Posts Tagged John Brown
LECTURE: *Lost History: Frederick Douglass in Western Maryland* (Fletcher Branch Library in Hagerstown, MD on Tuesday, February 12 @ 7pm)
Fletcher Branch Library
Tuesday, February 12 • 7 PM
100 S Potomac St
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Lost History: Frederick Douglass in Western Maryland
with Historian John Muller
Frederick Douglass rose from the depths of slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to travel three continents and counsel a half-dozen Presidents.You may think you know his story but did you know he visited Hagerstown?!
In 1879 Douglass took a train to “Hub City” where he delivered an address to benefit Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Future United States Congressman and United States Senator, Hagerstonian Louis E. McComas introduced Douglass before he spoke at the court house on Washington Street.
Hear historian and author John Muller share never before published details of Dr. Frederick Douglass’ visit to Hagerstown walking the community and lodging in the historic Washington House. Earlier in the day, John Muller will host a walking tour through the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area.
This evening program is free to attend. Registration is not required, but is appreciated.
As a front line warrior-pharaoh Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass survived danger zones from his Tuckahoe birth to initiation as a “Point Boy” to his later years as a Washingtonian where his proclivity to walk the city streets was observed by the New York Tribune.
In the committed cause lives were lost. Dr. Douglass, not dissimilar to youngsters being raised within the tempestuous communities of Baltimore, Rochester and Washington City, was exposed to brutality and savagery at an early age, a birthright inheritance of American slavery.
Inter and intra-neighborhood violence and harassment by law enforcement remains an element of life in contemporary Douglassonian communities. Conditions faced by school-aged children in Old Anacostia have troubling similarities to conditions Frederick Bailey negotiated in pursuit of his liberation.
The spirit of Dr. Douglass is a guardian angel with wingspan and reach expansive to shelter and comfort the fallen and lost souls. There are generations, including the late William Alston-El, a legendary indigenous Old Anacostia Douglassonian, who lost classmates, cellmates, friends and family to the streets yet elevated and uplifted his own humanity to serve as an international corner-man ambassador. My friend William is a modern lost comrade of the spirit of Dr. Douglass.
Independent research by biographer Dickson Preston confirmed the archival record of the death — and potential open murder case, as recalled in the Narrative — of “Denby” on the Lloyd plantation. Other early incidents of ultra violence in the life of Frederick Douglass and his closest family are recorded in his autobiographies, including his imprisonment in Easton, Maryland for plotting an organized escape.
Coming up as a young lion Dr. Douglass came up within a complex danger zone to achieve his freedom. Alongside Anna, a militant abolitionist, the Douglass household in Rochester was an active Underground Railroad station.
Within the city of Rochester and surrounding towns, villages and counties of Western New York Dr. Douglass was widely known as an active conductor. As the Civil War approached the daily sheets reported fugitives being directed to the newspaper office of Editor Douglass.
Before his execution by the government for a failed attempt to seize a federal weapons arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, abolitionist John Brown, in company with his sons, delivered homicide upon pro-slavery factions in “Bleeding Kansas.”
The presence of Dr. Douglass commanded respect as equally with Methodist preachers as with runaway slave-scholars and radical young journalists, such as Ida Wells, armed with pen and pistol.
In the whirlwind Dr. Douglass lost family, friend and foe.
Less than a year before his own flight from Fell’s Point editor Elijah Lovejoy was killed by mob in Illinois. While establishing himself as a local fugitive-slave scholar and abolitionist in Massachusetts and connecting with William Lloyd Garrison riots in Cincinnati broke out. Charles Van Loon, a preacher and abolitionist, was attacked and killed in late 1847 just weeks after sharing the stage with Dr. Douglass.
Weeks after speaking with Abraham Lincoln in Washington City the first American President was assassinated by a deranged actor ready to conspire and murder in the name of white supremacy. On Election Day in October 1871 Douglass’ associate and radical educator Octavius Catto was murdered in Philadelphia. In 1876 John Sella Martin, a young man Douglass looked out for, succumbed to death by his own hand.
