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A Note on the Sentiment of the Times: Frederick Douglass and George Washington from the Tuckahoe to Old Anacostia to Mount Vernon
A most profound Washingtonian of the 19th century walking the grounds of Mount Vernon seems redundant until you realize said man, of profoundness, was one Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass.
The Honorable Frederick Douglass, who visited Mount Vernon on several occasions, in a capacity that would satisfy both his public and private interests, is still relatively unknown outside of his promethean efforts as a leader of an international and American Abolitionist Movement.
Whereas you can find volume upon volume chronicling the Founding Fathers of America we have yet to turn our earnest attention to interpret the deeper legacies of our nation’s seminal forebears; Black American Patriots.
In understanding what we inherit from our ancestors subsists a compelling sentiment of what Fredrick Douglass would have gleaned from his durable study and lifelong admiration of the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army as taught him by Black American Patriot Founding Fathers.
As has been said Frederick Douglass is to Black America what President George Washington is to America, ongoing dialogue with our communities supports this continuance of sentiment that Douglass manifested in his life. Those who would deny this sacred sentiment have either yet to explore this history or deem it and its truer implications insignificant.
The paucity of a scholastic understanding and collective wherewithal is not by chance, however; professional historians, government-supported historical organizations and institutions of higher learning across generations and geography have knowingly or unknowingly largely ignored the consequential relationships and interconnectedness of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass (1818 – 1895) to Founding Father George Washington (1732 – 1799).
The connections and associations are near infinite. On the Tuckahoe Frederick (Bailey) Douglass was initiated as a Washingtonian by patriotic Black veterans of the Continental Army who served, distinguishably, alongside General Washington and his officer corps.
Within the community of Old Anacostia, in the hilly terrain of Southeast Washington City, Mr. Douglass would discover himself acquainted with those who had been born at Mount Vernon. He knew intimately the yoke of bondage and in it the degrees of complexity to which the precarious relationship existed between the bonded and the bondsmen. Mr. Douglass would have “[imbibed] the prejudices” of his fellow Washingtonians.
In the District of Columbia these legacies, these grandchildren of Mount Vernon’s manumitted society were taught by members of the Douglass family, who served as night school teachers and principals of DC Public Schools. These young Washingtonians would often find themselves gamboling and playing baseball with their classmates, the Douglass grandchildren, on the grounds of Cedar Hill.
The Washington family remains a respected family within Old Anacostia today due their continued leadership and contributions to the neighborhood and throughout Washington City. The Washington surname is recognized on each and every individual sign of the Old Anacostia Heritage Trail among community members who supported and contributed to the creation of the markers.
For more than 150 years Black Washingtons have been respected leaders within Old Anacostia, Barry Farm, Garfield, Good Hope and adjacent historic Freedmen communities of Washington, D.C.
Across his public career Douglass often invoked the memory of Washington, as did other abolitionists of his era and those that preceded it. Douglass was raised into a tradition of spirited reverence for Black American Patriots whom Washington, Lafayette, and other officers from the prominent Shore families entrusted and accredited with their lives.
In General Washington, Douglass would discover a coadjutor and proponent in his cause, and the cause of his four million enslaved brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers and grandparents; the cause to end the condition of enslavement in America.
A thorough textual-analysis and study of every public speech and interview Frederick Douglass delivered, every private and public correspondence, every anecdote, memory and reference of friends and associates has not yet been realized in publication nor contemplated by the American academy.
Indigenous Douglassonian communities throughout this country need not your study. The history abides. Recorded oral collections within Old Anacostia today align with the historic record of Mr. Douglass and President Washington.
No apologists are to be found within Old Anacostia today for the community’s loyalty to Mr. Douglass. As Mr. Douglass respected and claimed George Washington as one of his own, as does Old Anacostia.
From the family of Coach Wanda Washington to the family of Uncle Akelo Washington, within the presence of the specters of Cedar Hill today live Black American Washingtonians, the genesis of their surname the Washington family of Virginia.
