Archive for September, 2020

The Lost History of Frederick Douglass and James Collins Johnson (1816 – 1902), the Princeton Fugitive Slave, a friend to generations of students (see: “The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson (2019), by Professor Lolita Buckner Iniss)

James C. Johnson and young man, circa 1890. Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

For fifty-six years this old negro has been a familiar figure about the Princeton campus; he is known by nearly every living alumnus, and hundreds whom he saw graduate have long ago passed away. Myths and traditions have clustered about him, rumors have sprung up which in after years have been accepted as true, and stories are told which I fear cannot always be “mentioned in the presence of Mrs. Boffin” as Dickens would say.

And yet, no one has ever undertaken the task of “writing him up.”

Lest you should doubt this statement, let me assure you that the prototype of “Caesar Courteous ” in His Majesty Myself was old Pompey Polite who graced these classic walks long before Jim made his romantic entrance upon the stage. It is therefore an unexplored field of biographical research which we are about to enter. As such it presents unlimited opportunities to the casual student of history; there is a fascination, a kind of subtle charm, about treading where none have trod before ; and the writer of this little article hopes that what he may have to say about Jim will interest the chance reader as much as the personality of Jim himself has interested the alumni at whose suggestion this biography is written.

It was on the second day of October, 1816, in the little town of Easton, Maryland, that Jim was “ b-b-b-born ” and began his long and honorable career.

Rumor has it that a dazzling star with an important name was at that time high in the ascendant; but whether this be true or not I cannot tell, knowing nothing of the facts. Jim’s parents were slaves of a Colonel Wallace.

They were justly proud of their offspring, and yet I sometimes suspect the pride they had in their ownership was slightly tempered, for they knew their boy would be, as they had always been, but a piece of their master’s property.

When Jim was a very little fellow, his mistress made of him a Christmas present, and gave him to her son.

Young Teakle Wallace was but one month older than Jim, and we can imagine with what surprise he awoke on that bright Christmas morning, to see the warm southern sunlight stream through his window, causing to sparkle with increased brilliancy the pair of sharp black eyes which blinked so wonderingly above the stocking’s rim.

The two boys grew up together, played the same games, fished in the same streams, and bathed in the same ponds; and so, as Jim assured me, it is to day a source of endless regret that his business cares have compelled him to break the last-named habit, formed so happily in early youth.

James C. Johnson and unidentified solider, circa 1874. Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

The plantation adjoining that of Col. Wallace belonged to a Col. Lloyd.

The country thereabout has away of producing large quantities of colonels, but I am very sure they deserve this title of respect even if they did not all smell powder or hear the rattle of musketry.

However, the fact I wish to record is that in February, 1817, upon the plantation of Col. Lloyd, another slave boy was born.

He was, you observe, but four months younger than Jim, and the two boys, living as they did on neighboring farms, were thrown much together. Early in life, Fred (for that was the other’s name) began to exert his influence over Jim.

For Fred had some very decided opinions, some very definite ambitions, and his long cherished dreams of liberty soon became the guiding principle of his life. And he confided his hopes and fears in Jim.

It is said that many a time, down in the meadows back of the house, Fred delivered impassioned orations to a small but appreciative audience composed of Jim and a yellow dog.

And when at length words failed him, Jim would exhibit his rows of shining white teeth, while the little dog wagged his tattered tail persistently. Ay I here was a scene of rustic simplicity; and if we are base enough to doubt its truth, let us not accuse the hero of these events on the ground of falsehood, but rather let us ascribe the mistakes in his narrative to the failing memory of an old man, into whose past fact and fancy are inextricably interwoven.

But whatever truth there may be in this incident, history has shown us that the young slave orator was destined to a broader field of usefulness than that of stirring the heart of his small companion, for his career since that time has been one of the most interesting and remarkable in the history of our country; although born a slave he became in after life an active and influential agent in the abolition of slavery, and was subsequently elevated to several responsible National offices.

American annals furnish no more captivating illustration of a self-made man than Frederick Douglass.

