Tune into WPFW 89.3 FM to hear discussion of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia (Mon., Feb 19, 2018 — 9am – 10am)

WPFW LogoTune into WPFW 89.3 FM to hear conversation on Frederick Douglass Monday, February 19, 2018 — 9am – 10am.

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ABC 7’s Sam Ford: As visitors this weekend flow into the historic Anacostia neighborhood to celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass at his home, a National Historic Site….some will see a new mural that’s gone up a block away at 16th and W, SE to also celebrate the great event.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, outdoorWatch the video here!

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Frederick Douglass Community Mural @ 16th & W SE still needs community support! Should be finished by the weekend — Feb 17 & 18, 2018!

16th&WMural_firstdayMuralist Rebeka Ryvola has defied physics, gravity and the time-space continuum to somehow, within less than one day, transform the 16th Street SE side of the corner store from a gray wall to the background for the “Spread Southside Love,” Frederick Douglass Community Mural.

Due to many obligations and incidentals the fundraising effort has not been ramped up to the capacity we initially foresaw but there’s only so many hours in a day.

So far more than $800 has been raised through GoFundMe. We are thankful to all of the contributors on GoFundMe as well as our friends at Frager’s Hardware Store who were very generous in giving us a kind discount on our purchase of nearly $650 worth of paint and materials.

But art does cost. I was unable to be on site yesterday. We needed someone to hold the ladder for the muralist to safely reach the top of the design. We offered a couple dollars to compensate the neighborhood for their assistance. We pay a fair wage.

With that said, Thank You! for your continued support of Old Anacostia and all of the Douglassonians from the newest infants to the eldest elders on 16th Street SE and W Street SE.

Special thanks to the corner store owner, E, and all the staff of the market.

The mural should be nearing completion by this weekend’s birthday celebrations.

good dudes at Fragers

Thank you to the good dudes and paint experts at Fragers! 

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Open to Public but must RSVP: Norton to Speak at Congressional Ceremony Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Frederick Douglass (Wed., February 14, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. in Emancipation Hall)

Image result for frederick douglass statue emancipation hall

Michael E. Crutcher, Sr. of Historical Presentations and an impersonator of Fredrick Douglass at unveiling of Douglass Statue at Emancipation Hall. 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will speak at a congressional ceremony honoring the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, at 5:30 p.m., in Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center (First St NE).  The event is being hosted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA).

The event is open to the public. Those wishing to attend must RSVP to Joe.Picozzi@mail.house.gov by Tuesday, February 13.

The event will take place near the Frederick Douglass statue, which represents the District of Columbia and was placed in the Capitol by a 2013 Norton bill, making D.C. the only jurisdiction that is not a state with a statue in the Capitol.  Douglass’ home in Cedar Hill in Southeast D.C. is a National Historical Site with thousands of visitors every year.

The event will feature the swearing-in ceremony of Norton and other members to the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission, which was established by a Norton bill.  The Commission will plan, develop and carry out programs and activities to honor and celebrate the life of Douglass during 2018.

“I thank Majority Leader McCarthy and Chairman Richmond for leading a fitting celebration for Frederick Douglass in the Capitol near his statue, donated by D.C. residents, who voted for Douglass to represent them in the Capitol because of his strong advocacy for their equal rights,” Norton said.

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton presents Frederick Douglass Celebration (Wed., February 14, 2018 @ Ron Brown Preparatory High School)

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We are told this free event is open to the public but folks will need to tender a form of identification.

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Harvard’s John Stauffer has actively perpetuated a lie about Anna teaching Frederick how to play the violin for a decade. It is unnecessary and needs to be corrected. (Part 1)

Stauffer in BaltimoreLast year I saw the last show of The Agitators at the Geva Theatre in Rochester. Among some of my critiques of the play was a scene that insinuated Anna Douglass played the violin in tandem with her husband, Frederick.

While not a major technical foul it struck me as forced, unnecessary and without any source provenance I’d seen or could recall. While it was in the context of a play I can understand the need for imagination but the play’s handbill made the point that a dramaturge had closely reviewed the play. Mentioned as folks who had lent their expertise was Harvard’s John Stauffer.

In conversations with Douglassonians following the play it was advanced that Stauffer was the likely source for the violin reference as his 2008 book, Giants, makes mention of this make-believe embellishment on page 71.

Her name was Anna Murray and she was a free woman, having been born free on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She had almond-shaped eyes, a full round face, and dark skin, and she worked as a maid for the Wells family on South Caroline Street in Baltimore. At twenty-five, she was five years older than Frederick and had moved to Baltimore at age seventeen. Quiet and hardworking, she was virtually illiterate but could read music, and when she played Haydn or Handel on her violin her hymns seemed to enchant the room. She taught Frederick the violin, he was a quick study, and soon they were playing duets.

