Archive for January, 2018
Douglassonian Lecture: Frederick Douglass and Howard University [Carter G. Woodson House, Sun., Feb 25 – 1pm – 3pm]
In celebration of the sesquicentennial of Howard University and the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass, local historian and author John Muller will present a talk that details the consequential and active role Douglass had in the first generation of Howard University‘s history.
After the talk, visitors are welcome to tour the home and learn of Woodson’s connections with Douglass and Howard University. This event is first-come, first-served, limited to the first 25 visitors. Parking is extremely limited and walking, biking, or public transportation may be better options.
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site
1538 Ninth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Rail — Green Line / Yellow Line – Shaw / Howard
Bus – The 70
Case for Speculations: David Blight is an intellectual disgrace to Douglassonian Biographers Frederic May Holland, James Monroe Gregory, Benjamin Quarles, Philip Foner, John Blassingame and Dickson J. Preston (Part 2)
There is a Hall of Fame of Douglassonian Biographers.
In order of appearance: Frederic May Holland, James Monroe Gregory, Benjamin Quarles, Philip Foner, John Blassingame and Dickson J. Preston.
(ED Note: Leigh Fought is not eligible as her years as a Douglassonian are still active. The Kendricks would be inducted as a father-son duo of Douglassonians.)
Absent from this short list is David Blight of Yale University, one of the most overrated Civil War historians of the last generation.
Douglassonians are thorough-headed scholars of FD’s network as a connecting line throughout his entire life, from connections running the neighborhood streets of Fells Point to local petitioners who approached him while he walked the muddy streets of Old Anacostia, a locally respected and internationally known statesman for the friendless.
Blight is not a Douglassonian. Blight’s presentations on Douglass are restrictive and dated, just as is his scholarship.
Blight’s book published nearly thirty years ago in 1989 was an outgrowth of his 1985 dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the same institution attended by another over-rated old American white man and alleged “Douglass Scholar.” The book is by Blight’s own admission “juvenile writing.” We agree.
Blight covers Douglass in the years leading to the Civil War and during the Civil War. It’s a book every Douglass scholar should have but not one that is of particular importance. It’s maybe a top 50 Douglass book, not better than that. There are around 100 real books about Douglass so Blight’s work by honest evaluation is a book in the middle, not bad, not particularly good. In reading of Blight’s book in preparation for writing my own book he gets a number of dates and facts related to the Douglass Reconstruction years in Washington City wrong.
David Blight, a 68-year old former high school history teacher from Flint, Michigan, has comfortably traveled the country and world for years without advancing any unique understanding or interpretation of Douglass beyond the metaphorical.
He views Douglass as a mythical metaphor. He lauds Harvard professor John Stauffer, who has taken credit for research done by Zoe Trodd and Celeste-Marie Bernier and did some other jankey stuff with his inaccurately sub-titled co-authored book.
Douglass is a neighborhood guy. This stable of current old American white men who are somehow lauded and labeled “Douglass experts” — Blight, Ira Berlin and John Stauffer [the youngest being born in 1965] — will never understand Douglass as Freddy Fred. Never. Never ever. All Douglass is to them is a method for them to reign unchallenged within their Ivory Towers of largely speculative scholarship.
Douglass is a benevolent spirit watching over all the intellectual curious children of the 1-6 and lost souls seeking shelter from the sub-zero temperatures in the abandominiums of Old Anacostia.
Douglass is not a past and distant myth and a convenient metaphor.
Real live. He’s got the biggest house in the ‘hood.
Case for Speculations (1): Imitating Douglass’ voice, cracked, high-pitched and subservient
This is not history. It is bizarre pseudo-speculation and this old white man’s effort to imitate how he thinks Frederick Douglass would conduct himself in a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. Bizarre on many levels.
A true historian, let alone a Douglassonian, would directly quote from source material. Blight does not. He offers an imitation of Douglass.
See, young scholar-soldiers, I came up 901 G. Where you might catch Anthony Pitch giving a presentation without a single inference, note of speculation, whiff of guesswork or hint of conjecture.
This non-historical pseudo-genuflecting drivel by Blight and other alleged “Douglass experts” is nothing any respectable W Street Douglassonian and self-respecting historian can and will ever respect.
