Posts Tagged Joseph Douglass
POEM BY MR. T. THOMAS FORTUNE.
In introducing T. Thomas Fortune, of New York, editor of The Age, one of the leading papers published in the interest of his race. Mr. Thompson paid a fitting tribute to his abilities and his earnest efforts to secure the erection of the monument.
Mr. Fortune read an original poem, entitled, “Frederick Douglass”
The poem follows:
We cannot measure here the dizzy heights he trod
To whom this glyptic shaft is lifted from the sod,
Towards the matchless azure of sweet Freedom’s skies,
If we forget the depths whence God bade him arise,
Above the slave’s log cabin and a sireless birth,
To be a prince among the children of the earth !
No giant who has placed one foot upon the land
And one upon the sea, with power to them command,
To bid the angry turbulence of each be still,
And have them bend obedient to his master’s will —
Ever started lower in the social scale than he —
This Champion of the Slave, this Spokesman of the Free !
In him the deathless lesson of one common race
Was taught anew — the lesson you who will may trace
From Babel’s fatal tower to fateful Waterloo —
From Eden’s blest abode to slavery’s Tuckaho —
That still “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,”
The world of love and joy, the world of woe and sin.
But such as Douglass was not born to wear a chain —
At the slave’s task to bend and cower and cringe and
To bare his princely back to the rude lash whose welt
Produced no pain that his proud soul must have felt !
As Moses did, he served in bondage for an hour
The better to be armed to crush the master’s power.
It has been ever thus since the old world was young —
The giants of the race from the head of woe have sprung —
Out of the agony and sweat and rayless hope
In which the swarming masses have been doomed to grope.
So lifts its head from rocks and sands the lighthouse brave,
To guide the fearless sailor o’er the treacherous wave.
For who can sing of woe who never felt a pain —
Who never hoped ‘gainst hope to know a joy again?
Who thirst for vengeance on the skulking, coward foe
As he whose sire or mate has fallen ‘neath the blow?
Who feel the venom of the slave’s undying hate
As lie whose lot has been the slave’s degrading fate?
‘Twas a long way to the north star from Tuckaho —
From slavery’s dark shade to freedom’s electric glow —
From out the depths — “O the depths !” — of slavery’s long
To the high altitude of freedom’s fadeless light !
And here he stood in winter’s storm and summer’s sun,
Majestic, brave, till the fierce war was fought and won.
We claim him as our own, the greatest of the race,
In whom the rich sun stamp of Africa you trace,
And we delight to place upon his massive brow
Affection’s crown of reverence, as we do now.
But, in a larger sense, forsooth, did he belong
To all the race, a prophet strong among the strong !
For he was large in stature and in soul and head
True type of New America, whose sons, ’tis said,
The western world shall have as glorious heritage —
That they shall write in history’s fadeless, truthful page
Such deeds as ne’er before have wrought for liberty
And all the arts of peace — the strongest of the free !
And every depth he braved, and every height he trod
From earth’s alluring shrines to the presence of his God;
And he was cheered by children’s confidence and trust,
A tribute never withheld from the true and just;
And woman’s sympathy was his, the divine power
That rules the world in calmest and stormiest hour !
To him all weakness and all suffering appealed;
‘Gainst none such was his brave heart ever steeled.
And pleading womanhood for honest rights denied
No champion had of sturdier worth to brave wrong’s pride —
To claim for her in all the fullest measure true
Of justice God ordained her portion, as her due.
He needs no monument of stone who writes his name
By deeds, in diamond letters, in the Book of Fame —
Who rises from the bosom of the race to be
A champion of the slave, a spokesman of the free —
Who scorns the fetters of a slave’s degrading- birth
And takes his place among the giants of the earth.
This shaft is lifted high in Heaven’s holy air
To keep alive our wavering hope, a message bear
Of inspiration to the living from the dead,
Who dared to follow where the laws of duty led,
They are so few — these heroes of the weak and strong —
That we must honor them in story and in song.
So let this towering, monumental column stand,
While freedom’s sun shall shine upon our glorious land,
A guiding star of hope divine for all our youth,
A living witness to the all-enduring truth —
The living truth that makes men brave to death, and true —
The truth whose champions ever have been few —
The truth that made the life of Douglass all sublime,
And gave it as a theme of hope to every clime !
Mr. Fortune’s poem was followed by an excellent violin solo by Joseph Douglass, of Washington, a grandson of Frederick Douglass. The older members of the audience, who remembered the great freedman’s love for music, and his own proficiency in the use of the violin, recalled many instances and greeted the young player with enthusiasm.
He played a selection from Verdi’s “II Trovatore.”
More information on the radical friendship of Frederick Douglass and T. Thomas Fortune across generations and geography will be shared February 8, 2020 at the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center. See you soon!
Dr. Frederick Douglass: “Sometimes … I lay me dear, old fiddle aside, and listen to the soft, silent, distant music of other days, which, in the hush of my spirit, I still find lingering somewhere in the mysterious depths of my soul.”
“I sometimes (at long intervals) try my old violin; but after all, the music of the past and of imagination is sweeter than any my unpracticed and unskilled bow can produce. So I lay my dear, old fiddle aside, and listen to the soft, silent, distant music of other days, which, in the hush of my spirit, I still find lingering somewhere in the mysterious depths of my soul.”
Holland, Frederic May. Frederick Douglass: The Colored Orator (1895 edition), p. 335.
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.
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.
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.
Happy (belated) 172nd birthday to Lewis Henry Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s eldest & most trusted son, b. Oct. 9, 1840 d. Oct. 9, 1908
Apologies about the lack of recent posts as we’ve been on multiple assignments and deadlines of late. But I wanted to take a moment to wish a Happy (belated) 172nd Birthday to Lewis H. Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s eldest and most trusted son. (Thanks to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site for the b-day reminder!)
Lewis fought for his country. He was a newspaper man. He was a labor man. He was a good uncle. He was also a member of the Legislative Council of the District of Columbia, appointed by President Grant.
Lewis also worked with the Bethel Literary and Historical Society at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church at 1518 M Street NW. He was the only one of Frederick Douglass’s four children who grew to adulthood not to have his own children, as I understand. He lived on 17th Street NW for many years. He worked closely with his father throughout their years together in Washington. He also was born and died on the same day of the same month.
While Lewis Douglass did not reach the heights that Robert Todd Lincoln did, Lewis was much the same in that he was a man on his own. An ambitious young scholar could gather enough material quite easily to write a full book on Lewis and/or Douglass’s children. We hope to see Lewis given his full measure one day.
Joseph Douglass was born in the Anacostia area July 3, 1869 to Charles and Mary Elizabeth Douglass, their second child and only that would live to adulthood. Following in the path of his famous grandfather and father, Joseph took up the violin at a young age, receiving classical training at the New England Conservatory for five years and later the Boston Conservatory. According to a history of black American music, Joseph would become the “first black violinist to make transcontinental tours and was the direct inspiration for several young violinists who later became professionals.” In his role as director of the department of music at Howard University and headmaster at music schools in New York, Joseph helped cultivate the budding talent of those who came behind him. According to his obituary in the Post from December 8, 1935, “His appearances at the White House were regularly scheduled during administrations of Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft, after which he undertook concert work.” If only his grandfather had been there to see it.