Posts Tagged “Anna Douglass”

Rochester City School District: Rename School 12 for Frederick and Anna Douglass. Upraise Anna Douglass, a woman as determined and committed to the cause as her husband.

Anna Douglass

Anna Douglass, a patroness saint, radical abolitionist, friend, wife, mother and grandmother.

In America today efforts abound to uplift fallen history and correct misleading mythology.

Just as genuflecting on Lincoln, Twain, Washington and others is commonplace, and in the wrong hands can be destructive, the tendency to hero-worship Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass can have its shortcomings.

Acknowledging, recognizing and raising up Dr. Douglass is of vital import. However, in lifting up Dr. Douglass we must also elevate all those who “made” his public life possible.

Anna Murray, a childhood associate of Dr. Douglass within the black community of the Eastern Shore, must also be upraised.

Time is now. It is due time to tell it and tell it right.

The recent scholarship of Dr. Leigh Fought, Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, has advanced an understanding of Anna Douglass, a woman as determined and committed to the cause as her husband, as well as equally complex.

In moving to rename School 12 for Dr. Frederick Douglass, we humbly suggest you recognize Anna Douglass, a patroness saint, radical abolitionist, friend, wife, mother and grandmother.

We dare speculate Dr. Douglass would insist on his first wife’s name joining him in the adornment of a public school in his adopted city of Rochester and we understand living descendants think it would be fittingly honorific, proper, respectful and historic.

JM

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RCSD may rename School 12 for Frederick Douglass

, @citizenmurphy

Frederick Douglass may reap yet another honor in his bicentennial celebration, as the Rochester City School District is considering renaming James P.B. Duffy School 12 after him.

The school, across from Highland Hospital on South Avenue, stands on the site of the house where Douglass lived for most of his time in Rochester. That house burned to the ground in 1872, a suspected arson.

The adjacent public library was renamed for Douglass in 2016.

There was, until several years ago, a Frederick Douglass Junior High School on Fernwood Park in northeast Rochester. The building, still referred to as the Douglass campus, now houses Northeast/Northwest College Prep.

There is also a program for very vulnerable students called NorthSTAR, named after the newspaper that Douglass published in Rochester.

School 12 would not necessarily be called Frederick Douglass School 12, school board President Van White said. It could be some other name alluding to him or to his first wife, Anna Douglass, who was essential to the operation of their home as a station on the Underground Railroad.

“There are many people who went to that school who don’t know who James Duffy was,” White said. “The thought is to give the school some connection to Frederick Douglass because that’s obviously someone who people know.”

Duffy served on the city school board from 1905-32, then served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1935-37. He later was a state Supreme Court judge.

Duffy died in 1969. The school was renamed for him in 1972, just as it was being renovated.

White said a name change would also serve to help the school move on from the death of 14-year-old Trevyan Rowe, who ran away from the school after getting off the bus one morning in March and ended up drowning in the Genesee River.

“This is a year of transition for that school, and I think it could probably use an opportunity to talk about a different, more positive future, given what happened to Trevyan,” he said. “Not a new beginning, but a change.”

Jennifer Gkourlias, who had been principal until going on leave in January, has decided to resign rather than return. Vicki Gouveia, the current acting principal, will remain there until a permanent replacement can be found, White said.

The school board will have a public forum to discuss the renaming question at 6 p.m. Monday, May 21. White said the board hopes to act on the renaming in time for the 2018-19 school year.

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Diary tells of evening of tea & music at Rochester home of Frederick Douglass family in March 1861 on the eve of the Civil War [Never before published full account from diary of Julia Ann Wilbur, friend of Dr. Douglass from Rochester to Washington City]

Julia Ann Wilbur was a friend of Frederick Douglass for decades from Rochester to Washington City.

Women in the World of Frederick Douglass published last year by Oxford University Press has done much to advance an understanding of the consequential and expansive networks Dr. Frederick Douglass ran with, largely overlooked in existing scholarship.

Prof. Leigh Fought’s work is one of the most substantive and important books to join the canon of Douglassoniana Studies since Dickson Preston’s groundbreaking Young Frederick Douglass in the early 1980s.