Case for Speculations (2): “You can milk it for pages.“
Blight demonstrates his appalling laziness as a speculative historian by professing that to a narrative-based biographer such as himself he jumps at the occasion to take any short cut he can find.
When looking through vertical files of old newspaper clippings that chronicle Douglass’ life and times, in real time, Blight admits when he finds a clipping he views the discovery as an opportunity to “milk it for pages.”
In his presentation to Harvard Law School he says this with exaggeration, emphasizing the point with a small rattle of his off-dominant lecture hand.
On W Street we don’t milk. We research. We respect the game. Otherwise they take you out.
I’m on mission to agitate, agitate, agitate and take out all of these alleged Douglass experts who are a disgrace to the limited and sacred Hall of Fame of Douglassonian Biographers.
Don’t tell me Blight is a Douglass expert because he is not. He is a speculative, mediocre Civil War historian.
Brother-in-law of Edward Lloyd IV, who built Wye House Plantation, one of largest contributors to founding of Washington College in 1782
John Cadwalader, a general in the Colonial Army, gave one of the largest contributions to start Washington College in 1782.
His first wife was Elizabeth Lloyd. Her brother was Edward Lloyd IV, who built the Wye House plantation. Frederick Douglass came up at Wye House.
Edward Lloyd V is who Frederick Douglass talks about in his 1845 autobiography.
Washington College is planning to exploit the intellectual legacy of Douglass by posthumously conferring an honorary degree on Feb 23, 2018.
In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass the author writes about Lloyd:
To describe the wealth of Colonel Lloyd would be almost equal to describing the riches of Job. He kept from ten to fifteen house-servants. He was said to own a thousand slaves, and I think this estimate quite within the truth. Colonel Lloyd owned so many that he did not know them when he saw them; nor did all the slaves of the out-farms know him. It is reported of him, that, while riding along the road one day, he met a colored man, and addressed him in the usual manner of speaking to colored people on the public highways of the south: “Well, boy, whom do you belong to?” “To Colonel Lloyd,” replied the slave. “Well, does the colonel treat you well?” “No, sir,” was the ready reply. “What, does he work you too hard?” “Yes, sir.” “Well, don’t he give you enough to eat?” “Yes, sir, he gives me enough, such as it is.”
The colonel, after ascertaining where the slave belonged, rode on; the man also went on about his business, not dreaming that he had been conversing with his master. He thought, said, and heard nothing more of the matter, until two or three weeks afterwards. The poor man was then informed by his overseer that, for having found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to a Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without a moment’s warning, he was snatched away, and forever sundered, from his family and friends, by a hand more unrelenting than death. This is the penalty of telling the truth, of telling the simple truth, in answer to a series of plain questions.
He came to Paris; and we paced the streets
As if we twain were truants out of school!
We clomb aloft where many a carven ghoul
And grinning gargoyle mocked our giddy feats;
We made a sport of sitting in the seats
Where Kings of France were wont to sit and rule!
‘A throne,’ quote he, ‘is a pretender’s stool –
For kingship is a fraud, and kings are cheats!’
He loved a hero. Nor can I forget
How with uncovered head, in awe profound
He hailed Coligny’s all-too tardy stone ;
And how, before the tomb of Lafayette ,
He said, ‘This place is doubly sacred ground –
This patriot had two countries for his own!’
2 Admiral de Coligny was murdered in the St. Bartholomew massacre, on the night of August 24, 1752.
3 Lafayette lies in the Picpus Cemetery, rue Picpus, Paris.
Tilton, Theodore. Sonnets to the Memory of Frederick Douglass. Paris. Brentano’s, 37 Avenue De Opera. 1895, p. 11.
The “elusiveness” of Frederick Douglass in the barely-existent field of Douglassoniana Studies is because scholars have done very little original investigative work. This is seen in the very few references in Douglassoniana to Tilton’s poetry and writings about his friendship with his brother-from-another, Fred. Philip Foner did the work.
Within days of catching word in Paris that his friend had passed Tilton composed and published a short book dedicated to the memory of his dear brother. He promptly sent it to Helen Pitts Douglass in Washington.
There are more folks alleged to be Douglass scholars that deal in speculation, conjecture, psychoanalysis, guesswork and their own genuflecting on Douglass than actual scholarship.
