Henceforth, private life of Dr. Douglass is “without blemish,” unless scholarship & documentation proves otherwise, which it has not.

After walking Cedar Hill in the early morning Douglass would settle at his desk, responding to and beginning new correspondence. Photo National Park Service, Frederick Douglass NHS.I have attended many talks about Dr. Douglass over the years. Many are under-researched, under-cooked and/or underwhelming. However, there is hope. Prof. Lawrence Jackson at Johns Hopkins University has done some groundbreaking research on “Frederick Bailey in Baltimore.”

At a recent talk in Baltimore a young Ranger from the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site discussed and addressed one of the most prevalent ongoing speculations that has hovered over the field of Douglass Studies for nearly two decades.

Ranger Brittany Hall said — to paraphrase using the words in which I received the message — that unless someone comes with some hard documentation and scholarship, the private life of Dr. Douglass is “without blemish.”

I can’t say it any better. If anyone, whether they be men who did their twenty years to return to 16th & W Street as self-studied Douglassonians or professors at Ivy League institutions, attempts to talk sideways about Dr. Douglass must be supported with proof at the ready. Otherwise all talk is unproven speculation.

Dr. Douglass’s life is for the public to examine and discuss openly, however, his private life requires a level of understanding and scholarship very few historians outside of the Douglass family and Bailey Tribe possess.

Dr. Douglass was a private man who lived in the public arena. It is a contact sport today and back in Dr. Douglass’ day branding, murder, lynchings, mental oppression was an every day thing.

Dr. Douglass does not need be unevenly exalted, worshiped or ennobled. But scholars will respect Dr. Douglass henceforth knowing that as I am concerned his private life and his marriages to Anna Murray and Helen Pitts is “without blemish.”

 

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