In our continuing series honoring Women’s History Month, I share a brief anecdote of Frederick Douglass in Athens, Greece as told by his friend, educator Lucinda Hinsdale Stone.
Mr. Fearne, of Mississippi, was then the American ambassador at Athens, and Frederick Douglass and wife were also at the Mediterranean Hotel and seated at the table with Captain Dewey and our American party. Mr. Fearne gave a great reception to Doctor Schliemann on his return from Egypt, to which Americans were particularly invited, but from which Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Douglass were excluded on account of his color, though Frederick was a greater man than Mr. Fearne, endowed by God with greater gifts and soul-riches.
But in a few days Dr. Schliemann gave a greater party than our ambassador had done, on his own account, to which he invited Frederick Douglass and his wife as especially honored guests and to which, I recollect, Captain Dewey and his lieutenant were invited to assist Dr. Schliemann in receiving.
Frederick Douglass was no darker in color than Socrates, Pericles, Phidias, and a host of noble Greeks, whose pictures hung in multitudes on the walls of Doctor Schliemann’s palace, and whose statues and busts adorned by dozens its roof – which was a pedestal for the statue of many a noble Greek.
Doctor Schliemann’s house in Athens was called “Ilion Melathron” (the Troy Cottage), though a marble palace rather than a cottage, and they were very hospitable in the use of it for the entertainment of strangers. The roof commands a wonderful view of the Acropolis and many of the classic hills about Athens. He kindly asked us into his library and working-room, the treasures in which would be as much “Greek” to us moderns as Shakespeare makes Ciceros’ speech to the Roman rabble of his day; but they were such as his course of life made necessary and familiar and most valuable to him. Doctor Schliemann has studied, thought, and lived Homer so long that neither the poet nor his characters were myths to him, but daily companions.
The next morning after the Fearne slight I went to the room of Frederick Douglass and wife to ask them to accompany our little party on a drive over to Plato’s garden. He was very pale, for the Fearne slight had pierced him. He was not wholly insensible to such things; but soon, in company with Plato, Socrates, and other great Greeks whom imagination brought around him, he quite forgot the Mississippi minister’s slight, and was himself again.
In our drive around Athens we visited not only Plato’s garden, but the prison where Socrates drank the hemlock. It seemed to me almost odorous that day with the contents of his fatal cup, but the place was wonderfully reviving to Mr. Douglass. We all felt inspired by that drive, and with the contact of so many things reminding us of the great men of past times.
Lucinda Hinsdale Stone: Her Life Story and Reminiscence. (1902)
At an address delivered in February at the Maryland Historical Society Prof. David Blight pontificated, speculated and invented misleading facts about Frederick Douglass.
Long on flowery and speculative prose while short on original research, Prof. Blight said during the latter years of Douglass’ life he was a “patriarch” who financially and emotionally supported a large family.
While his interpretation is his to advance, it is not his place to make up alternative and error-laden history and invent facts that are not facts. (His former student Prof. Stauffer has the same proclivity to lie.)
During his uninspiring talk Blight offered, “Douglass’ extended family was not a happy family. There is no family photograph.”
Although there may be no KNOWN photos taking during Douglass / Bailey family reunions to survive today or yet to be discovered by researchers, to declare definitively the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence is misleading and inaccurate.
By a short count there are at least four photos (some parts of series) of Frederick Douglass with a family member and there are two photos of his immediate sons sitting with each other and/or their wife.
David Blight has shown himself to distort, speculate and lie about his own research as well as the work of committed Douglass researchers. Blight’s claim there is “no family photograph” is just one of his many lies.
- In 1872 the Douglasses Rochester home was lost to a fire. Could there have been family photos that were lost? It is possible and worth mentioning.
- There are a series of photos of Douglass and his grandson, Joseph Douglass, a renowned violinist whose classical education was largely supported by his grandfather.
- There is a photo of Douglass seated with his second wife, Helen, and his sister-in-law Eva Pitts, an educator. There is also a photo of Helen and Frederick on their honeymoon with a backdrop of Niagara Falls.
- There is a photo of an older Lewis and Charles with Joseph Douglass. (Fred, Jr. passed in 1892.)
- There is at least one photo of Frederick Douglass and members of his family outside the first Washington home on A Street NE.
- A recently discovered photo is believed to be Frederick Douglass with his youngest daughter, Annie, before her untimely death in 1860.
- A photo of Lewis Douglass, the eldest Douglass son, and his wife Helen Amelia Loguen Douglass.
Frederick Douglass to Wilbur Siebert about his involvement with the Underground Railroad (March, 1893)
March 27, 1893.
