Posts Tagged Civil War

“History at Sunset: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site” w/ Ranger Steve -> Friday, August 30, 2019 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

View of Capitol Dome & Wash Monument _ FD House_1

Photo by Honorable William Alston-El. Copyright strictly enforced.

Freedom by the Orator: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

The program includes a walking tour of the historic home and detail Frederick Douglass’s experiences and contributions to the Union war effort during the Civil War.

Meet National Park Service Staff outside the Douglass’ home.

1411 W Street SE
Washington, DC 20020

For more information, please visit the Civil War Defenses of Washington website.

More details can be found at the History at Sunset page and on the calendar:


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Society of the Army of Cumberland invites Frederick Douglass, Esquire to Local Executive Committee meeting at the Ebbitt House; a note on misleading “memory history” of the Civil War and Dr. Douglass

Following the Union Army’s defeat of the Confederate States Army the process of Reconstruction was led by many individuals and institutions. The interconnectedness and intersectionality of Dr. Douglass to these reconstructive efforts superabounds in existing documents, reports, memoirs, ephemera, newspaper accounts and lost histories.

Major Charles R. Douglass was active in the Grand Army of the Republic. His father, Dr. Frederick Douglass, while not a direct combat veteran was a recruiter for the Union and thusly welcomed into the fraternity of organizations which sought to promote the values of liberty and brotherhood in which hundreds of thousands had made the ultimate sacrifice for.

While speculative scholarship has proliferated in recent decades, under the troubling, incomplete and selective guise, or rather paradigm, of “memory history” promoted by popular American historians, there is an unavailability of scholarship on the organizations and networks in which Dr. Douglass ran.

Communities of journalists, politicians, educators, abolitionists, suffragists, preachers and artisans are all groups known to have close associations and connections with Dr. Frederick Douglass but their presence and relevance to the complete story has yet to be told. The folks that yammer about intersectionality have no clue what they are talking about. They have buzz-fuzz cliches and phrases not scholarship and research.

In post-Civil War Washington City generals and rank officers were legion. Union veterans Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur and Benjamin Harrison served as American Presidents and Dr. Douglass ran with them all. You scholars already know about General Oliver Otis Howard but who else is known?

Among veterans of both the Union and the Confederate States of America Dr. Douglass commanded respect. Few historians who invoke the name of Dr. Douglass convey this truth. Memory historians have failed to uplift the fallen history.

W Street Douglassonians are not wrong in expecting lauded historians to muster more than a pseudo-psycho speculative interpretation, or rather a “memory history,” of Dr. Douglass’ April 1876 Oration Delivered on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument. A focus on this singular speech of Dr. Douglass again, and again and again is an incomplete history, a selective history, a convenient history, a lazy history and most importantly a misleading and dishonest history.

Until a new generation and a new collective of historians emerge to challenge the repetitive status quo of simp history half-truths and untruths will masquerade as truth.




Invitation of General Henry Clark Corbin (via Judge Arthur MacArthur), Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Headquarters Local Executive Committee to Frederick Douglass, Esquire.


Frederick Douglass Papers, Correspondence
Folder, 1879
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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Drummer boy of 54th Massachusetts Vol. Infantry Regiment, Reverend Henry Augustus Monroe, knew Frederick Douglass before his enlistment at age 13 (pt. 1)

Drummer boy of the 54th. Before enlisting at age 13 and going to war he knew Dr. Douglass.

Young Men Not Afraid to Perish to the Front!

Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass knew them all.

An adolescent apocalyptic prophet. Front-line fugitive scholar. Outspoken voice of the battle cry of freedom in President Lincoln’s ear.

A select few in the pantheon of American history have walked the earth in their time and era with equal authority of Dr. Douglass.

In Old Anacostia the guardian spirit of Dr. Douglass protects all children who first step on corners which have claimed cousins, older brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents, mothers and fathers.

Old men faithfully walking dogs no bigger than a Nike boot commune with Dr. Douglass when they share a word of encouragement with elementary students anxious about the approaching first day of school.

At all hours of the night, to the first light of the day a stately mural of Dr. Douglass looks over the corner of 16th & W Street, ever watchful.

Youngsters in Old Anacostia today see the manifestation of their world famous neighbor, Dr. Douglass, everyday.

Whereas the psyche of the present-day community keeps alive the memory of Dr. Douglass, in his day Dr. Douglass was known to have a youngster’s back, front and both sides.

Many mythomane historians have default retreated to the well-worn path of both least resistance and least scholarship in their proclivity for ascribing speculative predilections and vapid rhetoric as a substitute for research.

Those White Man Lies and White Woman Lies can be taken elsewhere as they will no longer be politely ignored.

If scholars are not discussing or advancing the scholarship of Dr. Douglass they are not welcome.

We have known scholars to speculate the dynamics and motivations for the military enlistment of the Douglass Boys — Lewis, Frederick, Jr. and Charles. As eldest son of a combat veteran United States Marine and older brother to a combat veteran United States Marine we only promote honorable scholarship.

