On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, the FSU’s Department of Sociology, Department of Geography and African American Studies Program hosted a presentation by John Muller. Muller, a self-described “street historian,” has authored two books, “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia” and “Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent” and is working on “Lost History: Frederick (Bailey) Douglass in Baltimore City, 1825–1895.”
His lecture described visits made by Frederick Douglass, the famous escaped slave, orator, and intellectual, to Frostburg and Cumberland, Md. in the 1800’s. Muller also discussed friends and political acquaintances of Douglass’ from Western Maryland. One such associate, Lloyd Lowndes of Cumberland, later became governor of Maryland from 1896 to 1900 and was honored on FSU’s campus with the naming of Lowndes Hall.
Born in 1818 in Talbot County, Md., Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in 183. He became famous in 1845 with the publication of his memoir, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” The autobiography is considered one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the 19th century in the United States. In his lifetime, Douglass became the first African American nominated for the Vice President of the United States on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Muller’s presentation focused on the later years of Douglass’ life. In September 1879, Douglass traveled by train from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Md. to give his “Self-Made Man” speech. This was not Douglass’ first contact in Allegany County, though, as he had written Letters to the Editor published in the Cumberland News in 1874. Nonetheless, the visit was an occasion shared by a mixed race audience. During his remarks, Douglass said, “I remember when it was not thought safe for me to have appeared among the mountains of Maryland.” The Frostburg Mining Journal covered the story saying, “Frostburg was fully represented.”
Douglass’ second visit to Allegany County was in March 1882 in support of the local African Methodist Episcopal Church in Frostburg. His second visit created less fanfare but was an intimate experience for attendees. The Frostburg Mining Journal wrote later that the lecture was given to a “small but intelligent audience…it was one of the best ever delivered in this town.”
Muller took questions from the over one hundred students, faculty, and staff present for his lecture. Many asked about the controversial nature of the relationship between Frederick Douglass and white women suffragettes. Muller impressively described the relationship between Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, both of which had critiques about the 15th amendment that allowed for the voting rights of African-American men. Muller was careful in his answers saying, “Frederick Douglass took incremental steps to advocate for women’s voting rights whenever possible.”
“When Frederick Douglass Came To Town,” April 14, 2019. Cassie Conklin. The Bottom Line.