Posts Tagged abolitionists

Howard University President Jeremiah Rankin on Dr. Frederick Douglass: “How knoweth this man letters?” … “he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford.”

Image result for frederick douglass readingAs a self-educated fugitive slave-scholar Dr. Frederick Douglass, when a young man in his twenties, schooled Anglo-Saxon abolitionists, politicians, philosophers and statesmen of the old world to his world of American slavery. Reciprocally, Dr. Douglass benefited from an invaluable education to the ways of oration, statecraft and moral, political and legal activism.

As previously reported here, cited by Frederic May Holland, people often asked Dr. Douglass where he received his education. To which he replied, “Massachusetts Abolition University. Mr. Garrison, President.”

In this spirit we share an excerpt from the eulogy offered by Rev. Jeremiah Rankin of Howard University at Douglass’ funeral in Washington City.

I do not at all underrate the work done by those magnificent champions of freedom, who took this young man at twenty-five into the charmed coterie of their fearless eloquence; who gave him the baptism of their approval; who laid their hands upon his head, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Philips and their associates.

But they needed him as much as he needed them.

After their cool and eloquent logic, after their studied irony and invective, which, mighty as it was, was wanting in the tremolo of the voice of one that has suffered, of one whose very modulations signified more than their words; when this man arose, as one rises from the dead, as the ghost of one, the crown and scepter of whose manhood has been stolen away, while he goes from land to land proclaiming the wrong and asking for justice, then the climax was reached.

This man made work of such men as Garrison and Phillips and Sumner and even Lincoln possible.

I do not wish to use the language of exaggeration. It is not fitting the occasion. It is not in keeping with the dignified manner and methods of the man whom we commemorate, or the providential movement of which he was so long a part.

But I believe the birth of Frederick Douglass into slavery was the beginning of the end; and that this was just as needful to his anti-slavery associates as to himself.

God planted a germ there, which was to burst the cruel system apart.

It was though He said, “Go to, now, ye wise men of the Great Republic, ye Websters and Clays, I will put this Samson of freedom in your temple of Dagon, and his tawny arms shall yet tumble its columns about the ears of the worshipers. I will put the ark of my covenant in the soul of this man, and the time shall come when your idol-god shall lie toppled over upon his nose in his presence.”

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Frederick Douglass in his library at Cedar Hill. LOC/NPS-FDNHS.

I think Frederick Douglass is to be congratulated on the kind of tuition that came to him; no, that God had provided for him, through these anti-slavery associates.

They were regarded as the offscouring of the earth, and yet many of them received their culture in the choicest New England schools, and they sprang from the noblest New England stock.

And when he went abroad, it was his privilege to hear such men as Cobden and Bright and Disraeli and O’Connell and Lord John Russell and Lord Broughman.

These men Mr. Douglass studied, admired and analyzed.

His more elaborate address, too, show the influence of the first and greatest of New England orators – Daniel Webster.

But even beyond the great American orator, whose model orations in all our schools-books was Mr. Douglass in the quality of fervor and fire.

Ah! that was a day when the runaway slave heard the great statesman at Bunker Hill. And he told me that he owed a great debt to the poems of Whittier.

To converse with Mr. Douglass, to hear him in public, one who knew his humble origin and limited opportunities, might well ask, “How knoweth this man letters?”

But, in the art of which he himself had such mastery, he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford, while not one the great men mentioned had such a theme as his.

How carefully he improved his intercourse with such men, his observations of them, one has to only read his life to discover.

Howard University, I believe, gave this man the degree of doctor laws, and there were some laws that no man knew better how to doctor than he.

But there was not an official of the University who could reach high enough to put a wreath on his brow. It had to be done from above, by the winged genius of the University.

SOURCE:

“Frederick Douglass’ Character and Career.” address by Jeremiah Rankin, President of Howard University at Metropolitan AME Church, 25 February, 1895.

Published in a variety of journals and magazines, including Our Day: The Altruistic Review, Volume XIV. January – June. (1895). p. 172 – 173

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“I do not want to go in as Fredeic[k] Douglass, but as a citizen of the United States,” radical abolitionist Rev. Calvin Fairbank recalling reception at Executive Mansion for President Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration.

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Rev. Calvin Fairbank was a radical white abolitionist who served nearly twenty years in jail across two imprisonments for aiding slave escapes.

