Archive for December, 2021
VIDEO: -> The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State (December 1, 2021 @ WVU Potomac State College)
“The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia” -> January 18, 2022 @ Noon -> Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling
Internationally known, in life and afterlife, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as an orator, abolitionist, editor, suffragist and American reformist, the history and placement of Frederick Douglass in the field of Appalachian Studies has not been considered and recognized until now.
Following the Civil War, Frederick Douglass made notable visits to Wheeling, West Virginia in 1867 and 1884, speaking first at the original Washington Hall at the bequest of a literary society and nearly two decades later at the Opera House, which still stands today at 12th and Market Street in downtown Wheeling, as part of an Emancipation celebration.
The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia will focus on the relationship and associations Douglass had with several notable Wheeling citizens, including newspaper publisher, political insider and a leader of West Virginia’s statehood movement Archibald W. Campbell and Dr. Boswell Henson Stillyard, the first Black member of Wheeling’s City Council. In February 2021 Dr. Stillyard was profiled by Archiving Wheeling in an article researched by Local History Specialist at the Ohio County Public Library Erin Rothenbuehler
The sojourns of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling are part of a larger portfolio of more than a half-dozen visits he made across West Virginia from the Eastern Panhandle to the Northern Panhandle to the Kanawha River Valley. Traveling extensively on local railroads, Douglass remained connected to the mountain state as a trustee of Storer College, West Virginia’s first Historically Black College & University, and as an associate of notable West Virginians Governor Arthur I. Boreman, West Virginia’s first Black attorney J. R. Clifford and others.
The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia will be presented for the first time at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling. The livestreamed in-person event, followed by a Q&A, will include maps, prints, letters, newspapers, photographs, ephemera and more from local, regional and national collections and archives.
John Muller, author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia (2012) and Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent (2013), has presented widely throughout the DC-Baltimore metropolitan area at venues including the Library of Congress, Politics and Prose Bookstore, Newseum, American Library in Paris, Enoch Pratt Library, DC Public Library, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and local universities. Muller is a frequent guest on Washington, D.C. radio stations and has been cited by the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Cumberland Times-News and other publications for his local history research and subject matter expertise. He has been featured on C-SPAN’s BookTV and C-SPAN’s American History TV, broadcast airwaves of NBC4 (Washington), WDVM (Hagerstown) and radio stations WPFW (DC), WAMU (DC), WYPR (Baltimore), WEAA (Baltimore) and Delmarva Public Radio (Eastern Shore).
For the past decade Muller has contributed hundreds of articles to local and national print and online news sources, including the Washington Informer. In 2019 Muller presented on the history of Frederick Douglass throughout Western Maryland, including the Washington County Free Library and Frostburg State University.
In December 2021 Muller co-presented The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State at WVU Potomac State College in Keyser, West Virginia. The presentation was featured in the Cumberland Times-News and on the airwaves of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Muller, along with Justin McNeil, is a co-founder of Lost History Associates. Muller and McNeil are at work on forthcoming publications on Frederick Douglass in several specific regions in the Mid-Atlantic area.
For more information on Lost History Associates, visit www.losthistoryusa.com
This presentation is being offered as part of the Ohio County Public Library’s Lunch with Books program. Lunch with Books is the library’s flagship program for adult patrons. Bring a bag lunch and enjoy presentations by authors, poets, historians, musicians, and a variety of other people. Complimentary beverages are provided.
Though the Library is now fully opened and our in-person programming has returned, we will continue to offer our live streamed broadcasts for those who are unable to attend our programs at the Library.
For more information about the Ohio County Public Library, visit:
For more information about the Lunch with Books program, visit: https://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/programs/lunch-with-books/5369
For directions to the Ohio County Public Library, visit: https://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/contact/finding-ohio-county-public-library/89
Eventbrite RSVP (not required):
upcoming January 2022 presentation “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Wheeling, West Virginia”
For those looking to get out this weekend, we will be in Old Anacostia and Capito Hill this upcoming Saturday. A couple places still available!
