Archive for September, 2019

Maryland State Archives Film Screening & Discussion (Annapolis; September 26, 2019)

MSA _ FD in Sland _ 9.26.2019

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“Black Reconstruction and its Legacies in Baltimore, 1865-1920” (October 3, 2019 @ Red Emma’s Bookstore & October 4, 2019 @ Union Baptist Church on Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland)

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Reverend Harvey Johnson, the 5th pastor of Union Baptist Church, and the co-founder organizer of the United Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty.

In A Brotherhood of Liberty, Dennis Patrick Halpin shifts the focus of the black freedom struggle from the Deep South to argue that Baltimore is key to understanding the trajectory of civil rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the 1870s and early 1880s, a dynamic group of black political leaders migrated to Baltimore from rural Virginia and Maryland. These activists, mostly former slaves who subsequently trained in the ministry, pushed Baltimore to fulfill Reconstruction’s promise of racial equality. In doing so, they were part of a larger effort among African Americans to create new forms of black politics by founding churches, starting businesses, establishing community centers, and creating newspapers.

Black Baltimoreans successfully challenged Jim Crow regulations on public transit, in the courts, in the voting booth, and on the streets of residential neighborhoods. They formed some of the nation’s earliest civil rights organizations, including the United Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty, to define their own freedom in the period after the Civil War.

Halpin shows how black Baltimoreans’ successes prompted segregationists to reformulate their tactics. He examines how segregationists countered activists’ victories by using Progressive Era concerns over urban order and corruption to criminalize and disenfranchise African Americans. Indeed, he argues the Progressive Era was crucial in establishing the racialized carceral state of the twentieth-century United States.

Tracing the civil rights victories scored by black Baltimoreans that inspired activists throughout the nation and subsequent generations, A Brotherhood of Liberty highlights the strategies that can continue to be useful today, as well as the challenges that may be faced.

Author Dennis Patrick Halpin teaches history at Virginia Tech.

*Reverend Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr. is the 10th pastor of Union Baptist Church and will be reportedly be in attendance at both events below.

October 3, 2019 @ 7 PM – 9PM
Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse
1225 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201


October 4, 2019 @ 6 PM
Union Baptist Church
1219 Druid Hill Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland


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“Frederick Douglass walking tour highlights the history of Baltimore,” (Johns Hopkins News-Letter, September 12, 2019)

Frederick Douglass walking tour highlights the history of Baltimore

By EMILY MCDONALD | September 12, 2019  

John Muller, a local historian and author, organized and led a walking tour titled “The Lost History of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass in Baltimore, 1824-1895” on Friday. The tour departed from the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, and highlighted various locations in Fell’s Point that Douglass frequented during his time in Baltimore.

The tour’s emphasis on Baltimore’s history and Douglass’ relationship to the city helped attract students. Junior Bonnie Jin said that she participated in the tour because she was curious about the history of Baltimore.“I was really interested in Baltimore history, and I felt like I needed to learn more, especially about African American history, which is oftentimes overlooked,” she said. “It’s interesting to compare the history of Baltimore with the history of Boston, which is where I’m from, especially in regards to the abolition movement.”

The tour first stopped on Thames Street. Muller explained that Frederick Douglass first came to Baltimore when he was around eight or nine years old, enslaved to former Maryland Governor Hugh Auld.[*]

Muller began by describing Douglass as a child. He explained that Douglass was the playmate of Auld’s son, Thomas Auld, and as a result, spent a lot of time with a gang of Irish kids called the Fell’s Point Boys.

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Photo by Honorable William Alston-El.

“Douglass is a very sophisticated person. He was the friend of the governor’s son, but he also could run the streets,” Muller said. “In the movie Glory, he’s portrayed as very stoic and stiff. Frederick Douglass was not stoic and stiff. He’s a very easygoing free-flowing person.”

Muller then pointed out 28 Thames St., where Nathaniel Knight, a bookseller, sold Douglass the first book he ever owned, a copy of The Columbian Orator.

At the time, Knight was a justice of the peace in Maryland, a role in the state judiciary.

Muller explained the risk that Douglass took when buying the book.

“Douglass buys [The Columbian Orator], which at that time, of course, is an illegal action,” he said. “This means that when Douglass is buying this book, the person he’s buying it from is trusted, confirmed by the senate of Annapolis, to enforce the various laws [of a justice of the peace].”