My connection with the Underground Railroad began long before I left the South (1838) and was continued as long as slavery continued, whether I lived in New Bedford, Lynn, or Rochester, N.Y. In the latter place I had as as many as eleven fugitive under my roof at one time.
The route from slavery to freedom, for most of the fugitives, was through Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and thence to Canada, These fugitives were received in Philadelphia by William Still, by him sent to New York where they were cared for my Mr. David Ruggles and afterwards by Mr. Gibbs also of New York, thence to Stephen Myers at Albany; then to J. W. Loguen, Syracuse; thence to Frederick Douglass, Rochester, and thence to Hiram Wilson, St. Catherines, Canada, West.
Mr. Still has written a book called the Underground Railroad, but because I, in my power, permitted a criticism of his conduct in taking from the fugitives who passed through his hands, what was thought was wrong, I see that he has omitted to mention my name in his books, as one of the Conductors on the Underground Railroad.
Very truly yours,
Still, William. The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-breadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others Or Witnessed by the Author : Together with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders and Most Liberal Aiders and Advisers of the Road. (1872)
A Tribute to Gladys Parham @ Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Saturday, March 10, 2 PM – 3:30 PM)
Join the National Park Service and family and friends of Gladys Parham to learn about the last caretaker of Cedar Hill. Ms. Parham lived in the caretaker’s cottage behind Frederick Douglass’s historic house from 1949 to 1983.
A well-known community figure who cared deeply about preserving the home and legacy of Douglass, Ms. Parham played a significant role in saving Cedar Hill for the enjoyment and education of everybody.
This program will include reminiscences by Parham family and friends, as well as a reading of memories written by Gladys Parham in her final years serving as caretaker.
FACEBOOK Event Page HERE
Thank you Capital Community News and the editors of East of the River!
Paper will be distributed throughout the neighborhoods of Wards 7 & 8 Saturday, March 10, 2018.
Locations include DC Public Library branches, IHOP on Alabama Avenue, Anacostia Arts Center and the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.
MARCH 18 | SE COMMUNITY PICTURE DAY! — Spread and Show Southeast Love at 16th & W Street SE (Sunday, March 18, 2018 @ 1:30 pm)
Let’s spread love and honor our new mural!
All are invited regardless of residency! Join us!
Thank you to local journalist Nikki Peele and local author Dr. Courtney Davis for leading this community gathering to Spread Southside Love!
Educator Mrs. Fanny Jackson Coppin, namesake of Coppin State University in Baltimore, ran with industrial education advocate Dr. Frederick Douglass
In celebration of Women’s History Month we will make an effort to post weekly about reformist-minded women Dr. Frederick Douglass agitated and ran with in the circles of temperance, suffrage, journalism, education and other activist causes and purposes.
The first woman we feature is educator Mrs. Fanny Jackson Coppin, remembered today by the university on the west side of North Avenue in Baltimore which bears her name.
Whereas another day awaits a detailed account of the working relationship and friendship between Douglass and Coppin, here we share a brief excerpt from Coppin’s 1913 book with a brief anecdote detailing Douglass’ belief in industrial education as a means of economic self-determination.
In the year 1837, the Friends of Philadelphia had established a school for the education of colored youth in higher learning. To make a test whether or not the Negro was capable of acquiring any considerable degree of education. For it was one of the strongest arguments in the defense of slavery, that the Negro was an inferior creation; formed by the Almighty for just the work he was doing.
It is said that John C. Calhoun made the remark, that if there could be found a Negro that could conjugate a Greek verb, he would give up all his preconceived ideas of the inferiority of the Negro. Well, let’s try him, and see, said the fair-minded Quaker people. And for years this institution, known as the Institute for Colored Youth, was visited by interested persons from different parts of the United States and Europe.
Here I was given the delightful task of teaching my own people, and how delighted I was to see them mastering Caesar, Virgil, Cicero, Horace and Xenophon’s Anabasis. We also taught New Testament Greek. It was customary to have public examinations once a year, and when the teachers were thru examining their classes, any interested person in the audience was requested to take it up, and ask questions. At one of such examinations, when I asked a titled Englishman to take the class and examine it, he said: “They are more capable of examining me, their proficiency is simply wonderful.”
One visiting friend was so pleased with the work of the students in the difficult metres in Horace that he afterwards sent me, as a present, the Horace which he used in college. A learned Friend from Germantown, coming into a class in Greek, the first aorist, passive and middle, being so neatly and correctly written at one board, while I, at the same time, was hearing a class recite, exclaimed: “Fanny, I find thee driving a coach and six.” As it is much more difficult to drive a coach and six, than a coach and one, I took it as a compliment. But I was especially glad to know that the students were doing their work so well as to justify Quakers in their fair-minded opinion of them.