It was in 1836, when Jim was twenty years old, that he made the first of his long series of matrimonial ventures. His wife had been freed by a kind-hearted master, and she was living at this time with her sister in a little log cabin at Church Hill, three miles away.

She is said to have been very beautiful, and to have had away of looking at one with her large dark eyes that would set one’s heart beating beyond all manner of reckoning.

Auntie Feminist: Lolita Buckner Inniss JD,LLM,PhD on Twitter: "The Princeton  Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson is available on  @AmazonKindle! @princetonslave… "

And yet Jim’s early married life does not appear to have been entirely satisfactory; the domestic bliss he had hoped for was never fully realized so long as those three weary miles separated him from his dusky bride.

During the week he accompanied his young master on all his journeys as body servant, or acted in the most approved style as valet-de-chambre at home, and when Saturday night came he would leave Easton on foot and tramp to Church Hill, returning regularly every Monday morning. For three years he did this. He was becoming inexpressibly tired of it all.

Those three miles seemed to have an elasticity which developed as time wore on, and the contrast between riding on all occasions when with Mr. Wallace, and walking on all occasions when by himself, began to appear very striking.

And at times he would think over what Fred Douglass had told him about slavery being wrong, and about the great unknown land to the north, where everyone was free, and a great many other things which Jim could not remember, but which had sounded very pleasant to his ears.

The idea of running away somewhere began to take definite shape in his mind. For many long years he had cherished this hope in a vague sort of away; and now the winter and spring of 1839 had slipped silently by since Douglass had escaped north, and it seemed to Jim that the day must soon come when he too would leave for distant parts unknown.

The day did come—or rather the night …


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A note on steamboats & 1878 visit of United States Marshal of the District of Columbia Frederick (Bailey) Douglass to Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington

 - Within recent weeks we have begun compiling nearly a decade of research notes and recollected thousands of conversations with community members concerning the lost history of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass of Washington City by way of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and George Washington of Virginia, the founding father of America.

One of the most evident examples of the lifelong sentiment Douglass held for Washington are the half-dozen or so visits he made to Mount Vernon, in both private and a public capacity, while living in Washington City following the Civil War.

While serving as United States Marshal of the District of Columbia in the administration of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes Frederick Douglass joined an assemblage, on the steamer Mary Washington, to Mount Vernon in June 1878 attached to the annual meeting of the council of vice regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

The MVLA welcomed Governor Frederick Holliday of Virginia and Governor Henry Matthews of West Virginia among other prominent officials, socialites and philanthropists.

A man of modern conveyances, Douglass was a frequent and extensive traveler on steam ships around waterways in and around Washington City, Baltimore, Annapolis, Maryland’s Eastern Shore and tidewater regions of Virginia for the last thirty years of his life. This history has been lost and is unknown today in all existing scholarship on Frederick Douglass.

Traveling up and down, back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay by way of area rivers and tributaries from the Potomac to the Choptank to the Patapsco to the Chester to the Elizabeth to the Wye to the James to the Severn to the Miles, Frederick Douglass was a most conspicuous presence on any ship he boarded.

Although not infrequently the recipient of discrimination on steamships in antebellum America and during voyages across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean, it was widely reported that captains of the Chesapeake steam fleet welcomed Douglass aboard, often inviting him and his company into the captain’s quarters.

According to a section of Tindall’s Standard History of Washington City on local steamboat companies and their specific operations, including the Mount Vernon line:

The steamer W. W. Corcoran commenced making trips to Mount Vernon about 187[8], and continued to do so until re- placed by the Charles Macalester in 1890. She was burned at her dock in September, 1891.

About 1876, and for some years after, the Arrow, a small fast steamer, also took excursions to Mount Vernon.

The Mary Washington, a flat-bottomed steamer, equipped with a centerboard, was operated by E. S. Randall as an excursion boat to White House and Occoquon from about 1873 to 1882.

Further background on the Mary Washington and Mount Vernon’s line of steam boats can be gleaned from the indispensable writings of “The Rambler” in the Washington Star.