This weekend I met Stauffer for the first time.

I asked him about the reference of Anna teaching Frederick how to play the violin. He told me it was in Life and Times and said he’d send me the citation. Since he has yet to do so I am taking the initiative.

NO existing references in Life and Times in either 1881 or 1892 revision.

1881 version of Life and Times references to the violin.

p. 143

The fiddling, dancing, and “jubilee beating” was carried on in all directions. This latter performance was strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin, or of other musical instruments, and was played so easily that almost every farm had its “Juba” beater.

1892 version of Life and Times references to the violin.

p. 181

The fiddling, dancing, and “jubilee beating” was carried on in all directions. This latter performance was strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin or other musical instruments and was played so easily that almost every farm had its “Juba” beater. The performer improvised as he beat the instrument, marking the words as he sang so as to have them fall pat with the movement of his hands.

p. 691

But of all the interesting objects collected in the Museum of Genoa, the one that touched me most was the violin that had belonged to and been played upon by Paganini, the greatest musical genius of his time. This violin is treasured in a glass case and beyond the touch of careless fingers, a thing to be seen and not handled.

p. 692

So this old violin, made after the pattern of others and perhaps not more perfect in its construction and tone than hundreds seen elsewhere, detained me longer and interested me more than anything else in the Museum of Genoa. Emerson says, “It is not the thing said, but the man behind it, that is important.” So it was not this old violin, but the marvelous man behind it, the man who had played on it and played as never man played before, and thrilled the hearts of thousands by his playing, that made it a precious object in my eyes. Owing perhaps to my love of music and of the violin in particular, I would have given more for that old violin of wood, horse-hair, and catgut than for any one of the long line of pictures I saw before me. I desired it on account of the man who had played upon it–the man who revealed its powers and possibilities as they were never known before. This was his old violin, his favorite instrument, the companion of his toils and triumphs, the solace of his private hours, the minister to his soul in his battles with sin and sorrow. It had delighted thousands. Men had listened to it with admiration and wonder. It had filled the largest halls of Europe with a concord of sweet sounds. It had even stirred the dull hearts of courts, kings and princes, and revealed to them their kinship to common mortals as perhaps had been done by no other instrument. It was with some difficulty that I moved away from this old violin of Paginini.

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We will follow-up this post with the existing source material which details how, where and when Douglass took up the violin, as well as a scholarly critique of Stauffer’s presentation on Douglass at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum where he failed to acknowledge the scholarship of Baltimorean Douglassonian Dr. Benjamin Quarles of Morgan State University, among other errors.

We are critical of “Douglass experts” at Yale and Harvard because their erroneous scholarship and speculation should not be acceptable from a high school student let alone from Professors at these two prestigious universities.

It shouldn’t be me calling them out, but call them out I will. Anything less would be a disservice to the truth.

 

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Open Letter to Prof. David Blight: It’s not about you. It’s about the next generation of youngsters, those whose birthright is to know the Douglassonian tradition is theirs to inherit.

Prof. David W. Blight
Department of History
Yale University
320 York Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8324

My name is John Muller, author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia (The History Press, 2012) which needs to be properly mentioned during your upcoming talks as the only existing book detailing Mr. Douglass’ largely unknown years in Washington City.

You know who I am.

When I first embarked upon writing my book in late 2011 I heard from many people you were at work on a biography on Mr. Douglass, which has still not been published all these years later. As a dutiful local historian and street reporter I sent you an email or two or three, along with a call, to let you know who I was and what I was endeavoring to do. I have the receipts.

As I moved forward with my research you were not particularly helpful or supportive of a young Douglassonian scholar. Other academics and “Douglass experts” were welcoming, helpful and offered assistance when I was trying to work through questions I had during the research process. The more I studied Mr. Douglass closely the more I realized how much of an abject mediocre scholar you are and which you remain today.

Mr. Douglass was for the youngsters, his whole life. He played baseball with neighborhood children at Cedar Hill. Students from Howard University were always welcome at Cedar Hill. You are a betrayal and disgrace to this Douglassonian tradition.

I told you I would catch you. I did.

At the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass statue at Emancipation Hall on July 19, 2013 I ran up on you. I told you, “I’m John Muller. You know who I am.”

You responded defensively that you’d read my book and offered it was “well written” or something such as that. I told you my interest was not your opinion of my book but your displaying a respect for the community of Anacostia, a place where the spirit and history of Mr. Douglass can be felt in the air at any time of the day, any day and any season of the year.

I invited you to attend my book talk at the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book happening the next day, July 20, 2013. You did not attend.

Additionally, I invited you to take one of my neighborhood walking tours of Anacostia while in town or during any of your subsequent visits to Washington City. To date you have never taken the walking tour. Other “Douglass scholars” have. They understand. You do not now nor have ever understood who Mr. Douglass was and is to Old Ana.