While it is the style of historians to fashion an event, institution or person this way or that way, prejudicial to their own perspective, Dr. Douglass is of infinite styles and smarts. Neither preachers, biographers nor newspaper editors can ever fashion Dr. Douglass nor his family.
The smarts of Dr. Douglass can only be understood by Gods who have safeguarded generations of men and women preaching rebellion on street corners as long as there have been street corners to preach on.
Somehow and someway Dr. Douglass survived. The Gods of the Streets know. Biographers do not.
This was supposed to be an introduction to two specific small anecdotes which demonstrate and edify the point that Dr. Douglass survived danger zones but it somehow became its own entry.
To be continued …
“I do not want to go in as Fredeic[k] Douglass, but as a citizen of the United States,” radical abolitionist Rev. Calvin Fairbank recalling reception at Executive Mansion for President Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration.
Among radical white abolitionists John Brown was but a singular force of an expansive collective that ranged the entire country. Due Brown’s radical action and close association with Frederick Douglass he has maintained a presence in our contemporary historic consciousness. A play portraying Douglass and Brown was recently staged at the Anacostia Playhouse.
Orating, writing, editing and breathing abolition for more than two decades on the public stage Dr. Douglass accumulated associations and friendships with thousands upon thousands of fellow reformists.
Some were extreme. Not just John Brown.
Rev. Calvin Fairbank was imprisoned in Kentucky for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. He was pardoned. Imprisoned again for aiding slaves in an attempted escape. Nearly did twenty.
Dr. Douglass, a radical newspaperman, published letters from Rev. Fairbank in his newspaper.
After his pardon, Fairbank and his wife traveled to Washington City to attend the second inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. In the assemblage at Washington City was Dr. Frederick Douglass.
Following President’s Lincoln Second Inaugural Address Rev. Fairbank, along with his wife and thousands of Washingtonians, attended a reception at the Executive Mansion.
In 1890 Rev. Fairbank condensed nearly twelve hundred pages of autobiography into a workable five hundred pages in which he offers an additional footnote to the well told interaction between Dr. Douglass and President Lincoln:
[B]efore the fall of Richmond, March 30, when we took a steamer for “Washington, after some most magnificent demonstrations of loyalty to us, to the United States,
and to God by that people who for two hundred years had been crushed under the heel of despotism.
There were several large Africo-American churches there which were unable to hold more than a small minority of the people who crowded every place where we appeared. The white rebels avoided us.
President Lincoln’s Inauguration.
March 4th, 1865, was a most horrid morning. Rain fell in broken sheets, driven by the wind; but people came just the same, moving toward the Capitol until twelve M. The mud in Pennsylvania Avenue was hub deep — a canal of batter; and I stood with my good wife from nine a.m. until twelve M. in front of the great platform, standing on bricks as the rain dashed upon a thousand umbrellas.
Without regard to rain, we took our positions near the front platform where the great event was to occur, Mrs. Fairbank standing each foot on two bricks where,
protected by three umbrellas, we remained three hours, until twelve M., when the immortal pageant burst from the columns of the Capitol.
The rain had ceased, the clouds hastened to their chambers; and nature assumed an air of joy and serenity rarely witnessed on that day.
Then the short, pointed, brave declaration of the mind of the Chief Executive of the Nation — “DROP FOR DROP: LASH FOR LASH.”
At the levee that night thirty thousand people passed in and out of the White House.
At one time a throng was pressing the door of the room where the President received his guests, and Frederic[k] Douglass among others pressed to the door, when “Hold on!” — and others kept passing in.
“Hold on! You can’t go in now. It is not convenient.”
“How is that? I see others passing in.”
Some one interfered, — “This is Frederic[k] Douglass.”
When Douglass, — “Never mind. I do not want to go in as Frederic Douglass; but as a citizen of the United States.”
Here comes the great man of the age, President Lincoln, with his long arm extended over heads and through the crowd. — “WHY, HOW DO YOU DO, FREDERIC[K]? COME RIGHT IN!”
Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How he “Fought the Good Fight” to Prepare “The Way.” (Edited from His Manuscript.) R. & R. McCabe & Co. Publishers, Chicago. 1890.
Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass & Higher Education: University of Rochester Edition, Pt. 3 [Rev. Dr. Heman Lincoln Wayland, college president, recalls introducing Douglass to “three presidents of American colleges,” specifically Dr. Martin B. Anderson of University of Rochester]
Address of Rev. Dr. H. L. WAYLAND,
Delivered at The Memorial Meeting,
Held at the Academy Of Music, Philadelphia, Pa.,
on Evening of April 15, 1895.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I cannot look upon the eminent citizen whose name is in every heart this evening, simply as a public man. To me, he was a valuable personal friend.
Forty-two years ago, while I was residing in Rochester, I made his acquaintance, and was captivated by his brilliant and admirable qualities. I had the opportunity of rendering him some slight service, which he, with characteristic generosity, estimated at far more than its real worth.
I had the honor of introducing him to three presidents of American colleges, a circumstance to which he often alluded with pleasure.
In 1854 he was invited to give the annual literary address before what was then Western Reserve College, at Hudson, Ohio, which has since been removed to Cleveland, and largely endowed, and which now bears the name of Adelbert College. It was the first time such an invitation had been given to him, or, I imagine, to any colored man. He naturally felt a good deal of hesitation. I urged him to accept the service. He did so, and, thinking that for a college occasion, something of a scientific turn would be demanded, he selected as his subject “The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered.”
When he had read what was within his reach on the subject, I asked permission of Dr. Martin B. Anderson, then president of the University of Rochester, an eminent and widely read student of ethnology, to bring Mr. Douglass to his house, that the latter might have the benefit of his great stores of information. The president kindly welcomed him, loaned him books, and afforded him the yet more invaluable inspiration of his personal encouragement.
The address went off well, although Mr. Douglass was fettered by the use of manuscript, to which he was unaccustomed, and probably was not unconscious of his academic audience. He subsequently expressed the opinion that he would nave done better to have spoken upon his great theme, and to have let himself out. One incident in regard to the address I recall. He quoted the opinion of some ethnologist, who claimed that the negro was radically differentiated from the other races, by his small, thin, weak voice. Mr. Douglass made no comment, but simply declaimed this extract from the author in a voice of thunder that made the rafters ring.
Later I was living in Worcester, the heart of the Commonwealth, a community more true to liberty than any other city in America. I fully agree with the sentiments that I have heard uttered by Theodore Parker, that, if you tie a rope ten miles long to the steeple of the Old South Church in Worcester, and use it as a radius, you will include within that circle a higher average, intellectually and morally, than anywhere else on the earth.
Just after the crime of the Dred-Scott decision, I arranged a lecture for Mr. Douglass in the Worcester City Hall, and, for the first time in his history, he was introduced by the Mayor of the city, who presided.
After the lecture, there was a little supper, at which, in addition to Mr. Douglass, the guest of honor, there were present John Brown of Ossawatamie, later of Harper’s Ferry; Hon. Eli Thayer, then Member of Congress; Hon. W. W. Rice, later Member of Congress; Hon. J. N. Walker, present Member of Congress, and other citizens.
Pardon me for these details, which I do not enter into from any personal motive, but simply to introduce an incident which took place twenty years later, while Mr. Douglass was Marshal of the District of Columbia. I called upon him in his office.
His son came into the room, and Mr. Douglass said, “My son, this is Mr. Wayland. Mr. Wayland was a friend to your father at a time when your father needed a friend very much.”
The recollection of these few words, touching in their simplicity, I prize greatly at this hour.
It would be very pleasant to spend the time which your courtesy allows me in eulogizing the virtues of Mr. Douglass. There is little need to speak of his eloquence. Coming upon the platform in a day when Curtis and Sumner and Phillips were speaking, he occupied no second place.
Forty years ago, John G. Palfrey, formerly a professor in Harvard University, from his place in the popular branch of Congress, spoke of Mr. Douglass as speaking and writing the English language “in a manner of which any member might be proud.”
He had the qualifications of a great orator. Eloquence comes from the heart It is true of the orator, as of the poet:
“Men are cradled into poetry by wrong;
They learn in suffering, what they teach in song.”