Douglass’ associations and relationships with women propelled his life and elevated his worldly education from the first recollections of his widely-respected grandmother Betsy Bailey to the last conversation he ever had with his second wife Helen Pitts.

While Prof. Fought’s work places many women in the Douglass network, in documenting the collaborative working relationships and associations in the liberation struggle from the abolitionist movement to suffragist movement there are, of course, many more women to be uplifted in the pages of our fallen history.

Last fall, A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time: Julia Wilbur’s Struggle for Purpose, was published by Potomac Booksan important addition to the periphery family of Douglassoniana Studies.

The work by journalist and historian Paula Tarnapol Whitacre brings to attention an important and forgotten friend of Dr. Frederick Douglass.

According to the publisher:

In the fall of 1862 Julia Wilbur left her family’s farm near Rochester, New York, and boarded a train to Washington DC. As an ardent abolitionist, the forty-seven-year-old Wilbur left a sad but stable life, headed toward the chaos of the Civil War, and spent most of the next several years in Alexandria devising ways to aid recently escaped slaves and hospitalized Union soldiers. A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time shapes Wilbur’s diaries and other primary sources into a historical narrative sending the reader back 150 years to understand a woman who was alternately brave, self-pitying, foresighted, petty—and all too human.

Wilbur’s diary makes numerous mentions of Douglass, including March 1861 evening at the Douglass family home

Throughout Whitacre’s work there are several references to Douglass. The author alludes to the development of Wilbur’s friendship with Douglass from attending lectures to visiting Douglass in his Rochester home for an evening spent with his family listening to music and having tea.

A Civil Life cites Wilbur’s diary as the source for the anecdotal visit to the Douglass home but the full text has never been published before nor included in existing Douglass biography and scholarship. (Please correct me if in error.)

We thank the municipal government of Alexandria, Virginia for making this incredible resource available to scholars and in the same radical spirit of ladies who ran with Dr. Douglass the militant scholarship — never before published material slowly putting together the millions upon millions of pieces of the puzzle — continues like chatterboxes holding the thrown seat on the all-night 70 bus.

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This P.M. Mrs. Coleman went with me to Frederick Douglass’ & we took tea with all his family & spent the evening. It was a very pleasant & interesting visit. Mrs. Watkyes & Mrs. Blackhall & Gerty C. were there.

There was sensible and lively conversation & music. Mrs. D. although an uneducated
black woman appeared as well, & did the part of hostess as efficiently as the generality of white women.

The daughter Rosa is as pleasant & well informed & well behaved as girls in
general who have only ordinary advantages of education. The sons Lewis, Freddy, & Charles, aged 21, 19 & 17 respectively, are uncommonly dignified & gentlemanly young men.

They are sober & industrious & are engaged in the grocery business. F. Douglass is away from home much of the time engaged in lecturing. He continues a Monthly Paper & of course it takes a part of his time. It will be one year tomorrow since his little daughter Annie died under such painful circumstances, & they all feel her loss very much.

Apprehensions for her father’s safety, & grief for his absence caused her death. She was a promising child. She was 11 years of age.

SOURCE:

Diary of Julia Ann Wilbur. Rochester. March. Teusday[sic]. 12th. 1861
Julia Wilbur PapersHaverford College Quaker and Special Collections.

h/t Douglassonian Candace Jackson Gray

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Point Boys Douglassonians: Dr. Edward Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired, presents on the Baltimore Anna Murray and Frederick Bailey left behind.

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Unanswered questions abound about Anna (Murray) Douglass … “The First Mrs. Frederick Douglass,” [Colored American, May 12, 1900]

colored American May 12, 1900, Page 11, Image 11-page-001

Historically, historians have neglected, overlooked and speculated about Anna (Murray) Douglass. A new book by ex-communicated W Street Douglassonian Prof. Leigh Fought has advanced research on the women in the world of Dr. Douglass, yet there is still much work to be done.