The tour then turned onto Bond Street. Muller shared another anecdote from Douglass’ life, explaining that in the 1830s, financial instability in Baltimore led to tensions between Irish and free black and enslaved workers. Muller said that Frederick Douglass was assaulted by a white dock worker, and Hugh Auld sought redress in court, going to see a lawyer on Bond Street. But the law at the time did not allow Frederick Douglass, an enslaved person, to speak in court, and did not allow anyone of African descent to bear witness.

Next, the group stopped on Dallas Street, formerly known as Strawberry Alley. When he was still enslaved to Hugh Auld, Frederick Douglass worshiped at a Methodist church on Strawberry Alley, Muller pointed out.

“When Methodism is formed as a religious denomination in America in 1784, one of the stipulations is that you cannot be a member in good standing in the Methodist church if you own slaves,” he said. “[Douglass] attended services here [on Dallas Street] at Strawberry Alley Methodist Church.”

In 1892, Douglass bought property on Strawberry Alley. He reopened the church, which had since closed, and built five homes. Muller noted that throughout his lifetime, Douglass invested in various other properties.

“He never attended a single day of formal school in his life, yet he had an in-depth, complex understanding of economics. He was an investor in real estate in Rochester, [Washington, D.C. and] Baltimore,” Muller said.

He elaborated on the benefit that Douglass’ purchase of the properties on Strawberry Alley had on the Baltimore community.

“When Douglass is building these homes, they are going to be open to all nationalities, with potentially a preference for blacksmiths, carpenters, educators from this community… Just like today, Baltimore has housing issues. Frederick Douglass didn’t just stand on the sidelines. He put his money where his mouth was and opened these properties,” Muller said. “Frederick Douglass gave back to his community.”

Vrshank Ravi, class of 2019, said that he was particularly interested in Muller’s stories about Douglass’ involvement in real estate.

Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling, people standing, sky and outdoorMuller added that Frederick Douglass taught night school on Dallas Street, and explained that he was very involved in the Baltimore school system. “I was like, ‘how did that work back then?’ Especially because Baltimore and real estate, and the whole history of redlining and more modern problems,” he said. “I do a lot of work on urban economics and that really stood out to me.”

“In Baltimore, Frederick Douglass advocated one, that black children should be taught by black teachers, and two, that black teachers should receive equal pay,” he said.

Towards the end of the tour, Muller discussed Douglass’ political views.

“Frederick Douglass was very much a committed Republican, and it’s very important to understand the context of political patronage and how he used his connections within the system to help out African Americans, which, historians have not really told that story,” he said.

Muller clarified that Douglass was still an ardent abolitionist, who believed that political agitation was necessary to create change.

To illustrate his point, Muller told the story of Douglass once publicly refusing to shake hands with Baltimore Chief of Police and former Confederate Cavalry Officer Harry S. Gilmor.

“Frederick Douglass has that visceral vision, that prophesy. He understands that political agitation is the one way to make change,” he said. “He does not serve in the Civil War, but he essentially served in the abolitionist war.”

Like Jin, Ravi also appreciated the fact that Muller focused on aspects of Douglass’ life which are often overlooked by historians.

“There’s a lot of stories that aren’t told or are told wrong, and getting original research is really difficult,” he said. “It made me wish I took more history at Hopkins.”

Jin also said that she appreciated the situated context of the tour, since they walked around the locations of importance.

“We were walking along the same place that so many historical things were happening,” she said. “Him telling the story, added on with the fact that we were walking through, it made it really vivid for me.”

Lion of Anacostia Editor’s Note:

I left the article in tact, as it appears online, but there are one or two corrections.

* Such as, before arriving in Baltimore to the Hugh Auld household Frederick Bailey had been a playmate of Daniel Lloyd, the youngest son of former Governor and United States Senator Edward Lloyd V.


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The tour concluded at Greedy Reads in Fell’s Point, Baltimore. Photo by Honorable William Alston-El.

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Honorable Master Historian William Alston-El remembered on every historic marker of ANACOSTIA HERITAGE TRAIL (photos)

No photo description available.

