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.
Review of revered University of Maryland History Professor’s amazingly empty lecture on Frederick Douglass in Fells Point (Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point)
my youtube comment:
Dr. Ira Berlin barely mentions anything about Frederick Douglass’ time in Fells Point. Doesn’t describe what Fells Point was like at that time — the people, the businesses, the institutions, the culture, the politics, the churches. Nothing. Doesn’t go into any detail about Mr. Knight who ran the bookstore on Thames Street that a young Freddy Bailey patronized. The lack of original scholarship on Douglass is quite disappointing. No mention of the work of Dickson Preston. No mention of the work of Professor Lawrence Jackson at Johns Hopkins. And Dr. Berlin is a revered scholar? Why? He surely is no Douglass scholar. At least Lou Fields walks the community and knows the streets, although he doesn’t know the history.
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. Fredrick Douglass was born 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 or 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 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 and 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 in the Asiatic 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.
They got guns out here. And they will take folks out on purpose or by accident. 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 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.