Posts Tagged Cedar Hill
As an outgrowth of the Frederick Douglass Community Conference held earlier this month we’ve made connection with Mr. Donald Scoggins, a former resident of W Street SE and active member of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association.
At the community conference Mr. Scoggins shared details of how the 6th HUD Secretary, Patrica Roberts Harris, was able to assist the Frederick Memorial and Historical Association, chartered by Congress in 1900, re-acquire ownership of land that Frederick Douglass purchased behind his Cedar Hill Estate. In coming weeks we plan to have more about this little known chapter in the modern history of Frederick Douglass’ home.
We share this photo with his permission and blessing. Mr. Scoggins shared the circumstances of the photograph:
It was held just days of her confirmation when she announced selling to the Association for $1.00.00 with 100% Section 8 rental subsidies tied to the 152 unit garden apartment complex formerly known as Cedar Gardens. It had been acquired several years earlier by the federal government through foreclosure.
Throughout the greater countryside and the greater DC metropolitan area there are Douglass statues. Throughout Ward 8 there are a number of murals and depictions of Mr. Frederick Douglass. Some are well done, while some could use a little touch-up work.
The newest Douglass-related mural doesn’t depict the visage of the Lion of Anacostia, instead it depicts local children planting and watering a sapling in the front lawn of Cedar Hill, the home of Douglass from the fall of 1877 until his death in February 1895.
This expansive vertical mural spans three stories on the 15th Street SE side of Ketcham Elementary School, named for Union General, Congressman and District Commissioner John H. Ketcham.
On the top reads, “Planting roots now to grow strong later.”
On the bottom reads, “Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” – Frederick Douglass
This mural is part of a larger and ongoing renovation and beautification of the school famous and revered among the streets and inhabitants of Old Anacostia.
Occasionally 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.
The Most Staunch Supporter of the Republican Party Now Published in This Country
Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D.C.
November 26, 1888
Magnes L. Robinson:
My Dear Sir: – I have read with interesting interest the editorials in the National Leader of late and have no hesitation in pronouncing the Leader as one of the most staunch supporters of the Republican party now published in this country. I do hope you will be able to keep your banner on the outer wall permanently. Do not let us clamor for office, but for rights.
Very Truly Yours,
“Douglass would play baseball with the children” [undated interview with “Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson”]
In researching the upcoming Death and Life of Old Anacostia I have had the chance to review the exhibit records for The Anacostia Story: 1608 – 1930. Last Friday I reviewed Box 217 which is replete with Douglass references. Here’s one particular item that caught my attention which appears to be an early draft of The Anacostia Story.
“One of the few prominent black families recorded as living in Uniontown was the Wilkinsons. Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, the widow of an early black school administrator, recalls her husband describing Frederick Douglass and his estate. ‘My husband’s family lived on the street which the Douglass home fronts (W Street) and Douglass would play baseball with the children. Mr. Wilkinson was a clerk in the Pension Office and very political and he and Mr. Douglass would argue about current events.'”
Questions / Comments:
What is the source of this quote? I could not determine its origins in reviewing the draft. It’s not from a story in the Star or Post.
Garnet C. Wilkinson “presided for nearly 40 years over of Negro Division of the Washington public schools before desegregation,” according to his obituary in the Washington Post on 29 January, 1969. The same article said that Wilkinson moved to Washington from South Carolina when he was 8. If he was born in 1879, this means he moved to Washington by 1886 or 1887. In the 1887 Washington City Directory there is a “Wilkinson” on Nichols Avenue and another “Wilkinson” listed as living in Hillsdale. Could this have been the family of Garnet C. Wilkinson?
If this is, in fact, taken from Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, she died in June 1942 while her husband was still living. Wilkinson remarried. Is this from Wilkinson’s second wife? When was it taken?
In early February 1978, the DC Public Library system opened the Garnet C. Wilkinson Branch inside the elementary school with the same name. Wilkinson had been a member of the Library’s Board of Trustees from 1959 – 1965. At the event, according to the Washington Post, Caroline Wilkinson, the widow of the honored, spoke. This timeline is consistent with what looks to be an oral interview taken from Caroline Wilkinson in the 1970s.
When Douglass died in 1895, Wilkinson couldn’t have been much more than 16 years old. How could he have been a clerk in the Pension Office at such a young age?
Lastly, it appears that Garnet C. Wilkinson helped to make a “pilgrimage” to the Douglass home by students from the city’s division of colored schools an annual event.