Since I am a self-taught 16th & W Street SE scholar you may continue to think you can dismiss me personally and the Douglass scholarship I have advanced for the past five years — which is far above and beyond the work you have done on Douglass during your entire time at Yale — along with having a continued blatant inattention of the neighborhood and community which I have been appointed as an ambassador for.

Your demonstrative disrespect and disregard for my scholarship is of no consequence other than to shine light on your intellectual and scholarly dishonesty but, my dear Prof. Blight, you WILL NOT ignore the neighborhood of Old Anacostia and the self-made and self-taught Douglassonian scholars who hold down the corners along 16th Street SE and W Street SE.

The men of Old Anacostia know more about Douglass and what his life means to the human condition than you, an intellectually dishonest, manipulative and selfish old white man could ever understand in 200 lifetimes, let alone 200 years.

The young men and elders of 16th Street SE respect, admire and honor Mr. Frederick Douglass as their neighbor and friend. Many men and women had their elementary school graduations at Cedar Hill. The history of Cedar Hill is the history of a neighborhood and its inhabitants protecting, guarding and preserving Mr. Douglass’ memory for generations so now people like you can safely genuflect and speculate. Understand that, sir.

As you are an alleged “Douglass expert,” whose career has been almost exclusively built as a white, European man discussing race and the history of black folk in this country it’s the least you could do to offer respect for the Asiatic community of Old Anacostia. But you show no respect. You are only about yourself and those within the Ivory Tower institutions who for decades have patted you on the back.

You show yourself to be a disgrace to the Douglassonian tradition at every turn and every word.

This past Wednesday, February 7, 2018, you spoke in Baltimore at the Maryland Historical Society. There were representatives from the Office of Governor Larry Hogan in attendance along with other luminaries.

When given this platform to discuss Mr. Douglass you peddled in your usual speculative history. More importantly, you did not acknowledge many things occurring around the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial you should have. It is not all about you, Prof. Blight. It’s about the heritage and legacy of Mr. Douglass and the younger generation.

The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives is involved in ongoing effort to raise up One Million Abolitionists by distributing 1,000,000 special edition copies of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave to school-aged children throughout the country.

You did not mention this important effort to your rapt audience. You did not mention members of the Douglass-Bailey family. You did not acknowledge anyone or anything other than yourself and your own perceived authority on Mr. Douglass.

It is not about you, sir. It is not about me. It is about honoring Mr. Douglass and passing on his legacy to the next generation.

As a youngster growing up in Maryland I read Narrative in junior high school. I had a poster of Mr. D on my wall throughout high school. When I began working for the UPO nearly a decade ago in the neighborhood where Cedar Hill is located I always thought there was a reason God deployed me to W Street SE.

In Baltimore, on W Street SE, in Rochester, in Talbot County, in Savannah, Georgia, at Howard University and anywhere and everywhere from the Tuckahoe to Paris to Egypt where the name Frederick Douglass rings the bells of the Gods of not only American History but the history of civilization you will understand it is about the younger generation. It is about liberation of mind, body and soul. It is about uplifting fallen humanity.

Don’t you ever say “Freddy D” out your mouth ever again, whether in private or in public in front of an audience of primarily aged Europeans.

You do not have that right and I am letting you know you do not have that right with the full force of all the founding members of 16th & W Street SE Douglassonians.

We have never seen you come around the way. Never.

As a history professor at one of the world’s most prestigious universities I invite you to come to the corner and have a discussion. Try to teach your speculative Douglass history and you will be taught what Mr. Douglass truly means to people in a way you can never understand.

You do not own Mr. Douglass and his memory. Nor do I. No one does. Mr. Douglass lived his life to uplift all of fallen humanity. Mr. D was a friend to the friendless.

For thirty years you have exerted unearned power and control over the history of Frederick Douglass in not just this country but the world. Many, many elite institutions are guilty of elevating your mediocrity to the level of honor, including Washington College.

You sir, are no honor to Douglass. You are a disgrace.

The point of this letter is to kindly suggest you mention the One Million Abolitionists project moving forward, especially during your appearance at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site on the weekend of February 17 and February 18.

If you believe your self to be a Douglass scholar I’d kindly suggest you use the opportunities you’ve been given to uplift Douglass to the younger generation and the average man and woman in the community.

In conclusion, this is not about you, old man. It’s about uplifting and liberating the next generation of youngsters, those whose birthright is to know the Douglassonian tradition is theirs to inherit.

Respectfully,
John Muller
Co-Founder, 16th & W Street Douglassonians

1400 block of W Street SE
Old Anacostia
Washington, D.C.

jmuller.washingtonsyndicate@gmail.com
(202) 236-3413

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