The late Honorable Master Historian William Alston-El, founder of Old Anacostia Douglassonians, is remembered on every historic / heritage marker throughout the communities of Old Anacostia, Barry Farm and Hillsdale.

William Alston-EL - 10th Anniversary ACM pub

William Alston-El speaking to Washington Informer Denise Rolark Barnes at a community meeting in Anacostia.

William Alston-El being interview by WAMU

William Alston-El by vacant Frederick Douglass Community Center -- Alabama Ave SE



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Street memorial for Honorable Devin Dwayne Smith / 1900 block 16th Street SE, Old Anacostia [photo by Honorable Lloyd Wolf, Washington’s Other Monuments]

Washington’s Other Monument’s, courtesy of Hon. Lloyd Wolf

From a DC Police report:

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch are investigating a fatal shooting that occurred on Monday, August 12, 2019, in the 2400 block of Elvans Road SE, Washington DC.. At approximately 8:25 pm, members of the Seventh District responded to the 2400 block of Elvans Road, Southeast, for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, members located an adult male victim suffering from a gunshot wound. DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services responded to the scene and transported the victim to an area hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries. After all lifesaving efforts failed, the victim was pronounced dead. The decedent has been identified as  Devin Dwayne Smith, 20, of Southeast, DC.

Though Mr. Smith lost his life on Elvans Road, his memorial has been erected in a neighborhood he loved and frequented near 16th and U Streets SE, in old Anacostia. I spoke to his older brother at the site, and passed on my wishes for peace and healing to his family.

Thank you to reporter and historian John Muller for alerting me to the site of this memorial.

Washington’s Other Monuments:

Street shrine in memory of Devin Dwayne Smith / 1900 block 16th St SE

Editor’s Note:

We thank Honorable Lloyd Wolf and his camera for affirming dignity, respectful memory and healing through the dedicated documentation and chronicling of the self-determinant folk lore of communities within Washington metropolitan areas and corners touched by the sacrifice and loss of life.

Old Anacostia is a community in which Hon. Lloyd Wolf is a known and respected man of healing and respect.

The feeling of loss of Honorable Devin, an Old Anacostia Douglassonian, will remain in the community. We are grateful for the work of Honorable Lloyd Wolf to honor and heal our communities.


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MPT announces production of national documentaries about iconic Marylanders Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, filmmaker Stanley Nelson to direct / produce films for premiere in early 2022 [press release, July 23, 2019]

Image result for maryland public televisionOwings Mills, MD, July 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —

Maryland Public Television (MPT) today announced that it will produce, in association with New York-based Firelight Films, two original documentary films about the lives of two of the state’s most important historical figures – Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Both one-hour films will be produced over the next 30 months and be distributed to public TV stations nationwide in February 2022.

Douglass, born in 1818 in Talbot County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, escaped from slavery in 1838 and went on to become a leader of the 19th century abolitionist movement. He also gained national prominence as a social reformer, orator, writer, publisher, and statesman. He died in 1895. Tubman was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820 and escaped in 1849. As the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, she guided more than 300 slaves to freedom. During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, laundress, spy, and scout. She lived the balance of her life in Auburn, New York, opening schools for African Americans and giving speeches on women’s rights. She died in 1913.

Pre-production on the two films is underway, with production beginning on one of the films later this year. Portions of the two films will be shot in locations including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The project is being led by MPT’s Managing Director, Content Division, Mike English. “Firelight Films is an ideal partner for MPT to collaborate with on these films. Stanley Nelson and his team are experts at telling stories of the black experience in America, as evidenced by award-winning films such as Freedom Riders and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” says English.

Executive producers for the two films are Nelson and Lynne Robinson. The producer is Keith Brown, and lead writer is Paul Taylor.

“There are no two people more important to our country’s history than Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman,” Stanley Nelson said. “Their remarkable lives and contributions were a critical part of the 19th-century and their legacies help us understand who we are as a nation.  We are honored to share their stories with a country that continues to grapple with the impact of slavery and debate notions of citizenship, democracy and freedom. We’re hopeful that the accompanying conversation will serve teachers and students and the larger country about what these two remarkable individuals overcame and accomplished.”

The two MPT projects are being guided by an advisory board comprised of distinguished experts in areas including African-American history, archaeology, broadcasting, and related fields. The group serves as consultants to the production team to assure the films meet contextual and historical accuracy.

