Attendees of a historic walking tour in Frederick Saturday had the opportunity to learn about Frederick in Frederick.
Frederick Douglass in the city of Frederick, that is.
John Muller, an author, speaker and historian, led the tour. His book, “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia,” was published in 2012, and as a result of the continuous research on Douglass in D.C., he has offered walking tours on the Eastern Shore, Baltimore and throughout Washington D.C., as well as Frederick and western Maryland locations.
Douglass visited Frederick in April 1879, where he spoke in present day Brewer’s Alley and gave a lecture to benefit what is today Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“Frederick City is an important component of Frederick Douglass’ activism within the state of Maryland,” Muller said. “So this is just an opportunity to connect with the local community to kind of discuss and further the local history. And it’s really part of kind an ongoing process to uplift an awareness and recognition of Frederick Douglass throughout the state.”
The tour, entitled “Lost History Walking Tour: Marshal Frederick Douglass & Frederick City,” began on South Bentz Street at the Roger B. Taney House and was set to wrap up at the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It lasts about two hours.
Douglass, who was born in 1818 and escaped from slavery in 1838, was a human rights leader, abolitionist and the first Black citizen to hold high rank in the U.S. government.
Muller has been leading walking tours since about 2013, starting the program mainly in Washington and Baltimore. This is now the sixth or seventh time he’s offered the tour in Frederick, where he’s been leading them since 2019, he said.
“I’ve been in touch with different community organizations and leaders within Frederick and have done some research at the Maryland Room at the C. Burr Artz Library … so just kind of been a continuing, ongoing process to become more familiar with the community,” he said.
Muller said he generally has a good response to the tour.
“The tour’s conversational, so I try to ask people where they’re from and then maybe make my talking points specific to where they’re from,” he said. “And people are always very interested to learn that there is history in Frederick that is kind of beyond the scope of the Civil War, because the Civil War thematically is so heavy, and this is more kind of Reconstruction.”
When Douglass spoke in Frederick, the tour leader noted, he was on stage with Frederick native Dr. Lewis Henry Steiner, who, following the Civil War, advocated for schools for Black Americans and later was the lead librarian of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.
“[The tour] is integral to the history of the city in terms of the religious networks, the African Methodist networks that are essentially expanding westward from Baltimore City, and many of these connections that Frederick Douglass had with Baltimore, these gentlemen come out to western Maryland,” Muller said. “It’s kind of trying to put the pieces of the puzzle of a larger Black history in the state of Maryland and connecting Frederick not just hyper-local Frederick, but Frederick in the context of the state history.”
Mykáh Frazier and her mom, Marlo Frazier, attended the walk together. The two are from South Carolina and are visiting the D.C. area.
“Most of the museums [in D.C.] are closed and so I was like, ‘Well, I want to do something history related.’ I like history, and I was going through events in the area and I saw that there was a Frederick Douglass walking tour, some lost history,” Mykáh Frazier said.
A political science major, Frazier was drawn to the tour and said she was looking forward to seeing the actual landmarks and having a good visualization of those landmarks.
While the tour provides a wealth of information, Muller said he hopes one thing people gain is the knowledge that as the tour processes down Market Street and 3rd Street, they’re following in the footsteps of many famous Marylanders, Douglass included.
Muller noted that the institution that Douglass spoke to benefit, Quinn Chapel AME Church, is still an active and integral part of the community.
“That history connects from today back to 1879,” he said.
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