That said, it is clear Tilton loved Douglass as though he was his own brother. Fred was from the streets. He understood when you’re mobbing through the streets of Paris it’s better to be with your brother than on the solo mission. I know.
David Blight is an intellectual disgrace to Frederick Douglass. And has been for more than a decade. (Part 1)
As the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial is realized within mere weeks there are a bevy of events, lectures and meetings planned. While municipal governments, teachers, artists, community organizers and everyday Douglassonians have answered the bell and planned substantial, meaningful and memorable programs, many of the gatherings will be purely ceremonial, not addressing the larger issues in the barely existent field of Douglassoniana Studies. Let alone the all but unknown local legacy of Douglass as an Anacostian and Washingtonian.
Yale History Professor David W. Blight is the largest and most significant violator of the legacy, heritage and memory of Frederick Douglass.
Put simply, Blight has led the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition since 2004. In this time he has done NOTHING to build a lasting Douglass scholarly infrastructure. He is a disgrace and a betrayal to the Douglassoniana scholarly tradition of John W. Blassingame, Benjamin Quarles, Philip Foner and local journalist-historian Dickson J. Preston.
Blight has not used his position at Yale nor his service to various, and often celebration by, member-based historical-oriented organizations nor his appointment to influential boards and positions:
1) to organize and begin the publication of a Douglass scholarly journal
2) to organize a semi-annual, annual, biennial, triennial or quadrennial academic conference
3) create an endowed grant or scholarship for university students or independent scholars to study Douglass and advance new areas of scholarship
For nearly a generation Blight, a speculative “memory” historian, has been safely and comfortably stroking his own pretentious ego and those around him in the Ivory Tower off the collective guilt over the forgotten memory of what Frederick Douglass meant to the lost and lonely.
Throughout his life Douglass:
1) organized and published a series of newspapers in Rochester and Washington City
2) attended anti-slavery, women’s rights, colored press and temperance and religious-based meetings and conventions
3) raised money, as well as donated his own funds, in the support of institutions and individuals
I need not go into details of the creation of my own book and genuflect on my own experiences as a youngish Germanic-American street reporter and historian within the interior community of Old Anacostia.
I do not have the capacity and immense sense of imagined and actual privilege David Blight has to safely pontificate poetic about Douglass unchallenged in one Ivory Tower to another Ivy Tower to the next Ivory Tower. I don’t have that sense of entitlement. I can’t.
A friend of mine, a community journalist, was killed May 27, 2015. Not a day goes by I don’t think of her.
Later today I have to go down to 16th Street SE to show the fellas the mural design planned for the corner store at 16th & W. And pay my respects to a young lady killed about a week past outside the corner store where I get my coffee when coming and going to community meetings.
The life of a community historian is not as easy as having a TA grade papers.
The new owner of the corner store at 16th & W Street SE in Old Historic Anacostia has supported an effort to create a mural on the 16th Street SE side of his building which will bring attention to and honor the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial.
Our ambitious plan for installation is BEFORE and/or during Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, coinciding with the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site’s celebration of the Douglass birthday with speakers / presenters mostly from outside of the community. The mural installation will involve the local community and bring the spirit of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial to the streets he walked and neighborhood he called home.
We are seeking to cover the costs of the muralist’s design time and labor, in addition to costs of materials such as paint, brushes, painter’s tape and other incidentals.
There will be outreach to involve local children and teenagers and local media to generate positive attention to the legacy and importance of Frederick Douglass to the local community of Old Anacostia and specifically the inhabitants of W Street SE and surrounding environs.
To support this effort please consider making a small donation.
The Maryland Historical Society is pleased to host noted scholar and professor of history at Yale University, David Blight, Ph.D., as he brings his expertise to discuss importance of Frederick Douglass’s life and thought as part of our recognition of Black History month.
In light of Douglass’s 200th birthday, and leading to the release of Blight’s upcoming full biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, this lecture is especially pertinent to today’s discussions.
The event is made free of charge to the public through the A. Helen Diggs Memorial Lecture Fund. We look forward to sharing this insightful lecture and commemoration of the life and impactful work of Frederick Douglass with the Maryland community on February 7th.
201 W Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
I offered to advise Washington College and Prof. Adam Goodheart on the history of Frederick Douglass and his relationship with institutions of higher education but they were not interested.