For example:

  • What do we know about Anna’s siblings?
  • What do you we know about her parents?
  • Did Betsey Bailey know Anna and her family?
  • Did Betsey deliver Anna?
  • What do we know about the friendships, relationships and associations Anna had in Caroline County, Baltimore, New Bedford, Lynn, Rochester and Washington City?
  • What do we know about Anna’s travels back to Baltimore to visit what can be presumed to be her friends and family?
  • Did Helen and Anna know each other?
  • Why do we largely judge Anna, who lived in the 1800s, with a modern temperament and prejudices?

Due to shoddy Douglass scholarship at nearly every turn and recent visits to the Eastern Shore I’ve decided to expand the areas of my research to include everything, including — since this “historical memory” thing is big — the historical memory of Anna Douglass.

The foundational document historians have relied upon for information about Anna is her daughter’s lecture, “My Mother as I Recall Her.” But if we look we can find much more, such as this article from the Colored American which details an event held by the Anna Murray Douglass Union.

SOURCE:

Colored American, 12 May 1900, page 11.

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Henceforth, private life of Dr. Douglass is “without blemish,” unless scholarship & documentation proves otherwise, which it has not.

After walking Cedar Hill in the early morning Douglass would settle at his desk, responding to and beginning new correspondence. Photo National Park Service, Frederick Douglass NHS.I have attended many talks about Dr. Douglass over the years. Many are under-researched, under-cooked and/or underwhelming. However, there is hope. Prof. Lawrence Jackson at Johns Hopkins University has done some groundbreaking research on “Frederick Bailey in Baltimore.”

At a recent talk in Baltimore a young Ranger from the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site discussed and addressed one of the most prevalent ongoing speculations that has hovered over the field of Douglass Studies for nearly two decades.

Ranger Brittany Hall said — to paraphrase using the words in which I received the message — that unless someone comes with some hard documentation and scholarship, the private life of Dr. Douglass is “without blemish.”

I can’t say it any better. If anyone, whether they be men who did their twenty years to return to 16th & W Street as self-studied Douglassonians or professors at Ivy League institutions, attempts to talk sideways about Dr. Douglass must be supported with proof at the ready. Otherwise all talk is unproven speculation.

Dr. Douglass’s life is for the public to examine and discuss openly, however, his private life requires a level of understanding and scholarship very few historians outside of the Douglass family and Bailey Tribe possess.

Dr. Douglass was a private man who lived in the public arena. It is a contact sport today and back in Dr. Douglass’ day branding, murder, lynchings, mental oppression was an every day thing.

Dr. Douglass does not need be unevenly exalted, worshiped or ennobled. But scholars will respect Dr. Douglass henceforth knowing that as I am concerned his private life and his marriages to Anna Murray and Helen Pitts is “without blemish.”

 

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Harvard’s John Stauffer has actively perpetuated a lie about Anna teaching Frederick how to play the violin for a decade. It is unnecessary and needs to be corrected. (Part 1)

Stauffer in BaltimoreLast year I saw the last show of The Agitators at the Geva Theatre in Rochester. Among some of my critiques of the play was a scene that insinuated Anna Douglass played the violin in tandem with her husband, Frederick.

While not a major technical foul it struck me as forced, unnecessary and without any source provenance I’d seen or could recall. While it was in the context of a play I can understand the need for imagination but the play’s handbill made the point that a dramaturge had closely reviewed the play. Mentioned as folks who had lent their expertise was Harvard’s John Stauffer.

In conversations with Douglassonians following the play it was advanced that Stauffer was the likely source for the violin reference as his 2008 book, Giants, makes mention of this make-believe embellishment on page 71.

Her name was Anna Murray and she was a free woman, having been born free on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She had almond-shaped eyes, a full round face, and dark skin, and she worked as a maid for the Wells family on South Caroline Street in Baltimore. At twenty-five, she was five years older than Frederick and had moved to Baltimore at age seventeen. Quiet and hardworking, she was virtually illiterate but could read music, and when she played Haydn or Handel on her violin her hymns seemed to enchant the room. She taught Frederick the violin, he was a quick study, and soon they were playing duets.

This weekend I met Stauffer for the first time.

