Posts Tagged Cedar Hill
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.
Frederick Douglass as profiled by Jane Marsh Parker [Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.]
“A marked characteristic of Frederick Douglass is his love for music. When but a little fellow he would go up to “the great house” to hear the violin play for the dancers. The fiddler, he says, did not play common airs, but the best music, and while he listened the little yellow boy under the window forgot everything else. Love of music drew him to the Methodist meetings, for the singing was music to him, and he joined in with a will. It was at these meetings he began to speak in public, and discovered how well he could talk and the pleasure in being praised for the same. When a Sunday school exhibition by the free negroes was in prospect he found a chance for exercising his budding oratory. He bought a “speaker” with the “tips” his master had given him for blacking boots, and selected a piece with a plenty of big words – a college oration was wherein expounded what man can by imagination. The words were Greek to him, but he particularly liked rolling out: “He can soar aloft where stars glitter on the mantle of light and a more effulgent sun lights up the blushes or morning.”
Talking with Frederick Douglass one is sometimes inclined to think that, interesting as his autobiography is, it does not contain many of the most interesting experiences of his life, those he once thought, perhaps, insignificant to the public. On his wife’s piano at Cedar Hill you may see the very same music book that he slipped into his bundle when he skipped out of Maryland. It is worth something to see him standing with his violin singing with Mrs. Douglass those old “Seraph” hymns. If you had breakfast with him on a Sunday morning he will pass you with his own hand the Maryland biscuit, and is it not worth knowing that are just like the biscuits “Miss Lucretia” used to give him when half starved he sang under her dining room window? “I used to wish I could have my fill of them, and now I mean to have, you see?”
There was living in Washington a year of so ago an old colored man, who was a fellow slave with “Fred,” as he still calls him. His wife was the daughter of the old fiddler of “the great house.” Hearing them talk together – the recorder of the District of Columbia, and the tender of a furnace in the Capitol – laughing merrily over reminiscences of the plantation, was a unique experience.
“No, I don’t remember anything special that Fred used to do in them days,” said the old man in reply to probing inquiry, “only he jes wouldn’t be put upon and wanted to boss everything.”
Full story available HERE:
Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.
* This story was re-printed in papers throughout the country. *
Jane Marsh Parker was friends with the Douglasses for decades and contributed articles to leading magazines of the late 19th century and early 20th century. She wrote novels as well as histories, including an 1884 book about the history of Rochester, New York which features Frederick Douglass.