Posts Tagged 1888

Frederick Douglass as “The Dark Horse” of politics, says socialite & President Grant’s daughter-in-law Mrs. Ida Marie Honoré Grant

On a recent walking tour I shared some brief insights into the humorous disposition of Frederick Douglass and his fondness to make jokes in public and private settings. On this blog, on occasion over the years, we have shared examples of the humor of Douglass that can be found in his speeches, writings, official government records and newspaper reports.

As cited in a 2003 journal article, “‘He Made Us Laugh Some:’ Frederick Douglass’s Humor,” in Life and Times Douglass wrote, “I have been greatly helped to bear up under unfriendly conditions, too, by a constitutional tendency to see the funny sides of things, which has enabled me to laugh at follies that others would soberly resent.

The account below demonstrates one of the incidents where Douglass could enjoy a joke.


The Dark Horse.

From the Cincinnati Times-Star.

Frederick Douglass often laughed over a witticism of Mrs. Fred Grant’s at his expense, when they met at the Chicago convention of 1888. “I was sitting with Mrs. Grant and her party watching the balloting,” said he to a friend. “To my surprise, one vote was cast for me for President of the United States. It had no sooner been announced by the tellers than Mrs. Grant turned to me, and, with the most charming smile imaginable, said: “You must be the dark horse of this convention, Mr. Douglass.”


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Frederick Douglass letter for sale, $8,995 [FD to Magnus L. Robinson, 20 July, 1888]

FD to Magnus L Robinson _ 7.20.1888Occasionally original Douglass documents turn up on Ebay and other online auction sites. This letter is for sale for $8,995.00.

Here’s the description:

Autograph Letter Signed (ALS), “Fredk. Douglass,” one page on Cedar Hill letterhead, 5” x 8”, July 20, 1888. Letter to Magnus L. Robinson, an African-American journalist and newspaper editor.

In full: “I am very sorry that I cannot serve you. I have already taken an interest in the People’s Advocate and promised to press its claims upon the National Republican Committee otherwise I would be glad to serve the National Republican Leader.” In Fine condition, with uniform toning. Accompanied by a full letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA.

A month prior to writing this letter, Douglass attended the Republican National Convention to speak out in support of John Sherman for the presidency. With his primary focus on a strong civil rights platform, he did ultimately campaign for nominee Benjamin Harrison, after the latter supported an item calling for federal protection of black citizens’ voting rights. Interestingly, Douglass himself received a single vote for the presidential nomination while at the Convention—the first African-American to earn the distinction. Also of note are the two prominent African-American newspapers that Douglas mentions in this letter: Robinson’s The National Leader and John W. Cromwell’s The People’s Advocate. Having just been founded in January, Robinson’s paper was still getting off the ground, certainly his reason for reaching out to Douglass for support. A fantastic letter referring to the 1888 Republican National Convention, with significant content regarding the civil rights movement and the voice of the African-American community.

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