In order to be eloquent, there must be a great cause, a great experience, a great agony. I can but think it a wonderful adjustment of Providence that in Mr. Douglass were united the burning experience, with the gift of speech. I seem to hear him now, as, looking back to the former condition of himself and those associated with him, he exclaimed, “Oh, the depth, the depth!”
The utterance of these words cost him twenty years of slavery and a half century of sympathy.
Along with his eloquence and his brilliancy, Mr. Douglass united a wisdom, a good sense, a good taste, that never allowed him to go astray. I recall no public man who has made fewer mistakes.
His wisdom, together with his mental independence, was illustrated by his relations to Mr. Garrison and others of the old abolition leaders. They held that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document; that it was, in their own often-quoted language (which I think was printed every week on the first page of the Liberator), “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” They refused to act under the Constitution.
They abjured the exercise of the franchise. They set at naught force and trusted only to moral appeal. But they did use words infinitely sharper than the sword. Mr. Douglass’ early associations were with these men, who are to be honored for their bravery and their fidelity. But in the course of time, with enlarging wisdom, he found himself differing from them, and he was forced to protest against their fundamental principle and against their methods and spirit. He declared that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document, and that it contained resources for the universal establishment of liberty.
Time passed. Under the forms of the Constitution, the great emancipator was elected. A President, constitutionally chosen, signed the Proclamation of Emancipation, and, through the armies of the United States, and under its flag, slavery was annihilated.
A striking feature in the character of Mr. Douglass was the absence of bitterness. He warred against a system, not against man. That was a very touching episode, his visit, late in life, to his old master, from whom, fifty years before, he had run away.
Mr. Douglass had a broad humanity. His sympathies were not confined to the advocacy of any single cause, or the championship of any single class or sex. His voice was enlisted for all who suffered wrong.
It would be pleasant to dwell at length upon the character of our honored friend. But I think we should do injustice to the occasion, if we did not draw from the life that has closed, one or two lessons.
Especially here is an example in inspiration, for the young. I do not know in all history a parallel. Here is a lad — born a slave, not merely a serf, of the same race and color of the master, and belonging to the soil; but bearing upon his brow the indelible problem of his servitude, and of the defenselessness of his mother; liable to be brought to the block at a moment’s notice; knowing law only by the burdens it imposed and the wrongs it inflicted. To teach him the five letters which spell the name of the Redeemer of mankind is a penal offence.
He has no property, no rights, no future. In childhood he sleeps on the floor, in a tow bag, which but partly covers him. He wears by day a single tow garment, and he picks out of the dust the grains of corn which the chickens have left.
You heard him say, not long ago, in this city: “The slave looked at his body, and they told him it belonged to his master; and they told him that his soul belonged to God, and so he had nothing.”
He bore on his own body the marks of the lash, and could not have protected his own sister, his own mother, his own wife, from the vilest profanation. Robbed of everything else, he has a soul, a will, a mind; he has a sense of right and wrong, he has something in him, which, like the magnetic needle, eagerly quivers toward the North, and he dreams of the polar star.
After he had made his way to a land where slavery was forbidden, he was yet under the ban. White workmen would not labor by his side; in the steamboat, in the cars, in the place of amusement, not seldom in the house of worship, be saw or heard or felt the words, “No niggers allowed here!”
This was the man who, later, was the friend of Lincoln, and of Grant and of Sumner; who was chosen elector-at-large for the Empire State; who repeatedly sailed upon national ships, sent upon errands of honor by the nation; who ranked among the authors and orators of America; who was a welcome guest in many of the oldest and proudest homes of Great Britain and of Europe; who, but the other day, was borne to his grave amid universal reverence; whose body lay in state in the city of Rochester, where for a score of years he had resided. The story of his youth, of his manhood, of his age, unite in saying to every young man: “Nothing is impossible to him who wills.” “Would you be held in honor? Make yourself worthy of honor!”
And out of this life, there grows a lesson for every one of us.
We shall have conflicts, obstacles, enemies; and the higher our aims, the more generous our purposes, so much the more formidable the adversaries. We have to contend against the saloon, against the gambling-hell, against the spoils system, against the fraudulent vote, against ignorance, against superstition, against oppression, against race prejudice, against the lynching mob. Not seldom the conflict seems difficult, and success is invisible.