Old Anacostia Walking Tour link *HERE*
Capitol Hill Walking Tour link *HERE*
walk-ups welcome, too
cash preferred moreso than CashApp
For those looking to get out this weekend, we will be in Frederick City tomorrow morning and in Harpers Ferry tomorrow afternoon. A couple places still available!
Frederick City Walking Tour link *HERE*
- as featured in the Frederick News-Post
Harpers Ferry History Hike link *HERE*
walk-ups welcome, too
cash preferred moreso than CashApp
Los Angeles Times: “Fascinating Hints–but Scant Proof–of a Forbidden Love” (July 1, 1999; by Susie Linfield)
Ottilie Assing (1819-1884) was a half-Jewish German journalist, a passionate freethinker, a vivacious intellectual, a radical atheist, a daughter of the Enlightenment, of German Romanticism and of the failed revolutions of 1848. She was “strong, irreverent, courageous” and had been taught from earliest childhood to be “the architect of her own life.” When she was 33, Assing immigrated to the United States and quickly immersed herself in the political life of her raucously divided new country; soon her work focused on slavery, and she became “Germany’s ‘Negro expert.’ “In 1856, Assing met the great abolitionist (and ex-slave) Frederick Douglass and, according to “Love Across Color Lines,” embarked on an intense 28-year affair with him that combined political, intellectual, emotional and sexual intimacy and that ended in tragedy.
There is much that is fascinating in this tale, but much that is wrong with Maria Diedrich’s telling of it, too. Diedrich is hampered by a lack of sources–Douglass’ house, along with his papers, burned in 1872, and Assing’s will stipulated that her papers be destroyed. It is clear that Assing and Douglass had a deep connection–for over two decades they wrote to each other weekly, and for 22 years Assing spent summers living with Douglass, his wife and their children. But Diedrich never conclusively proves that Assing and Douglass were lovers.
Furthermore, whereas Douglass’ presumed affair with the white abolitionist Julia Griffiths provoked a “vicious uproar,” his far-from-hidden relationship with Assing was met, by Diedrich’s own account, with “silence.” The author never satisfactorily explains this puzzling disparity. And she has an annoying inclination to combine speculation with sentimental gush, as when she writes that the time Assing and Douglass spent together was “always special and precious because not a single moment could be taken for granted.” Even more alarming is the author’s inclination to fabricate emotions, conversations, indeed whole scenes: “[H]e and Ottilie exchanged a warm smile that needed no words and no touch. . . . He nodded toward the bowl of fruit. . . . It would be a good day!”
Still, Assing emerges as a unique character and a sharp thinker. Her painful experiences of German anti-Semitism endowed her writing with “a kind of double consciousness of the antagonism that perverted relationships between those at the center and those at the margins, between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ . . . What rendered her work exceptional from the start . . . was her keen awareness of the importance of race in the American experience.” (In fact, anticipating the work of some present-day cultural theorists, Assing regarded African Americans as “the only true Americans.”) She and Douglass worked especially closely during the crucial Civil War years, “discussing strategies, selecting topics, writing articles and speeches together, exchanging ideas, information, material.”
In some ways, though, Assing and Douglass operated on perhaps fatally different assumptions. Assing viewed marriage as a bourgeois prison, but for African Americans, who had been “denied the right to institutionalized relationships . . . marriage was a goal they struggled for, a privilege associated with freedom. For Ottilie Assing . . . it was a radical move to assault marriage.”
Assing spent almost three decades constructing a “narrative of perfect interracial love.” But in reality, Diedrich argues, Assing and Douglass orchestrated “a choreography of almost obsessive happiness and avoidance” that “lost its glamour as the soul mates began to take off their rose-colored glasses.” In 1882, Douglass’ black wife, Anna Murray Douglass–whom Assing had once described as a “stupid old hag”–died, and less than two years later Douglass remarried. But he bypassed Assing for Helen Pitts, a white, and much younger, woman. Seven months later, Assing committed suicide.
It is not entirely clear that this should be interpreted as the desperate act of a lovesick woman. Assing, a devotee of Goethe, regarded suicide as a glorious act of self-definition, and she apparently had discovered that she had terminal cancer. In any event, she generously (or was it furiously?) left her estate to Douglass, “in recognition of his noble labors in the antislavery cause.”
