Frederick Douglass accepts Howard University Board of Trustees appointment with conditions, June 27, 1871

With the exception of a handful of books on the history of Howard University, Frederick Douglass’ contributions to the early growth of “The Mecca” have been ignored and are unknown. Douglass never mentions Howard University in his 1881 biography, nor his 1892 update. Quarles, Foner, and McFeely provide few-to-no insights. Rayford Logan’s Howard University: The First Hundred Years 1867-1967, I’ve found, is the most comprehensive work to touch on Douglass and Howard, especially Douglass’ 1875 nomination to serve as President of Howard University.

Scrolling through the HU Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center last week I hope to begin the process of shedding light on the important, yet overlooked, assistance Douglass gave to the evolution and development of the school on the hilltop above Boundary Street.

On June 27th, 1871, at the 79th meeting of HU’s Board of Trustees, a letter was received from Douglass. At the previous board meeting on June 13th, Douglass was elected, along with three others, as a new member of the Board of Trustees.

“A communication was received from Hon. Frederick Douglass accepting the appointment of Trustee with conditions. On motion the Secretary was directed to reply that the Board desire he should remain a Trustee although he may not be able to attend all the meetings.”

Around the same time, June 1871, Douglass steps down from his position as a member of the city’s Legislative Council.

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