Posts Tagged Lion of Anacostia

Congratulations to “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia” cited 8 times in 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History

William Alston-El - Frederick Douglass wheat paste on lower MLK

The late Honorable William Alston-El is featured in Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia, cited 8 times by 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History. 

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For a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States, Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster)

WINNING WORK


 

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

By David W. Blight

The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, often to large crowds, using his own story to condemn slavery. He broke with Garrison to become a political abolitionist, a Republican, and eventually a Lincoln supporter. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. He sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican Party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

— from the publisher


FINALISTS

Nominated as finalists in History in 2019:

Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition, by W. Fitzhugh Brundage (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, by Victoria Johnson (Liveright/W.W. Norton)

Annette Gordon-Reed* (Chair)

Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History; Professor of History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Tiya Miles

Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, Harvard University

Marcus Rediker

Distinguished Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh

 

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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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Frederick Douglass 15-foot wheat paste on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Historic Ancostia

Fred Douglass wheat past on lower Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE

Photo by John Muller & William Alston-El. Copyright strictly enforced online and offline.

Take a trip down MLK / What a beautiful day / What a beautiful day

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Why is Frederick Douglass “The Lion of Anacostia”?

FD Front page of Harper's 1883Throughout his life Frederick Douglass carried many titles such as Honorable Frederick Douglass and Frederick Douglass, Esquire. At a young age he became a licensed local preacher and throughout his life many men felt compelled to address him as Reverend Douglass. He was all of these distinctions in official Washington but in his neighborhood, the city’s first sub-division, Douglass was known as “Old Man Eloquent,” “The Sage of Anacostia,” “The Sage of Cedar Hill” and “The Lion of Anacostia.”

His leonine head of hair appeared in every image and print that ever captured Frederick Douglass, the most photographed man of the 19th century. Over the years his hair and beard turned snowy white. As United States Marshal of the country’s capital city he walked the neighborhood streets from his Victorian mansion at Cedar Hill across the Navy Yard bridge over the Anacostia River and then down Pennsylvania Avenue to his office at City Hall. He continued this practice for many years. “Frederick Douglass, in spite of his age, walks about Washington as briskly as a boy,” observed the New York Tribune in early 1884.

A half-century before, Douglass was a young lion, an adolescent slave roaming the streets of Baltimore, Maryland hunting for scattered newspapers, torn Bible pages, scanning broadsides, and generally searching for anything with reading matter. As a young lion and fugitive slave Douglass rose to become a self-elevated king of antebellum America’s anti-slavery jungle.

Two men tender introductions to Frederick Douglass’s 1845 autobiography. Journalist William Lloyd Garrison leads with a Preface and abolitionist Wendell Phillips follows with a letter.

From Boston in April 1845, Phillips begins, “You remember the old fable of “The Man and the Lion,” where the lion complained that he should not be so misrepresented “when the lions wrote history.”

I am glad the time has come when the “lions write history.”

Douglass was the king of his household, his neighborhood, and the city in which he died on February 20, 1895. He was and remains “The Lion of Anacostia.”

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