The duality of American Patriotism is that American Patriotism is, and has always been, defined, shaped and determined by the patriotism of Black Americans.
Generations before publication in 1903 of The Souls of Black Folks Douglass manifested this duality, and “double consciousness,” in his fidelity to Washington and an unwavering public recognition of the determinant role of the contributions of Black American patriots at every moment of every battle of the Revolutionary War, citing their prominence in founding this country’s freedom creed as equal to Washington, if not greater in humanity and sentiment.
Therefore Black Americans, free, indentured and enslaved, who inhabited old settlements along the Tuckahoe Creek of Caroline and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore had an obligation to provide counsel on Washingtonian virtues in war and peace to a young Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.
This community of Black American citizen-soldier forgotten patriots of the Revolution told Betsy Bailey’s grandson the virtues of General Washington were his to inherit.
The astute and precocious young child born in enslavement was of the loyalty of Black Americans to Washington and the loyalty of Washington to Black Americans. Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was baptized in the muddy waters as a native son of Revolutionary Black American citizen-soldiers who held the virtues of Washington as their own.
The courage and loyalty of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass to question the founding principles of his native soil throughout his entire public career across a half-century is a Washingtonian virtue.
Taught lessons of life and loyalty to community and family from his earliest recollections, the lifelong work of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass to return his opportunities to others of his race is definitively an African virtue, inscribed and carried in proverb and prophecy.
Black Americans dual patriotism is uniquely a product of the historic intersection of a peoples with millenniums of African civilization, customs, cultures and values forged in battle for American Independence alongside General George Washington that has yet to be fully recognized and reconciled to this day.
As the father figure of America, George Washington was an adopted father figure for Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey from his earliest recollections.
The oral tradition, and historic record, confirm the abiding commitment and contributions Douglass made to Washington City, specifically Freedmen communities east of the Anacostia River, where the Douglass family lived and actively participated in the betterment of civic life for more than a quarter-century.
Addressing local churches, schools, citywide celebrations and speaking with folks on the corners, Frederick (Bailey) Douglass imparted his affinity and admiration for President Washington, and the Black American Revolutionary War Patriots who served their country alongside Washington, to a generation of future physicians, educators, entertainers, journalists, authors, soldiers, dramatists, lawyers, philanthropists, preachers, politicians, diplomats and Civil Rights activists who lived well into the 1950s and 1960s.
As George Washington is a father of America, its founding and is an embodiment of national patriotism as Frederick (Bailey) Douglass is that nameless enslaved child who was reared at the foot of sable soldiers of the Continental Army to ignite reform across the country and Western World for peoples of African descent that continues to inspire Black and White American school children anew today.
The defiantly militant agitation for Black America that was the life’s work of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass was inspired by many known, and many nameless and forgotten patriots.
Throughout his life Douglass would invoke President Washington as an ode to Black American Patriots; a song to those who had sacrificed and bled for freedom, whose blood and bone were interred on the hallowed theaters of war of the American Revolution and did not see their liberation realized.
Even today one could not speak to the legacy of America’s fight for sovereignty from the British without, in the same breath, mentioning both the courage of George Washington and the valor of the nation’s Black Defenders of America; it would be a disservice to the history of both.
As 2020 wanes we feel it our obligation and responsibility to speak on and to the sentiment of our times as Douglassonians and Washingtonians.
Sentimentality will not save us as a country but it may help us save us from ourselves.
In an 1857 speech in New York City, delivered in response to the March ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Dred Scott v Sanford, Frederick Douglass invoked not just the memory of Washington but cited Washington’s redemptive sentiment; the redemptive sentiment on which this forsaken soil was founded.
George Washington can never be claimed as a fanatic, or as the representative of fanatics.
The slaveholders impudently use his name for the base purpose of giving respectability to slavery. Yet, in a letter to Robert Morris, Washington uses this language — language which, at this day, would make him a terror of the slaveholders, and the natural representative of the Republican party.