In 1920 the Rambler turned his rambling attention to steamers; specifically a series of “Rambles” featuring “Famous Old Passenger Craft of Historic Water Route – Phantom Ships as They Pass in the Night – The Mary Washington.

The Rambler wrote:

Somehow or others, as the talk in the harbor office turned to old boats of the Potomac river, the first one mentioned was the Mary Washington and the first of the river captains mentioned was the Mary‘s first commander, Capt. Gregg.

Although it is perfectly proper to class the Mary Washington with the old Potomac steamboats, she was not so very old even when she passed away. Yet she was a famous boat and nearly every Washingtonian traveled on her. For years she was an excursion carrier to the popular river resorts, and the feature which endears her in the memory of so many Washington men and women is that they danced merrily on her decks. She was a dancing boat. Her decks were broad and smooth and the music furnished by the many bands that served on her was said to be always good

Thousands of people who are following these lines danced on the Mary Washington, which as the years went by came to be affectionately called “the Old Mary.” The Mary was not built to be an excursion steamer. She was built for business, and as the Rambler’s memory serves him, she was built at the instance of the Potomac Fruit Growers’ Association, an organization of Virginians that was quite active in the 70’s.

The Mary was built on Accotink creek, below the village of Accotink, in 1874.

The Rambler finds this paragraph in The Star of Saturday, June 6, 1874: “The new steamboat Martha Washington was launched at Accotink, Va., on Thursday morning and towed up to Alexandria, where she is to receive her engines.”

She seemed to have been named the Martha Washington at her launching, for that name occurs several times in the chronicles, but in a month after she was given to the river she was called the Mary Washington.

About the time of the Philadelphia centennial – that is, in 1876 – the Mary Washington came under the ownership of Capt. L.L. Blake, and by agreement with the Mount Vernon regents the Mary Washington become one of the Mount Vernon steamboats, the other being the Arrow, which was still commanded by Frank Hollingshead.

Col. Joseph C. McKibbin entered into partnership with Capt. Blake and they bought Marshall Hall, and for some time the Mary Washington was the Mount Vernon and Marshall Hall steamboat.

The Mary Washington was the steamer Douglass took to Mount Vernon in 1878 piloted by Captain Levi Lowell Blake.

(Douglass knew many prominent men who had once been affiliated with steamboats, not the least of the likes of Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens and P. B. S. Pinchback.)

The Baltimore Sun reported on the 1878 excursion of Frederick Douglass to the home of George Washington, writing:

A very large number of persons accompanied the invited guests to Mt. Vernon, on board the Mary Washington, Capt. L. L. Blake, to whose untiring courtesy very much of the success attending it is owing,

Among the party was Mr. W. W. Corcoran of the board of visitors, after whom the new boat of the association will be named; the Governors of Virginia and West Virginia, with large delegations from their States of ladies and gentlemen; Mr. Rogers, private secretary to President Hayes; Fred. Douglass, Marshal of the District; Judge Chas. B Ball, of Leesburg, Va.; ex-Lieut. Governor Thomas, president of the board of visitors; Col. B. P. Nolan and ex-Congressman Sweat, of Maine.

The council will adjourn to-morrow.

In 1869 Frederick (Bailey) Douglass took the Arrow to Mount Vernon. Over nearly 30 years Douglass visited Mount Vernon several times.

Courtesy of National Park Service, FDNHS.

Note, article & research registered with United States Copyright Office; Library of Congress.

Authorship: JHM & JLM

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“Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Frederick Douglass were men of statecraft and political acumen born during this month of February and their names and anniversaries are kept fresh and green in the thought and memory of the public,” says The Colorado Statesmen, member of the National Negro Press Association


The Colorado Statesmen, 20 February 1915.