Years ago Ranger FF shared with us the behind-the-scenes story of how this troubling book came to exist. It is an interesting story that begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall, as I understand. This imaginative work of scholarship has ominously loomed large over the field of Douglassonian Studies for more than two decades with its diabolical and blasphemous insinuations. As ADOS Douglassonian JLM knows from a recent event, even in the Potomac Highlands the scandalizing of the Douglass family can be of greater intrigue than the actual factual.
Cumberland Times-News: “Historians detail Douglass’s travels, connections in West Virginia” (December 2, 2021) by Lindsay Renner-Wood
KEYSER, W.Va. — During his travels across West Virginia, Frederick Douglass met with fellow abolitionists and reform-minded individuals, and experienced the state’s trademark hospitality from its residents.
Historians John Muller and Justin McNeil on Wednesday evening presented “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in West Virginia” to an audience of about 70 students and community members at WVU Potomac State College in Keyser.
For nearly two hours, Muller and McNeil spoke on the connections Douglass made and maintained across the state, as well as his ties to the former Storer College in Harpers Ferry, which closed its doors in 1955.
Between 1867 and 1885, Douglass visited West Virginia at least a half-dozen times, attending speaking engagements and events in Wheeling, Parkersburg, Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry, Muller said. Nearby in Maryland, he also visited Frederick, Hagerstown, Cumberland and Frostburg.
It’s possible, Muller noted, that Douglass made more visits that weren’t recorded like the others, as he spoke at “hundreds upon hundreds of communities, including freedmen communities in the mountain south and Appalachian diaspora.”
In addition to his travels in the Eastern Panhandle, said Muller, Douglass maintained a friendship with J.R. Clifford, who was a writer and editor as well as the first Black attorney to practice in West Virginia. A native of what’s now Grant County, Clifford was born near Moorefield and eventually resided in Martinsburg. He was also the first Black attorney to practice in Allegany County, Maryland, Muller noted.
Other associates of Douglass in West Virginia include the state’s first governor, Arthur Boreman, and Joseph T. Hoke, a New Creek resident who served as a judge in Mineral County, as well as on the board of Storer College in Harpers Ferry.
In addition to serving as a trustee with Douglass at Storer, McNeil said, Hoke obtained the school’s first charter, allowing it to operate. An 1876 article Clifford wrote, said Muller, deemed Hoke deserving of “special thanks” for his role in opening the school.
Hoke’s education at Oberlin College in Ohio, Muller said, may have contributed to his reformist views. The school was coeducational and integrated, Muller said, and represented “a progressive educational environment that was rare for its day.” Like Oberlin, Storer was fully integrated and coeducational.
In 1881, Muller said, Douglass presented a “highly publicized” lecture on abolitionist John Brown at Storer. Douglass, Muller noted, was personally asked by Brown to participate in his raid of Harpers Ferry, but ultimately “respectfully declined … feeling it was a fatal mission.” Despite lack of direct involvement, Muller said, Douglass was nonetheless implicated in the raid and fled the country for six months while he waited for his name to be cleared.
Articles detailing Douglass’ travels frequently mentioned receptive, positive crowds at his speaking engagements.
“Douglass essentially says that he has traveled all throughout the world, specifically that he’s traveled in Europe, and that he feels that the hospitality that he received in Martinsburg was just wonderful,” Muller said. “He specifically compliments the citizenry, which is both black and white citizens, for the way that he’s been greeted.”
Even in some northern states he visited, Muller noted, Douglass wasn’t always warmly received or able to speak to crowds as intended. Because he frequently met with prominent West Virginia luminaries and was well-received by them, Muller noted, he was seen as “a friend to their community” by the general public.
“I think the short answer is that West Virginia is a place Mr. Douglass would have ranked very highly in a Yelp review,” Muller said.
LINK: Cumberland Times-News
pictures, “Lost History of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State” at WVU Potomac State College (December 1, 2021)
Thanks to West Virginia Public Broadcasting for featuring “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State”
Thank you to West Virginia Morning for taking time to mention and share information on the presentation, “Lost History of Frederick Douglass in the Mountain State” at WVU Potomac State College!
Link here -> West Virginia Morning, November 30, 2021