“Hon. Fred. Douglass” in Frostburg, Maryland, March 1882 (advertisement & brief notes)

Frostburg Mining Journal _ March 18, 1882, p. 2 _ FD ad

Frostburg Mining Journal, 18 March 1882. (Library of Congress)

Dr. Douglass may have self-identified as an Eastern Shoreman but on more than one occasion he spoke in the mountains of Western Maryland.

While in 1879 Douglass spoke in Frederick City (early April), Hagerstown (late April) and in Cumberland on September 22 for Emancipation Day festivities, in March 1882 Douglass made an independent visit to lecture in Frostburg, Maryland.

As surely many know, what is today Frostburg State University, originally founded as Normal School No. 2, was not initially funded and opened until nearly two decades later.

Introductory conversations I’ve had with local historians have been circumspect of Governor Lowndes, which I will seek to confirm or refute. What is beyond speculation is the correspondence and associations between Lowndes and Douglass span more than two decades.

From preliminary research it appears there was a local municipal election in Frostburg at the time of Dr. Douglass’ visit but I can’t confirm that he took a position.

On the extant contemporaneous buildings of Frostburg, around the same time as the pending visit of Douglass to the area, the local city council in Frostburg received a petition by the local A.M.E. church for a street lamp on its corner. The appropriation was approved.

Douglass often lectured at courthouses, as he did in Hagerstown, local city halls, as he did in Frederick City, and outdoor venues such as the fairgrounds in Cumberland. He also often lectured at well known public halls, including opera houses, as he did in Frostburg.

Legendary Western Maryland historian Al Feldstein was kind enough to pass along a postcard of the Odd Fellows Opera House that reportedly burned down in the early 1900s.

I will be presenting at Frostburg State University on “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Western Maryland,” with an emphasis on the localities of Cumberland and Frostburg next month.

Hopefully the history will be received warmly and there will be an opportunity to present at the Appalachian Festival, when “Lost History: Frederick Douglass in Western Maryland,” develops into the book format it deserves.


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