Archive for June 26th, 2012
Did Frederick Douglass buy “The New Era” from colored newspaper boy? Front page of “The New Era” [Thursday, January 13, 1870]
For black newspaper boys holding their street corners throughout downtown Washington, on Thursday January 13, 1870 there was a new paper to hawk, a paper uniquely speaking to their emerging place in the country and city, “The New Era.”
We forget Frederick Douglass came up in the streets of 1830’s Baltimore; he was always for the youngster on the make. From students at Howard University invited into his home(s) in the city to adolescent runaways in Rochester that Anna and Frederick helped shuttle to Canada, Douglass was ALWAYS there for the youngsters. His attitude was not I got mine, so get yours. Douglass’ attitude and message was I got mine this way, you can get yours this same way or other ways, but you CAN get it if you work hard, work hard, and don’t stop working hard and while working hard you believe in yourself. And at least one person believes in you, I do.
Frederick Douglass could break it down, he’d been there before and never forgot.I’ve heard through the grapevine of an account of a black newspaper boy seeing Frederick Douglass one morning on Pennsylvania Avenue and running up to him to talk — and sell a paper! When I first heard this I thought Douglass surely would have cut an image on the Avenue. The story goes that Douglass not only spoke to the young man, asking him questions about who he was and what he wanted to be, but that he gave him a “large tip” in life advice and a couple extra dollars. With my research approaching the stop sign as I’m weaving the chapters together I probably won’t have time to pursue this but I have two solid leads on where this account might be — if it does exist. This is another post I will have to update when I either confirm or reject this account.
Intrigue and speculation often times leads nowhere but this account from what I know of Douglass rings true.
READ: Streets of Washington’s John DeFerrari reviews “Snow-Storm in August” by Jefferson Morley; book talk at Politics & Prose Sat., July 14th @ 6pm
The book’s title derives from the so-called “Snow Riot” of August 1835, when a mob of angry young laborers vandalized a restaurant at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW operated by Beverly Snow, a free black. Compared to other great civil disturbances such as the race riots of 1919 or 1968, the mayhem and destruction in 1835 were almost negligible. Nevertheless, it was a shocking event for many Washington residents, and the underlying tensions were as strong as at any time in the city’s history.
It all began when Arthur Bowen, a slave belonging to Mrs. Anna Maria Thornton, got drunk one night and seemed to be contemplating murder. He came home late that evening and entered the widowed Mrs. Thornton’s bedroom carrying an ax. Maria Bowen, Arthur’s mother, had also been asleep in the room, and she awoke and quickly restrained her son, pushing him out of the house through a back door. Mrs. Thornton awoke as well and needless to say was terrified. She ran to get help from neighbors who returned to the house with her and heard, through the locked back door, the rantings of the inebriated young slave. “I’ll have my freedom,” Arther shouted. “I’ll have my freedom, you hear me? I have as much right to freedom as you do.” These were dangerous words for a slave to utter in Washington City in the 1830s.
Make sure you catch the book talk at Politics & Prose on Saturday, July 14th at 6pm.