Posts Tagged Garnet C. Wilkinson

Black Women in the World of Frederick Douglass — Dr. Georgiana R. Simpson (pt. 1)

As I walk in, out, around and through neighborhoods, communities and thoroughfares of Southeast Washington, knowingly or not, I re-trace routes Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass trode walking his community as he built community.

Known throughout the four corners of the earth, Dr. Douglass was known and respected on the muddy street corners of old Barry Farm. The Douglass boys, specifically Charles and Frederick, Jr., commanded equal and independent respect as local community activists. Nothing changes but the weather; gun play exists today on the K, gun play existed on the streets and in backyards of old Barry Farm lots off Nichols Avenue.

Within the freedman community of Barry Farm the Douglass family invested themselves to uplift fallen humanity and assist families and their young children, many being the first born free, in education liberation.

The children of Old Barry Farm include Frederick Douglass Patterson, Garnet C. Wilkinson and Dr. Georgiana R. Simpson.

Dr. Georgiana R. Simpson was welcome in the home of not only Frederick Douglass but Frederick Douglass, Jr. who lived on Nichols Avenue, today Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE, until his death, before his time, in 1892.

Dr. Georgiana R. Simpson was a playmate with the grandchildren of Dr. Douglass.

Radical black women scholars and educators who ran with Dr. Douglass are legion.


 

We will no longer let historians whitewash this history. We will no longer allow historians tell “White Man Lies” on Dr. Douglass and the young women of African descent he looked out for, mentored and counseled.

I must admit I am complicit in allowing the lies of history, or rather an incomplete history, to be advanced. I played nice for years. I continue to play nice as that is my natural disposition, but I was granted permission by W Street Douglassonians to ratchet up the radical and guerrilla tactics in uplifting fallen humanity through history.

If Prof. Leigh Fought had stayed in her lane I may not have had impetus and mandate to come through the country roads and seek counsel of descendants of neighbors of Larkin Johnson and Emily Edmonson Johnson.

I was told to not forget the country roads from whence we come, the country roads of Zion, Brookeville, Gregg, Sundown, Goldmine, Brooke, Howard Chapel and Sunshine Burger.

We, guardians of the ground that raised us up, will not knowingly allow Ivory Tower academics to disgrace the community history of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass for one second longer.

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“Douglass would play baseball with the children” [undated interview with “Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson”]

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

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.

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