We look at his history; we see the changes and the conquests which were compassed by the duration of a single life; we see the system of slavery, which for generations ruled the country absolutely, and which seemed more enduring than Gibraltar, now a dishonored fact in ancient history. We see an army of dark-hued children going daily to their schools.
We see the colored adorning almost every station and every profession, and we realize that despair, that doubt, is a crime, which not humanity, and hardly God, can forgive.
Former Vice President & U.S. Minister to Court of St. James refused Frederick Douglass passport to Paris
“He took passage for England from Quebec on the 12th day of November, 1859, and was everywhere received with the old-time cordiality. As he was fresh from the scenes and events that had stirred the English almost as much as the American people, he was in great demand for more complete information. He had occasion to deliver many addresses and it was everywhere manifest that he had lost none of his former prestige.
The only setback he suffered was when he applied to George M. Dallas, the American Minister to the Court of St. James, for a passport for the purpose of visiting Paris. He was refused on the ground that he was not a citizen of the United States. His visit was cut short by the distressing news of the death of his beloved little daughter, Anna, the delight and life of his home, his absence having covered only five months. He returned to find the public temper toward him mollified by the swift happenings of a season which was marked by incessant change in the currents of popular feeling.”
Frederick Douglass by Booker T. Washington. 1906, p. 193 – 194
This story was told by FD during his life. A relatively moderate level of Douglassoniana obscura.
PRINT ARCHIVE: Colored people of Washington, headed by Frederick Douglass, viewing and paying respect to their radical friend, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner [March 1874]
John Brown wasn’t the only firebrand white man Frederick Douglass ran with. Whereas Brown was an operative, an assassin who operated on the fringes of the struggle for radical abolition, there were also white men in the halls of the United States Congress and Senate who were radicals within the system of the federal government.
It was former President John Quincy Adams’ efforts while serving as a Representative to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia which made the national papers that a young Freddy Bailey picked up while running the streets of Baltimore in the 1830s which provided the context clue of what abolitionists were and what they were working towards abolishing.
Throughout his entire life Douglass was an operative and an organizer. He allied himself with anyone willing and seeking to do right, as he determined what was right.
He broke with William Lloyd Garrison, a radical white man, over their countering interpretations of the Constitution.
Before moving to Washington City in early 1870 Douglass had relationships with many a number of white men serving in the House and Senate and even the federal judiciary, including former Ohio governor and senator Salmon P. Chase. It was Chase, then serving as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court, who hosted Douglass in Washington in March 1865 when Douglass attended Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
Barry Farm Dwellings knows Charles Sumner as Sumner Road cuts through the Farms past Charlie’s Corner Store, the recreation center and towards Firth Sterling Avenue.
Frederick Douglass knew Charles Sumner, too. They were dear and trusted friends. When Sumner died in office in 1874 Douglass led an effort on behalf of colored citizens of Washington City to show out strong at his wake and viewing.
“On Friday, a day rare even for March in its bleakness, the funeral services were held in the Senate chamber at midday. The procession, moving from the senator’s home in the morning, was led by a body of colored people on foot, at the head of whom was Frederick Douglass. The immediate guard in charge from the police of the Capitol was made up in part of that race. The body lay for some hours in the rotunda, where thousands, only a part of those who pressed for admission, took their last view of it. It was then borne to the Senate chamber, where it was awaited by the President and Cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, the diplomatic corps, the high officers of the army and the navy, with General Sherman at their head, and the members of both houses.”
Pierce, Edward L. Memoirs and Letters of Charles Sumner, Volume IV, 1860 – 1874. Roberts Brothers: Boston. p. 602.
Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Frederick Douglass coming to your local PBS station in “The Abolitionists” [Premiers January 8, 2013]
Although, Frederick Douglass was written out of Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln” Douglass cannot be written out of history altogether. Tonight Frederick Douglass will come alive in Part 1 of the American Experience’s “The Abolitionists.” The 3 part series will run throughout January.
WETA’s schedule here.