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.
Justin Murphy, @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.