Posts Tagged Freedmen’s Bureau

Women’s History Month: Principal Ida Marshall; The Lost History of a Maryland Freedmen’s Bureau Teacher

Principal Ida S. Marshall served several schools in several descendant communities in Maryland.

If you can hear me, clap once. If you can hear me, clap twice.

If you understand the depth of this lost history clap thrice.

In honor of Women’s History Month we take a moment or two to recognize the radical, fearless and tireless educators that worked alongside and within the reformist networks and circles of influence from the bottom of the map to up top.

More than two years ago we told you about Rev. Henry Augustus Monroe, a member of the drum corps of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment who after the War deployed as a teenager to the Potatoe Neck of Somerset County to teach school with the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Today, we share with you an associate of Rev. Monroe’s who similarly came from up top in New England to work below the Mason Dixon Line for the educational and civic improvement of descendant communities throughout the state of Maryland.

Leading Freedmen Bureau affiliated classrooms and school houses in Harford, Kent and Howard counties, Principal Ida Marshal has apparently been overlooked and unrecognized by various private historical and educational organizations, institutions of higher learning and state-sponsored history and heritage agencies. Records indicate Marshall also taught in Delaware, areas of the American South, and in the mid 1870s returned to Maryland to teach in Howard County.

Within the philanthropic and educational networks of “colored” primary schools preparing students to attend institutions of higher learning within the regions of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington City, Principal Marshall, Rev. Monroe and Frederick Douglass are all closely connected.

For those that care to know, learn, and discuss the history with a fidelity to the integrity of the community give yourselves a clap or two.

This post is in recognition of Honorable Mrs. Merrion, formerly of Rosa Parks Middle School, and all legendary teachers who have ever taught. Your students do not forget.


Bibliographic Note:

Image of Principal Marshall, page 50 of Schooling the Freed PeopleTeaching, Learning, and the Struggle for Black Freedom, 1861-1876 (UNC Press, 2010)


Below are two images indicating Principal Marshall with the Freedmen’s Bureau School in Elk Ridge Landing in Howard County, Maryland.

United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872


United States, Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of the Superintendent of Education and of the Division of Education, 1865-1872

 

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Honorable Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., great-grandson of Dr. Frederick Douglass, recalls childhood memories of Highland Beach

In advance of Saturday’s special event at Highland Beach Kenneth B. Morris, Sr., President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, was kind enough to share a moving reflection of his adolescence spent with family members who spoke with and were embraced by America’s Pharaoh Dr. Frederick Douglass.

We thank Ken for this special glimpse into the abiding and trailblazing strength of his family’s heritage and contributions to building institutions which established the economic independence and self-determination of African-Americans.

Charles Remond Douglass

Charles Remond Douglass

My great, great grandfather, Charles Remond Douglass, named after the abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond, was the third and youngest son of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray Douglass, born in 1844.

When Frederick Douglass began to assemble the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, he was proud to say that Charles was his first African American recruit to join-up to fight against the Confederacy during the Civil War in what had now become a struggle to end slavery. Having trained for battle, however, illness prevented Charles from participating in the assault on Fort Wagner on Morris Island, near Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

After the war, Charles tried to establish himself in a few careers without much luck. He found a government job at the Freedmen’s Hospital then he worked as a clerk at the Freedmen’s Bureau in Washington DC. In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, Charles played right field and was an administrator for a DC baseball club called the Mutuals, who at that time, were one on the country’s best negro teams.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1893, however, when Charles purchased 40 acres on the shores of Chesapeake Bay that he found his niche in real estate. Charles subdivided the land and began developing the community of Highland Beach that later became an incorporated town where well-to-do African Americans would come to relax without fear of being harassed by whites. It was there at Highland Beach that Frederick Douglass dreamed of spending his final days, sitting in “the tower” at the top of his home along the shore, looking out across the bay to where he had once felt the lash of the overseer’s whip and where he had finally escaped the bonds of slavery.