The Douglass boys were raised in the cause. The struggle was the struggle of the Douglass family. The Douglass boys may have been able to play the background when necessary but they were front line liberation warriors, a responsibility they accepted.

Equally, the Douglass boys accepted the responsibility of putting their lives in the danger zone to serve their country. They accepted the responsibility to defend and kill in the name of their country. That is beyond question and speculation.

Who else served in the 54th? Who was Henry Augustus Monroe who enlisted at age 13 to serve as a front-line drummer boy? Monroe and his family were friends with Dr. Douglass and the Douglass family.

Do you think this history has ever been told?

To be continued …

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“The Negroes in the Washington Jail” [Douglass’ Monthly, January 1862]

Washington Jail, DM_Jan. 1862

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Sign of the times… Frederick Douglass: Zombie Killer or Why Let Lincoln Have all the Fun?

Read this great post from Phenderson Djèlí Clark HERE


The modern popular history of the Civil War and slavery is roughly this–slavery was bad, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, the end. This is a marked improvement from past depictions of slavery that dominated popular culture and much of academia well into the mid 20th century–where the Dunning School reasoned that slavery wasn’t really so bad, while films like Birth of a Nation bemoaned the freeing of slaves in the first place. Hollywood would tone down the crazed rape-prone brutes of DW Griffith’s depictions with dancing asexual Uncles like Billy “Bojangles” Robinson (consistently paired with child star Shirley Temple), and an endless array of sassy (but doting and loyal) Mammys in films likeGone With the Wind. The social upheavals of the Civil Rights Era would coincide with a dramatic shift in academia away from the Dunning School, towards a more humanizing study of slavery. And by the late 70s Alex Haley’s television miniseries Roots brought the brutalities of the peculiar institution directly into American living rooms. What has remained consistent however is the depiction of Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” and that blacks–both free and slave–were pretty much passive recipients of America’s belated good will. No wonder that the writer of a 1977 TIME article on Roots could say, with quite a straight face, that while white America had enslaved African-Americans, they would do well to remember that it was whites who had also ended slavery. This condescending sentiment was spoofed perfectly on an episode of Family Guy where Stewie, on behalf of white America, tells a black visitor at Gettysburg–”you’re welcome.”

It’s a trope that has woven its way into modern media depictions that feature the American Civil War. In Ken Burn’s sprawling documentary on the conflict, slavery and slaves play a minor role amongst a story of grand white military leaders. Folklorist Shelby Foote is given seemingly endless screen time to wax charmingly of the heroic exploits of Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest–abetter of the racially motivated Fort Pillow Massacre and a postwar leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Even the much acclaimed 1989 movie Glory pulls a fast one in its dramatic recreation of the famed black 54th Union regiment of Massachusetts. For one, it tells the story near completely from the point of view of Robert Gould Shaw (played by actor Matthew Broderick)–using his private letters, and conveniently omitting personal conflicts with his own racism he mentioned in those letters. Most telling, the film’s main black characters are fictional runaway slaves played by actors Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Isiah Washington. But the men of the 54th Massachusetts weren’t initially made up runaway slaves (not in the majority); they were free blacks, who came from the North, Canada and as far as the West Indies, risking their lives to fight a war against slavery. They wrote letters of their own, telling their own stories. However, perhaps fearing their presence would diminish Shaw as leading hero, Glory instead gives us fictionalized black characters who can fit the role of thankful ex-slaves shaped into men by a noble-hearted white savior. Cue Stewie again–”you’re welcome.”

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Frederick Douglass tells President Lincoln the four keys to successfully enlisting colored troops in the Union cause

In the past five years there have been nearly a half dozen books published examining the lives and relationship of Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln, largely centering on the two documented meetings between these titans of 19th century American history.  (Special shout out to Paul and Stephen Kendrick’s must-read Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader & a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery & Save the Union.)

One of the first books to merge these two self-made men was Allen Thorndike Rice’s 1886 work, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by distinguished men of his time.

Contributors include former congressmen, a former Vice President, journalist Benjamin Perley Poore, Walt Whitman, General Benjamin “Spoons” F. Butler, General / President Ulysses S. Grant, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, and many others including Frederick Douglass, who was denoted as “Ex-United States Marshal of the District of Columbia.”

Douglass tells of his first interview with President Lincoln “in the summer of 1863, soon after the Confederate States had declared their purpose to treat colored soldiers as insurgents, and their purpose not to treat any such soldiers as prisoners of war subject to exchange like other soldiers.”

To “make [the colored troops] branch of the service successful” Douglass told President Lincoln he “must do four things:

“First – You must give colored soldiers the same pay that you give white soldiers. 

“Second – You must compel the Confederate States to treat colored soldiers, when prisoners, as prisoners of war.

“Third – When any colored man or soldiers performs brave, meritorious exploits in the field, you must enable me to say to those that I recruit that they will be promoted for such service precisely as white men are promoted for similar service.

“Fourth – In case any colored soldiers are murdered in cold blood and taken prisoners, you should retaliate in kind.”

Before phrases such as “go hard” or “go ham” were introduced into our vernacular, Frederick Douglass told President Lincoln what time it was.

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