I asked him about the reference of Anna teaching Frederick how to play the violin. He told me it was in Life and Times and said he’d send me the citation. Since he has yet to do so I am taking the initiative.

NO existing references in Life and Times in either 1881 or 1892 revision.

1881 version of Life and Times references to the violin.

p. 143

The fiddling, dancing, and “jubilee beating” was carried on in all directions. This latter performance was strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin, or of other musical instruments, and was played so easily that almost every farm had its “Juba” beater.

1892 version of Life and Times references to the violin.

p. 181

The fiddling, dancing, and “jubilee beating” was carried on in all directions. This latter performance was strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin or other musical instruments and was played so easily that almost every farm had its “Juba” beater. The performer improvised as he beat the instrument, marking the words as he sang so as to have them fall pat with the movement of his hands.

p. 691

But of all the interesting objects collected in the Museum of Genoa, the one that touched me most was the violin that had belonged to and been played upon by Paganini, the greatest musical genius of his time. This violin is treasured in a glass case and beyond the touch of careless fingers, a thing to be seen and not handled.

p. 692

So this old violin, made after the pattern of others and perhaps not more perfect in its construction and tone than hundreds seen elsewhere, detained me longer and interested me more than anything else in the Museum of Genoa. Emerson says, “It is not the thing said, but the man behind it, that is important.” So it was not this old violin, but the marvelous man behind it, the man who had played on it and played as never man played before, and thrilled the hearts of thousands by his playing, that made it a precious object in my eyes. Owing perhaps to my love of music and of the violin in particular, I would have given more for that old violin of wood, horse-hair, and catgut than for any one of the long line of pictures I saw before me. I desired it on account of the man who had played upon it–the man who revealed its powers and possibilities as they were never known before. This was his old violin, his favorite instrument, the companion of his toils and triumphs, the solace of his private hours, the minister to his soul in his battles with sin and sorrow. It had delighted thousands. Men had listened to it with admiration and wonder. It had filled the largest halls of Europe with a concord of sweet sounds. It had even stirred the dull hearts of courts, kings and princes, and revealed to them their kinship to common mortals as perhaps had been done by no other instrument. It was with some difficulty that I moved away from this old violin of Paginini.

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We will follow-up this post with the existing source material which details how, where and when Douglass took up the violin, as well as a scholarly critique of Stauffer’s presentation on Douglass at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum where he failed to acknowledge the scholarship of Baltimorean Douglassonian Dr. Benjamin Quarles of Morgan State University, among other errors.

We are critical of “Douglass experts” at Yale and Harvard because their erroneous scholarship and speculation should not be acceptable from a high school student let alone from Professors at these two prestigious universities.

It shouldn’t be me calling them out, but call them out I will. Anything less would be a disservice to the truth.

 

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Brooklyn Historical Society hosts Leigh Fought, Dec. 11, 2017 _ Book Talk:”Women in the World of Frederick Douglass”

FD statue in Rochester _ Leigh Fought bookHistorian and professor of American History at Le Moyne College, Leigh Fought, paints an alternative portrait of abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass by examining the lives of the women around him. In this latest work, Fought sheds light on Douglass’s relationships to his mother, grandmother, slave mistresses, wives Anna Murray and Helen Pitts, and many other women who nurtured, challenged, and united with him in shared struggles for emancipation, the right to vote, and equality.

Book Talk: Women in the World of Frederick Douglass
Monday, December 11
Doors: 6:00 pm
Event: 6:30 pm
$5 General Admission / Free for Members

BHS Members: to reserve tickets at the member price, click on “Tickets” and enter your Member ID on the following page after clicking on “Enter Promotional Code.”

REFUND POLICY Brooklyn Historical Society requires 24 hours notice before the date of the event to refund a ticket. No refunds are provided after that point. No refunds are provided on the day of the event and all subsequent days.

Founded in 1863, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is a library, museum, and urban education center dedicated to the people of Brooklyn, providing opportunities for civic dialogue and thoughtful engagement.

