Dr. Frederick Douglass pursued self-education and contributed to institutions of higher learning throughout his entire adult life. However, scholarship on Dr. Douglass and higher education has evaded the picklocks of Douglassonian biographers; it is hidden in plain sight, unknown from many of the institutions in the academy of letters and sciences which should rightfully acknowledge this secretive history.
Along with Coppin State University, which seems uninterested in the relationship the school’s namesake, Fanny Jackson Coppin, had with Dr. Douglass there are other colleges and universities equally dispassionate about doing the requisite research.
Recently, the University of Rochester appropriately honored the work of Mr. Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., a Douglass descendant, humanitarian, scholar and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.
After making some inquiries I’ve caught some chatter the University of Rochester is planning to honor Dr. Douglass with an honorary degree or an equivalent honor in coming months.
I kindly advise University of Rochester NOT follow the same tone-deaf path Washington College took honoring Dr. Douglass and failing to address his longstanding relationship with higher education.
This is a polite word that for W Street Douglassonians it matters not Yale, Harvard, Maryland State Archives, Maryland Historical Society, Washington College or University of Rochester. The era of playtime honorifics for Dr. Douglass is over. Speak on it and let it be known for the entire world to know.
Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass is Professor Emeritus, the Master Educator of an entire Nation and local Tribe whose presence in the pages and chapters of this country’s history textbooks and manuscripts remains unwritten. From the afterlife his spirit speaks through his words studied in college curriculum from coast to coast.
Dr. Douglass was a fugitive slave-scholar who made his self-taught intellect known the world over before he was thirty years old. Thusly he parlayed and built with leading radical intellectuals and educators the world over the rest of his life.
Honor the work Dr. Douglass did at university as a scholar of the runaway slave.
Honor the Pharoah of American Letters.
Dr. Douglass and Prof. John H. Raymond
Dr. Douglass made his home in Rochester from 1847 until 1872. During this time he cultivated relationships with religious leaders, journalists, temperance advocates, businessmen, local politicians, the black community, suffragists and educators from the local public school system to the University of Rochester.
To my knowledge, no modern biography, book chapter, monograph or journal article has explored the details and specifics of Dr. Douglass and the University of Rochester.
Here’s to a start:
October 18, 1880.
I am glad to know that it is your purpose to publish the life and letters of your father, the late John H. Raymond. Unhappily for me, I have no letters of his which can be of service to you. I knew him well while he was a Professor in Rochester University. It was at a critical and trying time in the history of the struggle between freedom and slavery in our country. The fugitive-slave bill had just been enacted, making the whole North slave-hunting ground and every American citizen a slave-hunter, and had but lately become a law.
The effort to make that law respectable was immense. Press, pulpit, and official position all clamored for its enforcement. To speak and write against that law was to brand one’s self in public estimation as a law-breaker, and such a law-breaker I confess myself to have been both in theory and practice, for I assisted as many as I could in their escape from slavery, and no man in Rochester more than your father cheerfully gave me countenance and support in my efforts to secure a safe- conduct of the many fugitives from slavery who came through that city on their way to Canada. He freely gave his time, his influence, and his voice on the side of humanity. No so-called law, interest, or logic could blind him to the stupendous wickedness of slavery, and he had the courage to be known and read of all men in that dark hour of our history as an inflexible friend to the cause of emancipation. Many have been the words of kindness and consolation which he addressed to me when the way seemed dark and difficult, and I retain a vivid recollection of his benevolent face and his amiable manners and bearing, though it is more than a quarter of a century since I saw him. . . .
Believe me sincerely yours,
Will be shared when institutions of higher learning get as serious, believe you me, as I am about Dr. Douglass and higher education.