinson helped to make a “pilgrimage” to the Douglass home by students from the city’s division of colored schools an annual event.

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Frederick Douglass as profiled by Jane Marsh Parker [Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.]

“A marked characteristic of Frederick Douglass is his love for music. When but a little fellow he would go up to “the great house” to hear the violin play for the dancers. The fiddler, he says, did not play common airs, but the best music, and while he listened the little yellow boy under the window forgot everything else. Love of music drew him to the Methodist meetings, for the singing was music to him, and he joined in with a will. It was at these meetings he began to speak in public, and discovered how well he could talk and the pleasure in being praised for the same. When a Sunday school exhibition by the free negroes was in prospect he found a chance for exercising his budding oratory. He bought a “speaker” with the “tips” his master had given him for blacking boots, and selected a piece with a plenty of big words – a college oration was wherein expounded what man can by imagination. The words were Greek to him, but he particularly liked rolling out: “He can soar aloft where stars glitter on the mantle of light and a more effulgent sun lights up the blushes or morning.”

Talking with Frederick Douglass one is sometimes inclined to think that, interesting as his autobiography is, it does not contain many of the most interesting experiences of his life, those he once thought, perhaps, insignificant to the public. On his wife’s piano at Cedar Hill you may see the very same music book that he slipped into his bundle when he skipped out of Maryland. It is worth something to see him standing with his violin singing with Mrs. Douglass those old “Seraph” hymns. If you had breakfast with him on a Sunday morning he will pass you with his own hand the Maryland biscuit, and is it not worth knowing that are just like the biscuits “Miss Lucretia” used to give him when half starved he sang under her dining room window? “I used to wish I could have my fill of them, and now I mean to have, you see?”

There was living in Washington a year of so ago an old colored man, who was a fellow slave with “Fred,” as he still calls him. His wife was the daughter of the old fiddler of “the great house.” Hearing them talk together – the recorder of the District of Columbia, and the tender of a furnace in the Capitol – laughing merrily over reminiscences of the plantation, was a unique experience.

“No, I don’t remember anything special that Fred used to do in them days,” said the old man in reply to probing inquiry, “only he jes wouldn’t be put upon and wanted to boss everything.”

Full story available HERE:

SOURCE:

Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.

* This story was re-printed in papers throughout the country. *

Jane Marsh Parker was friends with the Douglasses for decades and contributed articles to leading magazines of the late 19th century and early 20th century. She wrote novels as well as histories, including an 1884 book about the history of Rochester, New York which features Frederick Douglass.

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Frederick Douglass offers “complimentary remarks” at the Miner School [Evening Star, June 20, 1878]

Miner CollegeCLOSING EXERCISES AT THE MINER SCHOOL BUILDING. – This morning the closing exercises of the normal class of the Miner School took place in the Miner building, corner of 17th and Samson streets, in the presence of quite a large audience. Among those present were Rev. Dr. Patton, president of Howard University, Rev. Clay Macauley, Marshal Douglass, G. E. Baker, W. W. Johnson, Mr. Blanchard, Mrs. O’Conner, and Mrs. Winslow of the Minor [sic] School board, Messrs. J. H. Brooks and H. Johnson, of the Board of Public School trustees, Mr. H. R. Miles, and others. The examination in the higher branches of English was conducted by Miss Sarah J. Smith, principal, and it was very interesting and creditable continuing from 9 1/2 o’clock to past noon. Mr. Douglass and others made some complimentary remarks at the close.

SOURCE:

Evening Star, 20 June, 1878, p. 4.

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Book Talk at the Beatley Central Library, tomorrow, Wed., May 14th @ 7pm

Literary Calendar _ John MullerAs part of All Alexandria Reads I’ll be giving a presentation tomorrow, Wednesday, May 14th at the Beatley Central Library at 7pm. See you there!

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