Among radical white abolitionists John Brown was but a singular force of an expansive collective that ranged the entire country. Due Brown’s radical action and close association with Frederick Douglass he has maintained a presence in our contemporary historic consciousness. A play portraying Douglass and Brown was recently staged at the Anacostia Playhouse.

Orating, writing, editing and breathing abolition for more than two decades on the public stage Dr. Douglass accumulated associations and friendships with thousands upon thousands of fellow reformists.

Some were extreme. Not just John Brown.

Rev. Calvin Fairbank was imprisoned in Kentucky for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. He was pardoned. Imprisoned again for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. Nearly did twenty.

Dr. Douglass, a radical newspaperman, published letters from Rev. Fairbank in his newspaper.

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President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Library of Congress.

After his pardon, Fairbank and his wife traveled to Washington City to attend the second inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. In the assemblage at Washington City was Dr. Frederick Douglass.

Following President’s Lincoln Second Inaugural Address Rev. Fairbank, along with his wife and thousands of Washingtonians, attended a reception at the Executive Mansion.

In 1890 Rev. Fairbank condensed nearly twelve hundred pages of autobiography into a workable five hundred pages in which he offers an additional footnote to the well told interaction between Dr. Douglass and President Lincoln:

[B]efore the fall of Richmond, March 30, when we took a steamer for “Washington, after some most magnificent demonstrations of loyalty to us, to the United States,
and to God by that people who for two hundred years had been crushed under the heel of despotism.

There were several large Africo-American churches there which were unable to hold more than a small minority of the people who crowded every place where we appeared. The white rebels avoided us.

President Lincoln’s Inauguration.

March 4th, 1865, was a most horrid morning. Rain fell in broken sheets, driven by the wind; but people came just the same, moving toward the Capitol until twelve M. The mud in Pennsylvania Avenue was hub deep — a canal of batter; and I stood with my good wife from nine a.m. until twelve M. in front of the great platform, standing on bricks as the rain dashed upon a thousand umbrellas.

Without regard to rain, we took our positions near the front platform where the great event was to occur, Mrs. Fairbank standing each foot on two bricks where,
protected by three umbrellas, we remained three hours, until twelve M., when the immortal pageant burst from the columns of the Capitol.

The rain had ceased, the clouds hastened to their chambers; and nature assumed an air of joy and serenity rarely witnessed on that day.

Then the short, pointed, brave declaration of the mind of the Chief Executive of the Nation — “DROP FOR DROP: LASH FOR LASH.”

The Levee

At the levee that night thirty thousand people passed in and out of the White House.

At one time a throng was pressing the door of the room where the President received his guests, and Frederic[k] Douglass among others pressed to the door, when “Hold on!” — and others kept passing in.

“Hold on! You can’t go in now. It is not convenient.”

“How is that? I see others passing in.”

Some one interfered, — “This is Frederic[k] Douglass.”

When Douglass, — “Never mind. I do not want to go in as Frederic Douglass; but as a citizen of the United States.”

Here comes the great man of the age, President Lincoln, with his long arm extended over heads and through the crowd. — “WHY, HOW DO YOU DO, FREDERIC[K]? COME RIGHT IN!”

—–

SOURCE:

Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How he “Fought the Good Fight” to Prepare “The Way.” (Edited from His Manuscript.) R. & R. McCabe & Co. Publishers, Chicago. 1890.

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Harvard graduate William Abjah White ran with Frederick Douglass on antislavery circuit; attacked by mob violence

Portrait of William Abijah White, 1818 - 1856.

Harvard graduate William Abjah White ran with Dr. Douglass on the lecture circuit.

William Abjah White died in Milwaukie [sic], Wis., 10 October, 1856, aged 38. He was son of Abijah and Anne Maria (Howard) White, and was born in Watertown, Mass., 2 September, 1818. He was fitted for college at the school of Rev. Samuel Ripley (H.C. 1804), of Waltham, Mass.

Having chosen the profession of law, he, immediately after graduating, entered the Law School in Cambridge, where he pursued his professional; but becoming very much interested in the antislavery and temperance movements, he devoted much of his time to lecturing on these subjects, and, in 1843, spent several months in travelling through Ohio and Indiana, holding antislavery meetings in company with Frederick Douglass and George Badburn.

In the course of this tour, their meetings were frequently broken up by mobs; and both White and Douglass were, on one occasion, severely wounded by stones.

SOURCE:

Palmer, Joseph. Necrology of Alumni of Harvard College, 1851-52 to 1862-63. Printed by John Wilson and Son. Boston. p. 150

 

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