General O. O. Howard, who was brought in at one time by one of the managers to hear an examination in Virgil, remarked that Negroes in trigonometry and the classics might well share in the triumphs of their brothers on the battlefield.
When I came to the School, the Principal of the Institute was Ebenezer D. Bassett, who for fourteen years had charge of the work. He was a graduate of the State Normal School of Connecticut, and was a man of unusual natural and acquired ability, and an accurate and ripe scholar; and, withal, a man of great modesty of character. Many are the reminiscences he used to give of the visits of interested persons to the school: among these was a man who had written a book to prove that the Negro was not a man. And, having heard of the wonderful achievements of this Negro school, he determined to come and see for himself what was being accomplished. He brought a friend with him, better versed in algebra than himself, and asked Mr. Bassett to bring out his highest class. There was in the class at that time Jesse Glasgow, a very black boy. All he asked was a chance. Just as fast as they gave the problems, Jesse put them on the board with the greatest ease. This decided the fate of the book, then in manuscript form, which, so far as we know, was never published. Jesse Glasgow afterwards found his way to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
In the year 1869, Mr. Bassett was appointed United States Minister to Hayti by President Grant; leaving the principalship of the Institute vacant. Now, Octavius V. Catto, a professor in the school, and myself, had an opportunity to keep the school up to the same degree of proficiency that it attained under its former Principal and to carry it forward as much as possible.
About this time we were visited by a delegation of school commissioners, seeking teachers for schools in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. These teachers were not required to know and teach the classics, but they were expected to come into an examination upon the English branches, and to have at their tongue’s end the solution of any abstruse problem in the three R’s which their examiners might be inclined to ask them. And now, it seemed best to give up the time spent in teaching Greek and devote it to the English studies.
As our young people were now about to find a ready field in teaching, it was thought well to introduce some text books on school management, and methods of teaching, and thoroughly prepare our students for normal work. At this time our faculty was increased by the addition of Richard T. Greener, a graduate of Harvard College, who took charge of the English Department, and Edward Bouchet, a graduate of Yale College, and also of the Sheffield Scientific School, who took charge of the scientific department. Both of these young men were admirably fitted for their work. And, with Octavius V. Catto in charge of the boys’ department, and myself in charge of the girls–in connection with the principalship of the school–we had a strong working force.
I now instituted a course in normal training, which at first consisted only of a review of English studies, with the theory of teaching, school management and methods. But the inadequacy of this course was so apparent that when it became necessary to reorganize the Preparatory Departments, it was decided to put this work into the hands of the normal students, who would thus have ample practice in teaching and governing under daily direction and correction. These students became so efficient in their work that they were sought for and engaged to teach long before they finished their course of study.
Richard Humphreys, the Friend–Quaker–who gave the first endowment with which to found the school, stipulated that it should not only teach higher literary studies, but that a Mechanical and Industrial Department, including Agriculture, should come within the scope of its work. The wisdom of this thoughtful and far-seeing founder has since been amply demonstrated.
At the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, the foreign exhibits of work done in trade schools opened the eyes of the directors of public education in America as to the great lack existing in our own system of education. If this deficiency was apparent as it related to the white youth of the country, it was far more so as it related to the colored.
In Philadelphia, the only place at the time where a colored boy could learn a trade, was in the House of Refuge, or the Penitentiary!
And now began an eager and intensely earnest crusade to supply this deficiency in the work of the Institute for Colored Youth.
The teachers of the Institute now vigorously applied their energies in collecting funds for the establishment of an Industrial Department, and in this work they had the encouragement of the managers of the school, who were as anxious as we that the greatly needed department should be established.
In instituting this department, a temporary organization was formed, with Mr. Theodore Starr as President, Miss Anna Hallowell as Treasurer, and myself as Field Agent.
The Academic Department of the Institute had been so splendidly successful in proving that the Negro youth was equally capable as others in mastering a higher education, that no argument was necessary to establish its need, but the broad ground of education by which the masses must become self-supporting was, to me, a matter of painful anxiety.
Frederick Douglass once said, it was easier to get a colored boy into a lawyer’s office than into a blacksmith shop; and on account of the inflexibility of the Trades Unions, this condition of affairs still continues, making it necessary for us to have our own “blacksmith shop.”
The minds of our people had to be enlightened upon the necessity of industrial education.
Jackson-Coppin, Fanny. Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints of Teaching. Philadelphia, PA. 1913.