“There is not a man living, who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see some plan- adopted for the abolition of slavery ; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority ; and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall not be wanting.”
Washington only spoke the sentiment of his times.
Note, article & research registered with United States Copyright Office; Library of Congress.
Authorship: JHM & JLM
Updated: “Women in the World of Frederick Douglass” wins award for Distinguished Scholarship. Dr. Leigh Fought uplifting Douglassonian studies for current and future generations.
In recent days we’ve caught chatter Women in the World of Frederick Douglass by Dr. Leigh Fought, Associate History Professor at Le Moyne College, has been selected for a book award recognizing distinguished scholarship.
In truth, there are less than 100 original works of book matter scholarship on Douglass. Dr. Fought’s book upon publication immediately became a top 20 work, if not a top 10 work.
The permanence and prominence of Dr. Fought’s book in the limited pantheon of Douglass Studies will surely grow in time as it will become a foundational text. True scholars need not worry about the out-sized and distortive role Love Across Color Lines has played for nearly two decades. Dr. Fought is Omar out here and has relegated Diedrich’s “inventive” work to where it belongs.
Henceforth all informed advisers for graduate students and self-professed FD scholars and “experts” must use Dr. Fought’s book and public scholarship as a starting point for the discovery of the variety of networks FD had with not only women reformists, humanists, journalists, suffragists but activists from all walks of life.
Dr. Fought is a Douglassonian in both her scholarship and deportment.
Dr. Fought will be delivering a keynote, “The Women of Cedar Hill,” at the Frederick Douglass Annual Birthday Celebration to be held at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Park at 1411 W Street SE in Old Anacostia, D.C. on Sunday, February 18, 2018. Dr. Fought’s address will be at 3:00 pm.
Without any fanfare or ceremony the co-founders of 16th & W Street Douglassonians awarded Dr. Fought a lifetime passport for the 1-6 and all of Old Anacostia many months ago. It was one of the first actions taken in our informal board meetings.
In January I ran into Harold Holzer doing research within the Manuscripts Reading Room of the Madison Building. During closing time, as researchers gathered their things, I exchanged a few words with the internationally known Lincolnonian scholar.
It was unclear if Holzer knew specifically about Dr. Fought’s book or was simply confused in our conversation, relaying something along the lines that he thought “women’s studies” within the field of FD Studies was the current and/or new trend line.
Accompanied by a Douglassonian friend, we made sure Holzer knew the baseball card statistics and details of Dr. Fought’s book: Oxford University Press. May 2017. Women in the World of Frederick Douglass. ISBN, etc. All that.
I told him to know about the book. The message was received.
I then proceeded to tell Mr. Holzer that David Blight, who he confirmed he knew by referencing his long, long, long talked about biography, was a disgrace to Frederick Douglass, the man and Frederick Douglass, the self-taught scholar.
I told Mr. Holzer I represent street corner historians, 16th & W Street Douglassonians, and among my current work on Frederick Douglass in Paris, I was committed to exposing Blight and the institutions that have supported his mediocrity and non-existent Douglass scholarship over the past decade and a half with full force and no mercy.
Holzer said he similarly didn’t have an advanced degree and could sympathize with my plight as an outsider waging battle as a lone warrior against the safety and protective comfort of the Ivory Towers.
Holzer said facts and research will carry the day at the end of the day. For Omar and Super-Omars of FD studies there’s only a single word we can say to that truth.
Prof. Fought’s status as anything related to 16th & W Street Douglassonians has been immediately revoked as of Thursday, July 30.
Saturday, 26 February 
Went this morning to Mohameden College where twelve thousand pupils
studying the Caron and preparing to teache its doctrines to the benighted sons of men. I saw about two thousand of them in the court and college building reading their morning lesson. They wore the peculiar dress and Turban of the Mahomedan and presented a striking spectacle. If sincerity is any proof of the truth of their creed, they certainly give that proof-but alas! Sincerity is no proof. The most revolting imposture has been defended by equal earnestness and sincerity. The followers of the prophet can pray as loudly and point to as many miracles as the Christian can, they even exceed the Christian in religious attention to ceremony. We also went to see the Mohamden Bible house,- where you may see the Coran in all languages. It is a great sight. Two hundred millions of people are said to receive this Sacred Book, the Coran.
