John Brown wasn’t the only firebrand white man Frederick Douglass ran with. Whereas Brown was an operative, an assassin who operated on the fringes of the struggle for radical abolition, there were also white men in the halls of the United States Congress and Senate who were radicals within the system of the federal government.
It was former President John Quincy Adams’ efforts while serving as a Representative to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia which made the national papers that a young Freddy Bailey picked up while running the streets of Baltimore in the 1830s which provided the context clue of what abolitionists were and what they were working towards abolishing.
Throughout his entire life Douglass was an operative and an organizer. He allied himself with anyone willing and seeking to do right, as he determined what was right.
He broke with William Lloyd Garrison, a radical white man, over their countering interpretations of the Constitution.
Before moving to Washington City in early 1870 Douglass had relationships with many a number of white men serving in the House and Senate and even the federal judiciary, including former Ohio governor and senator Salmon P. Chase. It was Chase, then serving as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court, who hosted Douglass in Washington in March 1865 when Douglass attended Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
Barry Farm Dwellings knows Charles Sumner as Sumner Road cuts through the Farms past Charlie’s Corner Store, the recreation center and towards Firth Sterling Avenue.
Frederick Douglass knew Charles Sumner, too. They were dear and trusted friends. When Sumner died in office in 1874 Douglass led an effort on behalf of colored citizens of Washington City to show out strong at his wake and viewing.
“On Friday, a day rare even for March in its bleakness, the funeral services were held in the Senate chamber at midday. The procession, moving from the senator’s home in the morning, was led by a body of colored people on foot, at the head of whom was Frederick Douglass. The immediate guard in charge from the police of the Capitol was made up in part of that race. The body lay for some hours in the rotunda, where thousands, only a part of those who pressed for admission, took their last view of it. It was then borne to the Senate chamber, where it was awaited by the President and Cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, the diplomatic corps, the high officers of the army and the navy, with General Sherman at their head, and the members of both houses.”
Pierce, Edward L. Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume IV, 1860 – 1874. Roberts Brothers: Boston. p. 602.
Image courtesy of Library of Congress