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Fall 2020 Walking Tours – Washington City, Baltimore, Eastern Shore, Western Maryland and Harpers Ferry __ * student rates *

OLD ANACOSTIA (Washington City)

October 3, 2020 – 9:00 AM & 11: 45 AM

November 8, 2020 – 9:00 AM & 11: 45 AM

December 6, 2020 – 9:00 AM & 11: 45 AM

ANNAPOLIS (Anne Arundel County, Maryland; State Capital)

November 14, 2020 – multiple dates

December 20, 2020 – 9:00 AM & 1:30 PM


October 25, 2020 – 9:00 AM

December 13, 2020 – multiple times

CAMBRIDGE (Dorchester County, Maryland)

September 12, 2020 – 9:00 AM & 1:30 PM

CAPITOL HILL (Washington City)

November 8, 2020 – 3:00 PM

FREDERICK CITY (Frederick County, Maryland)

October 10, 2020 – 9:00 AM

December 19, 2020multiple times

HARPERS FERRY (Jefferson County, West Virginia)

September 19, 2020 – 9:30 AM & 1:30 PM

October 30, 20209:00 AM & 1:00 PM

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Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass, friend to the friendless street children of Washington City because he was once friendless in the streets of antebellum Fell’s Point, Baltimore Towne

Circulation of the street news of the passing of Honorable Frederick (Bailey) Douglass the evening of February 20, 1895 hit the hearts, minds and souls of Black American newspaper boys with lifelong lasting impact and repercussions.

Oral histories and records confirm upon Crosby Noyes conversating with a crestfallen integrated group of newsies, advocacy of Washington’s Black citizens and admiration of Evening Star editors a special commemorative edition of the paper was printed to recognize the life of Frederick Douglass and his tireless contributions to Washington City and his country from local corners to the world’s greatest stages as an honored guest of legislative, presidential and diplomatic heads of states for a half-century.

Upon distribution of the special edition white newspaper boys reportedly gave their special copies to their fellow Black American brothers-in-news satchels to vend out of a measure of respect for their mutual friend.

Historians have uniformly ignored questions of with whom and how Dr. Douglass carried himself on the corners.

Coming up mentored by an intricate collective of Black American Revolutionary War Patriots on the Tuckahoe and Black American Defenders of Baltimore in a pre-Industrial age Dr. Douglass knew what it is running the streets from his own days of running the streets.

During annual Emancipation Day parades Dr. Douglass was known to walk among the junior cadets and drum corps, knowing many of the young participant’s parents and grand-parents.

Having never attended a formal day of school in his life Dr. Douglass knew the first generation of Black American founders and presidents of universities and institutions of higher learning since they were kids.

Evening Star_1886 _ FD lecture Free Night Schools-page-001

Copyright of research strictly enforced by the United States Copyright Office; Library of Congress. Authority of Old Anacostia Douglassonians.

Today the legacy and lessons of Dr. Douglass abide to the school children in every school house in America and throughout classrooms of freedom-loving peoples of the civilized world.

Dr. Douglass continues to reach and teach the children across geography and nationality.

Why and how is this?

It was said of Dr. Douglass there was no better friend to the orphan and the friendless. With regularity and deliberateness Dr. Douglass lectured to benefit night schools, alms hours, orphanages, churches, community centers, relief funds, camp meetings and all manners of charitable efforts organized and led by Black Americans.   

Although now known and venerated with statues the world over, Frederick Bailey was once a friendless youngblood adolescent whom Black American Revolutionary War Patriots, AME ministers, Justices of the Peace, Point Boys and the Black Defenders of Baltimore especially looked out for and protected.  

During his sojourns on foot throughout Washington Dr. Douglass returned the benevolence he received from the streets to the streets. 

More than a century later these streets guard, preserve and recognize the lost history quiet as kept.

If you don’t know come down to the streets of indigenous Douglassonian communities and ask somebody as we have. 

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Amanda Fenstermaker, Marci Ross, Boyd Rutherford, Victoria Jackson-Stanley, Drew Gruber, etc. invited to Frederick Douglass in Cambridge Walking Tour (Sat., September 12, 2020)

After two years we hope officials in Cambridge begin to be responsive.

