Archive for April 11th, 2018

Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass & Higher Education: University of Rochester Edition, Pt. 2 [Frederick Douglass to Rev. M.B. Anderson, D.D, President of University of Rochester, discussing potential lecture at Bucknell University, Nov. 23, 1868, Rochester, NY]

Autograph letter signed Frederick Douglass to_ Rev. M.B. Anderson-page-002

“Autograph letter signed Frederick Douglass to: Rev. M.B. Anderson, D.D, November 23, 1868, Rochester, NY”
Wellesley College Special Collections.

Dr. Frederick Douglass did not run with a monolith of radicals.

He ran with them all, my fellow Douglassonians, from radical booksellers in Fells Point to radical abolitionists on the anti-slavery lecture circuit to radical Republicans, such as Congressman Robert Smalls, representing the first generation of national black legislators.

Dr. Douglass ran with radical clergy, radical journalists, radical suffragists, radical black nationalists, radical labor organizers, an international circle of radical educators to name just a handful of the thoroughgoing cyphers of militant thought and action the fugitive slave-scholar stepped through to.

Never having attended a day of school in his life, Dr. Douglass self-directed his education under the shade tree in the country and in muddy back-alley streets.

I question the sincerity and genuineness of institutions of higher learning seeking to confer awards on Dr. Douglass without an accurate accounting of his lifelong relationship with radical educators and the university for a half-century.

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 Douglass and Higher Education. Let it be known. Once. And. For. All. Times.

Rochester, Nov. 23, 1868.

My dear sir:

I am just home from Boston and am obliged by your note of the 18th. I will write to Pres. Loomis to day and give him a date when I can deliver a lecture in Lewisburg.

I receive many invitations, some from responsible [indecipherable] and others not – and I feel more secure from imposition when I have assurances as you gave me of your friend Dr. Loomis.

Truly yours with gr [sic] respect

Frederick Douglass

Rev. M. B. Anderson, D.D.
Pres. Rochester University

*Emancipated slave
and orator & editor.

*Archivist / Librarian notation.


Original letter here.


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Frederick Douglass recalls playing violin in Dublin, Ireland [“HE PREACHED THEN: Early Career of Fred Douglass, Orator and Reformer.” by I. D. Marshal. 24 November, 1894.]

Fred & Joseph Douglass

Frederick Douglass alongside grandson Joseph Douglass. (Library of Congress)

“I went into a music store in Dublin and asked to look at violins. The proprietor handed me one with seeming reluctance. He appeared to be afraid that I would break it. His whole attitude was one of amazement. He had heard of negroes, no doubt, but very likely I was the first one he had actually seen.

I took the instrument from his hand and played the “Rocky Road to Dublin.”

He was speechless for a moment or two. Then he ran to the door connecting the shop with the living room and called to his wife.

“‘Norah! Norah!’ he cried, ‘come here! There’s a naygur here playin the fiddle. Come quick!”

“So Norah came and stood by her husband quote as amazed as that individual. Then I played ‘The Irish Washerwoman,” and they danced for me. Then I asked the price of the violin for I liked it. But the dealer snatched it out of my hand.

“‘It’s not for sale, sorr. Money won’t buy it.”

Then he turned to his wife and said, ‘The naygur played on that fiddle and we’ll kape it.’

“He sold me another violin, though, really a much better one, for half a crown, but I did not play upon this instrument. I did not want him to conclude that he must keep it also because a ‘naygur’ had played on it.”

Mr. Douglass may not play the violin now, but during those time which he always speaks of “as trying men’s souls” his violin was one of his chief sources.

He has a grandson now, of whom he is very fond, to whom has descended the musical faculty, and who has shown so much talent as a violinist that he is to be sent abroad in order that his musical education may be finished.

“HE PREACHED THEN: Early Career of Fred Douglass, Orator and Reformer.” by I. D. Marshal. 24 November, 1894.

*This article was published in newspapers across the country. Marshall was apparently Managing Editor of The American Press Association.*

Dickson Preston knew. Others have, too.

It is quite possible Frederick Douglass had a photographic memory. Me bets there’s not an infinitesimal chance if a researcher looked through the Dublin City Directories, or the equivalent, from 1844 thru 1848 for violin shops and one owned by someone with a wife named “Norah,” that this store could be identified. Unless, Douglass’ mind was playing a trick on him and this memory actually occurred in Scotland.

My instinct is there is something here and Douglass’ recollection of Dublin is clearer than other times he shared memories of his early days violining.

And, unless Harvard’s John Stauffer pulls a rabbit out of his hat his violin story is a complete and unnecessary lie based in his own imagination not scholarship.

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Dr. Frederick Douglass: “Sometimes … I lay me dear, old fiddle aside, and listen to the soft, silent, distant music of other days, which, in the hush of my spirit, I still find lingering somewhere in the mysterious depths of my soul.”

Fred & Joseph Douglass

Frederick Douglass alongside grandson Joseph Douglass. (Library of Congress)

“I sometimes (at long intervals) try my old violin; but after all, the music of the past and of imagination is sweeter than any my unpracticed and unskilled bow can produce. So I lay my dear, old fiddle aside, and listen to the soft, silent, distant music of other days, which, in the hush of my spirit, I still find lingering somewhere in the mysterious depths of my soul.”

Holland, Frederic May. Frederick Douglass: The Colored Orator (1895 edition), p. 335.

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May 10 – May 25, 2018 -> The Frederick Douglass Project, A site-specific production by Solas Nua about Frederick Douglass’ transformational journey to Ireland

To commemorate Douglass’ bicentennial Solas Nua has commissioned a new work that celebrates his 1845 trip to Ireland. It was in Ireland that Douglass said, “I find myself treated not as a color, but as a man.”

It was also in Ireland where Douglass’ freedom papers were purchased by his Irish hosts, his books sold out at his speaking engagements, and he wrote, “I can truly say I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life since landing in this country, I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life.”

This production will give DC audiences an untold story about one of Washington’s greatest historical figures.

  • The production is site-specific; staged on a pier at The Yard’s Marina (Navy Yard) and will feature live hip-hop music and dance remixed in an innovative blend of Irish music and dance.
  • The “project” is written by award winning writers Deirdre Kinahan(Wild Sky; Moment) and Psalmayene 24. In order to get a dual perspective on the subject, we commissioned an African-American and an Irish writer to create pieces that featured Douglass’ experience in Ireland. 
  • The production has received support from The DC Commission for Arts & Humanities, The Irish Embassy, Kenneth Morris and the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation. 


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“The Colored People of Baltimore” signed by Rev. John Fortie, Nathaniel Peck and William Levington [Niles Weekly Register, 3 October, 1835]

Niles_Weekly_Register _ Oct. 3, 1835_Slavery and the Aboltionists_p. 72

Niles Weekly Register, Vol. 49. Oct 3, 1835, p. 72. “The Colored People of Baltimore.”

The following affecting reply of the very respectable colored clergymen, whose names are attached, on behalf of the people of their respective congregations and others – we sincerely believe is “just and true” in all its parts.

minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Sharp street.

minister of the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church.

rector of St. James P. E. church, Baltimore.

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Point Boys Douglassonians: Dr. Edward Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired, presents on the Baltimore Anna Murray and Frederick Bailey left behind.

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