Letter to New Yorker; Important factual correction needed; “The Prophetic Pragmatism of Frederick Douglass” in October 15, 2018 edition

Cover of The New Yorker's first issue in 1925 with illustration depicting iconic character Eustace TilleyOctober 15, 2018

David Remnick: Editor, The New Yorker
Adam Gopnik: Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Andrew Boynton, Copy Editor, The New Yorker
Team of Copy Editors, The New Yorker

On October 10, 2018 I was alerted via text message by a member of the family of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass about Adam Gopnik’s article, “The Prophetic Pragmatism of Frederick Douglass” in the October 15, 2018 print edition of The New Yorker.

In a forthcoming letter I will address concerns members of the Douglass Family and Bailey Tribe have expressed to me regarding the “speculative history” Mr. Gopnik posits in “The Prophetic Pragmatism of Frederick Douglass.”

However, this letter is prompted by a blaring and outstanding factual error in Mr. Gopnik’s article.

In the the last sentence of the third paragraph it reads:

And then, in 1881, when he was in his sixties, he published “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” in which this man, who had watched the ships go by in the Chesapeake Bay with a desperate sense of disbelief that anyone or anything in the world could be so free, was able to report on his journeys to Cairo and Paris and his reception in both as a man of state and of letters.

This sentence is false.

Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass, America’s Pharaoh, first visited Paris in 1886 and Cairo in 1887. I have researched these visits and published facts and particulars about these visits on the blog.

Dr. Douglass does not detail these visits in the 1881 version of Life and Times of Frederick Douglass as it would have been a metaphysical impossibility as well a rupture of the space-time continuum.

Dr. Douglass reported on his journeys to Cairo and Paris in his 1892 version of Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

Nothing less than a correction to the online article and a print correction in the next available edition of The New Yorker will properly uplift and correct the fallen history of Dr. Douglass in the bicentennial year of his birth.


John Muller
author, Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia (The History Press, 2012)

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