Phone: 718.222.4111

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Helen Pitts Douglass was no simpleton; she could handle a lunatic who knocked on her door with ease [Wash Post, Jan. 27, 1889]

Historic memory has been rather unfair to the wives of Frederick Douglass. Simply told, Douglass’ first wife couldn’t read and his second wife was “second-rate.” These attitudes still exist to this day, just ask the Park Rangers at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (FDNHS) who field questions from the general public seven days a week. The forthcoming work of Dr. Leigh Fought should help to eviscerate these fallacies which have held the minds of both the general public and insular academics for decades.

One of the more interesting items I discovered going through thousands of newspaper stories was this one from January 1889 which ran in the Washington Post. The text speaks for itself and I have been told by staff at the FDNHS that this story has helped calm the nerves of some visitors who rush to uninformed judgments about Douglass’ second wife, Helen Pitts.

“At 9 o’clock yesterday morning John Anderson, a colored man living on the Flats in Hillsdale, and who has been acting in a peculiar manner for several days, became violently insane and rushing from his house ran down Nichols avenue, yelling, gesticulating and scattering pedestrians right and left. Turning up Jefferson street, he ran to the house of Fred Douglas and rang the bell. Pushing his way past the frightened servant girl, he confronted Mrs. Douglass and at once proposed to offer prayer. Mrs. Douglass, who was alone, took in the situation, and tried to quiet John, but suddenly he rushed into the dining-room and entered a closet. Mrs. Douglass quickly shut the door and locked it keeping the lunatic a prisoner until Officer W. T. Anderson came and took him in custody. John is a carpenter by trade, and has been subject to temporary attacks of insanity for some time, but was always considered harmless. He was sent to the police surgeon’s for examination and will probably be committed to the asylum.”

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Talk on Anna Murray Douglass this Saturday, July 21st, 2pm at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

Come out this Saturday, July 21st for a lively talk and Q & A session on Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna Murray by Dr. Leigh Fought at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site at 1411 W Street SE (Metro – Anacostia on the Green Line / Bus – B2, U2, 90s) from 2pm – 3pm. Dr. Fought is currently writing a book on Frederick Douglass and women, to be published by Oxford University Press in late 2013.

Beginning this fall, Dr. Fought will be a professor at Le Moyne College. Previously, she spent four years at Montgomery College in Takoma Park and served an associate editor on the first volume of Frederick Douglass’s correspondence (Yale University Press, 2009). Her publications include “Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa S. McCord” (University of Missouri Press, 2003) and “Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town” (History Press, 2007).

You can check out her current project on her blog, “Frederick Douglass’s Women: In Progress” at www.leighfought.blogspot.com

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Did Frederick Douglass buy “The New Era” from colored newspaper boy? Front page of “The New Era” [Thursday, January 13, 1870]

For black newspaper boys holding their street corners throughout downtown Washington, on Thursday January 13, 1870 there was a new paper to hawk, a paper uniquely speaking to their emerging place in the country and city, “The New Era.”

We forget Frederick Douglass came up in the streets of 1830’s Baltimore; he was always for the youngster on the make. From students at Howard University invited into his home(s) in the city to adolescent runaways in Rochester that Anna and Frederick helped shuttle to Canada, Douglass was ALWAYS there for the youngsters. His attitude was not I got mine, so get yours. Douglass’ attitude and message was I got mine this way, you can get yours this same way or other ways, but you CAN get it if you work hard, work hard, and don’t stop working hard and while working hard you believe in yourself. And at least one person believes in you, I do.

Frederick Douglass could break it down, he’d been there before and never forgot.

Courtesy LOC

I’ve heard through the grapevine of an account of a black newspaper boy seeing Frederick Douglass one morning on Pennsylvania Avenue and running up to him to talk — and sell a paper! When I first heard this I thought Douglass surely would have cut an image on the Avenue. The story goes that Douglass not only spoke to the young man, asking him questions about who he was and what he wanted to be, but that he gave him a “large tip” in life advice and a couple extra dollars. With my research approaching the stop sign as I’m weaving the chapters together I probably won’t have time to pursue this but I have two solid leads on where this account might be — if it does exist. This is another post I will have to update when I either confirm or reject this account.

Intrigue and speculation often times leads nowhere but this account from what I know of Douglass rings true.

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