The advisory board is led by Donald H. Thoms, broadcaster, journalist, and president, ThomsMedia Group. Members are Dr. David Blight, professor of American History, Yale University, director, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, and author of the biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of FreedomDr. Kate Clifford Larson, Massachusetts-based historian, consultant, and author of the biography, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American HeroAngela Crenshaw, Maryland Department of Natural Resources ranger and assistant manager of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Church Creek, Maryland; Chanel Compton, executive director of both the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland and Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture; Wanda Draper, former executive director, Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore; Mark Letzer, lecturer and president and CEO, Maryland Historical Society; and Dr. Julie M. Schablitsky, author and chief archeologist, Maryland Department of Transportation.

“Now, more than ever, the stories of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass need to be explored and told,” explains Letzer. “MPT has the proven ability and track record to bring this history to life for viewers in Maryland and across the nation.”

As part of this multi-faceted project, MPT’s Education Division will develop a companion website for use nationally in K-12 education.  Educators will be provided video assets, interactive learning experiences, and standards-based lessons to bring the lives and legacies of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass into classrooms nationwide.

Other project elements include a year-long traveling exhibit in association with the Maryland Historical Society, supplemental short-form, web-exclusive content from MPT Digital Studios, and a comprehensive social media outreach campaign.

About MPT
Launched in 1969 and headquartered in Owings Mills, MD, Maryland Public Television is a nonprofit, state-licensed public television network and member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  MPT’s six transmitters cover Maryland plus portions of contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Frequent winner of regional Emmy® awards, MPT creates local, regional, and national television shows. Beyond broadcast, MPT’s commitment to professional educators, parents, caregivers, and learners of all ages is delivered through year-round instructional events and the super-website Thinkport, which garners in excess of five million page views annually. MPT’s community engagement connects viewers with local resources on significant health, education, and public interest topics through year-round outreach events, viewer forums, program screenings, and phone bank call-in opportunities. For more information visit

About Firelight Films
Firelight Media was born in 2000 to address the deficit of films made by and about diverse communities, particularly people of color. Founded and led by MacArthur “genius” Fellow Stanley Nelson and award-winning writer and philanthropy executive Marcia Smith in Harlem, NY, the organization has produced more than 25 hours of primetime programming for public television, received every major broadcast award, and had its first theatrical release (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution).  Over 15 years, Firelight has established a track record of producing contemporary and historical social issue documentaries as well as developing diverse storytellers and audiences. Firelight Films is the premier independent production company dedicated to harnessing the power of story-driven media as a platform for education and action.

Best known for producing high-quality powerful productions for PBS and creating dynamic community engagement campaigns, Firelight is committed to making films about pivotal events, movements, and people in American history and in doing so has produced award-winning films, including Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, The Murder of Emmett Till, A Place of Our Own, and Freedom Summer. For more information, visit


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Video: “Rhetoric Just Like Frederick” from Baba Got BARS, vol IV

credits from Baba Got BARS vol IV, released December 31, 2018

Written, produced, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Bomani Armah.

Video shot and directed by Dia Hancock

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Thank you Ranger Steve Phan of the National Park Service Civil War Defenses of Washington & Frederick Douglass National Historic Site for a memorable evening program at Cedar Hill (August 30, 2019)

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Ranger Steve Phan speaks to two hundred people from the porch of Cedar Hill for evening program at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, August 30, 2019.                                 Photo credit Bill McLeod.

We thank Ranger Steve of the Civil War Defenses of Washington for his work in the forts and the trenches of the community bringing public history to the people.

A special Thank You to National Park Service, staff and Rangers of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and to all community members of Old Anacostia who brought their friends, children and families to Cedar Hill to enjoy a special and memorable program for the ages.

Follow Civil War Defenses of Washington on Facebook for news on upcoming events, nature walks, family and youth activities, anniversaries and volunteer opportunities.

On forested hills surrounding the nation’s capital are the remnants of a complex system of Civil War fortifications. These strategic buttresses transformed the young capital into one of the world’s most fortified cities. By 1865, 68 forts and 93 batteries armed with over 800 cannons encircled Washington, DC.

Today, you can visit 17 of the original sites now managed by the National Park Service.

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