It recently came to my attention content from this blog was instrumental in the creation of a “Frederick Douglass in the City of Lights: Walking Tour” created by Princeton University undergraduates (sophomores and juniors) with the guidance of Associate Professor of History Rhae Lynn Barnes.
Drawing largely from my posts about the friendship of Dr. Douglass and journalist-poet Theodore Tilton, the students assembled an impressive, yet abridged, multi-media guide to some of the extant locations Douglass visited while in Paris including a hotel and a cafe.
Evading, however, their scholarly attention, or rather scholarly pilferage, was the visit Douglass and Tilton reportedly made to the present-day 12th arrondissement to pay their respects to the Tomb of General Marquis de Lafayette in the rear of the private Picpus Cemetery.
A Visit to Lafayette’s Tomb
Earlier this week I took ligne 6 to Picpus, a not insignificant distance from the city center and areas where Douglass is known to have frequented in Paris.
Within the short walk down the street and around the corner to the cemetery there were several multi-story developments underway. Construction was happening on a property immediately adjacent to the cemetery while across the street from the large wooden doors to the walled-in cemetery is a Total gas station.
Arriving at the cemetery doors I found myself in the company of two Brits and their friend from Florida. We quickly confirmed our intentions to visit Lafayette’s Tomb; mine for purposes of Douglass while theirs was due an interest in the dual patriot because of his presence in the popular musical Hamilton.
Once inside, the doors closed, the sounds of traffic seemed to fade away. Before us was a pebbled patch leading beyond a house to a large grassy area leading beyond to the Picpus Cemetery to the right.
A groundskeeper kept to himself trimming and clipping a line of rose bushes. By my count a half-dozen free range chickens scurried around under foot watched closely by a rooster in the bushes.
A statue of an archangel preparing to drive a spear through the devil’s head stood by its lonesome. Due the history of the Cimetière de Picpus the sculpture is felicitous.
Once inside the cemetery the noises of nearby children playing in a school yard proved a delightful soundtrack. As I proceeded towards Lafayette’s Tomb I passed numerous graves with dates of interment predating the visit of Dr. Douglass and Theodore Tilton in the winter of 1886 – 1887.
Arriving at Lafayette’s Tomb I paused a moment to pay my respects to a man with credentials of a patriot in two countries. Any Frenchmen who names their son “George Washington Lafayette” is alright to me and mines.
Adorned with a flag-poled Star Spangled Banner and plaques from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Knox Museum (“Very Revolutionary”) and a number of Old Virginia cities there were more than a couple quarters tabled on Lafayette’s Tomb.
Lingering for more than a couple moments I was taken aback with what Lafayette has meant and continues to mean to American citizens.
The decision of Dr. Douglass to visit Lafayette’s Tomb was deliberate.
Man respect man. Patriot respect patriot.
Simple as that.
All photos by Honorable William Alston-El. Copyright strictly enforced online and offline in USA, France and everywhere.
Special thanks and unconditional love to the Husson Family of Paris and my big brother Alexandre de Paris, an American and French patriot just like General Lafayette.