With the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial recognized throughout the country, and world, the local impact and significance of his consequential life has been largely overlooked in the state of Maryland and his native Eastern Shore.

Join historian and author John Muller, the leading international expert on Frederick Douglass, as well as the lost and unknown history on the Eastern Shore, for a special walking tour, “Frederick Douglass in Cambridge,” which will share the importance of two visits Dr. Douglass made to Cambridge in 1877 and 1878.

The tour will begin at Long Wharf, where Douglass arrived in Cambridge, and proceed up High Street past the Courthouse and Christ Episcopal Church. Stopping at Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church and then proceeding down Pine Street to Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where Douglass addressed a multi-racial gathering including members of the Lloyd family, the tour will interweave the local history of Patty Cannon, Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, Professor John Mercer Langston, Governor Henry Lloyd, Rev. Henry Augustus Monroe and others.

The tour will formally conclude in front of Bethel AME Church on the historic Pine Street, home of fraternal organizations and communal life for elders of Cambridge’s Black American community.


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Did Anna Murray parlez-vous français? Pourquoi, bien sûr.

On the Life of Black Abolitionist Anna Murray Douglass –Les historiens ne vous l’ont pas encore dit, donc vous ne savez pas.

Frederick (Bailey) Douglass était un francophile noir américain en raison de l’influence de sa femme honorée et digne; Anna du Tuckahoe.

Frederick ne pouvait pas briser les coins et les communautés avec des réfugiés haïtiens, priant dans une langue étrangère à une nation étrangère, tout comme Anna.

“Le regard blanc” du honteux Leigh Fought, et presque tous les historiens blancs qui ont déjà étudié Douglass, n’ont jamais compris la complexité d’Anna.

Les femmes blanches ne devraient plus jamais écrire sur Anna Murray après le travail honteux de Leigh Fought.

Anna Murray était une abolitionniste internationale une décennie avant que le monde n’entende parler de son mari.

Nous savons qui sont ces historiens honteux: David Blight, Leigh Fought, John Stauffer, Celeste Marie-Bernie et toute l’équipe d’historiens des mensonges blancs.

Anna Murray a été affiliée et initiée avec des abolitionnistes internationaux à l’adolescence; elle garde un évêque de l’Église épiscopale méthodiste africaine sur le Tuckahoe. Anna Murray a eu du respect sur chaque crique de la côte est et à l’angle de la ville de Baltimore.

Nous devons élever l’histoire, l’âme et l’esprit d’Anna Murray; le héros le plus méconnu du mouvement abolitionniste international. Sans Anna, nous ne connaîtrions pas Frédéric.

Nous avons été élevés par des grands-mères, des tantes, des sœurs, des cousines, des dames d’église, des bibliothécaires, des enseignants et des gardiens du coin dans l’esprit d’Anna Murray. Par conséquent, nous devons raconter une fois et pour toujours l’histoire perdue.

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VIDEO: Street Historian John Muller, disciple of Honorable Master American Moor Historian William Alston-El, provides walking path of Hon. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass through Old Anacostia

Editor’s Note:

Grand-children & grand-nephews of the late Honorable Master American Moor Historian William Alston-El remain vigil on Old Jefferson Street at this exact moment.

Over the years at all hours of the day I have brought friends, family, tourists, historians and neighbors to the horse tie.

Until the end of time my friend’s name is included among the active community members who participated in the planning process for the Anacostia Heritage Trail signs.

As a teenage activist and leader of young men, William was recruited out of the streets of Southeast Washington in the 1960s by the late Honorable Master Community Historian Dr. John Kinard, founder of the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.

While incarcerated in Lorton Reformatory in the 1970s Dr. Kinard offered William a position with the museum upon his return to the community. In the late 1970s and early 1980s William worked as an exhibit technician for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum alongside the immortals Dr. Kinard and Honorable Louise Daniel Hutchinson.

This is part of the history I share, with approval and blessings of William’s family, while narrating the street history of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass as an everyday Old Anacostia denizen and local citizen-activist on Old Jefferson Street.

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