They are many people and institutions exploiting Douglass for their own purposes which is very un-Douglassonian and should be forthrightly addressed with the greatest degree of severity and consequence.
I’m making it my place as a Co-Founder of the 16th & W Street Douglassonians to call out the lies and the liars, no matter who, what, where, when, why and how.
According to the announcement below, “Yet Douglass himself never had a college education, and Washington College is believed to be the first institution to award him an honorary degree since Howard University did so in 1872.”
This is patently FALSE. I tried to tell them but they are not Douglassonian scholars, whether credentialed or self-taught like Frederick Douglass, Esquire was.
There are folks and institutions which exert impious power of history, especially Douglass history, which has been “elusive” for more than a century because of many reasons.
If 2018 is the year of Douglass, then it is time to agitate, agitate, agitate.
And if you aren’t speaking with facts you’re speaking with nothing as it concerns the W Street Douglassonians.
Washington College celebrates the legacy of the Maryland-born human rights activist and the bicentennial of his birth, Feb. 23, 2018.
On the bicentennial of Frederick Douglass’s birth, Washington College is posthumously awarding him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Douglass’s great-great-great grandson, Kenneth Morris, co-founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, and David Blight, a professor of history at Yale University and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, will both offer remarks and receive the College’s Award for Excellence.
The free, public event, part of the annual George Washington’s Birthday Convocation, is slated for Friday, Feb. 23, beginning at 4:00 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts. The ceremony will also be livestreamed: https://www.washcoll.edu/offices/digital-media-services/live/
“Two hundred years after his birth, it is truly an honor for Washington College to recognize the tenacity and the moral courage Frederick Douglass exhibited by speaking out in support of equal rights for all men and women,” says College President Kurt Landgraf.
Born into slavery in February 1818, not far from the College’s campus on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Douglass came to understand at a very young age that education would be his path to freedom: “Knowledge unfits a child to be a slave,” he wrote. In 1838, he escaped slavery and spent the rest of his life speaking out on human rights issues, including abolitionism and women’s rights, in addition to serving as a federal official and diplomat. His first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), is taught in universities around the world. Yet Douglass himself never had a college education, and Washington College is believed to be the first institution to award him an honorary degree since Howard University did so in 1872.
When Douglass was born, Washington College — the first college in Maryland and one of the oldest in the United States — had already existed for almost forty years. Among its founding donors, alongside George Washington, were members of the Lloyd family, on whose Eastern Shore plantation Douglass was enslaved during his childhood. The College remained a racially segregated institution until the late 1950s.
“Even without a formal education, Frederick Douglass steeped himself in newspapers, political writings, and treatises to become one of the most famous intellectuals of his time,” Landgraf says. “Washington College should have been thrilled to enroll such a promising scholar. We can’t change that history, but we can and should learn from it.”
For a complete listing of events commemorating Frederick Douglass’s bicentennial, visit https://www.washcoll.edu/offices/student-affairs/frederick-douglass-bicentennial/index.php
As part of the Douglass centennial activities on Feb. 23, members of the College’s Black Student Union will deliver copies of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave to eighth-graders at Chestertown Middle School. Joining them will be Ken Morris, a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass who will later accept the honorary degree on Douglass’s behalf. To honor Douglass’s 200th birthday, Morris’s family foundation is distributing one million hardcover copies of the book to middle-schoolers across the country.
The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives is a modern abolitionist organization dedicated to teaching today’s generation about one of the most influential figures in American history and raising awareness about the ongoing crisis of human trafficking.
“Our message to young people today is that they have an obligation to get an education because of the contributions and the sacrifices our ancestors made,” says Morris. “Frederick Douglass never stepped foot in a classroom. He was completely self-taught. Imagine how he would have felt to have the same opportunities young African Americans have today. We also want inspire them through Frederick Douglass’s words and let them know that they can make a difference.”
“Colonization is out of the question, for I know not what hardships the laws of the land can impose, which will induce the colored citizen to leave his native soul. He was here in its infancy, he is here in its age. Two hundred years have passed over him, his tears and his blood have been mixed with the soil, and his attachment to the place of his birth is stronger than iron.”
Excerpt of Frederick Douglass’s address to student at Western Reserve College, July 1854.
“AN EXTRACT,” Anti-Slavery Bugle, 5 August, 1854. Front Page.