I have fond memories of spending my summers in that house at the beach.  When I was a little boy, I would sit in my great-great-great-grandfather’s chair in “the tower” and look across the bay to the land of his birth, which looked generations away.

Image result for fannie howard douglass

Mr. Joseph Douglass and Mrs. Fannie Howard Douglass

My great-grandmother, Fannie Howard Douglass, or Grandmere as we called her, would sit down, put me on her knee, and with dramatic flair tell me about the first time she met Frederick Douglass as a little girl in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her father, David T. Howard, was born a slave and became one of the nation’s first black millionaires, owning and operating a mortuary business. When Frederick visited Atlanta, my great-great-grandfather Howard would pick him up at the train station in the fanciest horse-drawn carriage in town. Their very tall visitor, with a shock of white hair, made quite an impression on young Fannie.

From that day forward she began referring to him as “The Man with the Big White Hair” and did so until her death at the age of 103. She had no way of knowing at the time that she would grow up and marry his grandson, Joseph. When Grandmere and I were alone in “the tower,” she would point to the land on the other side of the Chesapeake and say, “That’s where Frederick lived as a slave when he was your age.”

I was too young to appreciate the significance of her stories at the time, but now that I am older, I realize how blessed I am to carry those memories today.

Unfortunately, Frederick Douglass’s dream of sitting in “the tower” was never realized. He passed away in 1895 a couple of months before the home was completed.

 

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Frederick Douglass & his sons lived in greater Anacostia area in early 1870s; before Frederick Douglass purchased Cedar Hill in the fall of 1877

When Frederick Douglass moved to Uniontown, horse thieves, wild animals, and escapees from the Government Hospital for the Insane roamed the pastoral roadways. In just over twenty years since its founding the suburban subdivision of Uniontown, and the adjoining villages, had seen the erection of school houses, churches, stables, new homes and businesses, and meeting halls. Douglass was no stranger to this community.

The next neighborhoods over from Uniontown were known as Potomac City, Hillsdale, and Barry Farm (developed by the Freedmen’s Bureau); the last two names remain in currency today.  With more than $50,000 set aside by General Oliver Otis Howard, head of the Freedmen’s Bureau, in a trust to develop “normal collegiate institutions or universities” these funds were used to purchase 375 acres from the descendents of James D. Barry in 1867. Sitting just beneath the Government Hospital for the Insane, which saw its first patient in 1855, the sale of lots would help relieve “the immediate necessities of a class of poor colored people in the District of Columbia.” Within two years, more than 260 families had made Barry Farm their home, the Douglass boys included.

Writing in his autobiography General Howard recalled, “Some of those who bought one acre or two-acre lots were fairly well off. I found it better to have a few among the purchasers who were reasonably educated, and of well-known good character and repute, to lead in the school and church work, and so I encouraged such to settle alongside the more destitute.” Howard would often bring government officials to Barry Farm to show them the self-sufficient community, largely made up of freedmen. “Everyone who visited the Barry Farm and saw the new hopefulness with which most of the dwellers there were inspired, could not fail to regard the entire enterprise as judicious and beneficent.”

Testifying before a Congressional Committee in 1870, Edgar Ketchum offered a sketch of a Barry Farm homestead. “You may see another (man) some thirty-six years of age, very black, very strong, very happy, working on his place. His little house cost him $90. You see his mother; that aged ‘aunty,’ as she raises herself up to look at you, will tell you that she has had eleven children, and that all of them were sold away from her.” Ketchum continued, “She lived down in Louisiana. The man will tell you that he is one of those children. He went down to Texas, and when he came up through Louisiana and Alabama he found his old mother and brought her up with him, along with his wife and son. And there they live.”

And there, all three of Douglass’s sons initially settled upon moving to Washington in the late 1860s, a testament to the family’s creed and commitment to being on the front lines of uplifting their race. Charles and Lewis would move across town while Frederick, Jr. would spend the rest of his life on nearby Nichols Avenue, today Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. In the early years of the 1870s, when in Washington to run The New National Era and serve on the Legislative Council, records indicate Frederick was living in the Anacostia area with one or all of his sons.

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