Frederick Douglass Diary (Tour of Europe and Africa) – Library of Congress
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
“I have frequently met Mr. Solberg in Washington and through him I made the acquaintance of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of “That Lass o’ Lowrie’s”, and also of the famous negro orator and diplomat, Frederick Douglass.
With Solberg I had the honor of taking dinner both with Mrs. Burnett and with Fred Douglass; with the latter at his home in Anacostia, where Solberg then lived.”
Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson, pg. 252 – 253
The Colored American began publishing in 1893 under the ownership of Edward Elder Cooper, who had distinguished himself as the founder of the Indianapolis Freeman, the first illustrated African American newspaper. The Colored American operated its presses at 459 C Street in Washington’s northwest quadrant. The weekly publication promoted itself as a national Negro newspaper and it carried lengthy feature stories on the achievements of African Americans across the country. Publisher Cooper relied on contributions from such prominent black journalists such as John E. Bruce and Richard W. Thompson to sustain the national scope of his paper, which readers could obtain for a $2.00 annual subscription.
The Colored American included a regular column called “City Paragraphs” that highlighted events in the nation’s capital and routinely featured articles on religion, politics, education, military affairs, and black fraternal organizations. The paper distinguished itself by its use of original reporting rather than relying on boiler-plate, filler material taken from other publications. Like other papers, however, it included advertising, much of it geared to black consumers.
The paper ran editorials and political cartoons that championed improved social conditions in the black community and expanded rights for African Americans. Although it held a reputation for political independence, the Colored American was actually staunchly Republican. Cooper allied himself and his paper with Booker T. Washington, and the publisher looked to the famous black educator for financial assistance. Another financial backer was lecturer and activist Mary Church Terrell, a noted African American civil rights advocate who wrote a column for the paper titled “The Women’s World,” under the pseudonym Euphemia Kirk.
Unfortunately for the Colored American, Cooper proved to be a poor businessman and, because of some unorthodox business practices and extensive debts to creditors, financial problems plagued the paper. It ceased publication in November 1904. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs; Call Number: LOT 11303
*Special thanks to the world-class staff, reference librarians and research specialists at various divisions of the Library of Congress who supported the creation of this book. Big thanks to Amber Paranick at the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room for her advocacy on behalf of the book and John Y. Cole at the Center for the Book for being a gracious host.*
You can see the full video at C-SPAN’s Video Library HERE!
Saturday, July 20th at 11pm (ET) _ C-SPAN BOOK TV: “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia”
John Muller recounts the final eighteen years of Frederick Douglass’ life spent at his home, Cedar Hill, in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. During this time, Douglass was instrumental in the development of Howard University, participated in local politics, and served as marshal of the District of Columbia. John Muller speaks at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Web Link: http://cs.pn/12pSNMa
Library of Congress Books & Beyond – Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC: The Lion of Anacostia [Thurs., June 20, 12 noon, Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, Madison Building]
I am truly humbled by the opportunity to discuss Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC: The Lion of Anacostia at the Library of Congress’ Mary Pickford Theater (3rd Floor, Madison Building) on Thursday, June 20th at 12 Noon.
While the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s Adult Literary Resource Center (and Washingtoniana Division) will always be from whence I came, the book could not have been written without the Library of Congress.
LOC holds the Frederick Douglass Papers. With the expertise shared by the world-class staffs of the Law Library, Newspapers & Current Periodical Reading Room, Manuscript Reading Room, and online resources such as Chronicling America and the “Ask a Librarian” service, the book became a reality. On June 20th I’m looking forward taking a moment to further thank the staff of LOC for all of their help. I truly cannot thank them enough.
For more information on the upcoming book talk please contact the Center for the Book at 202.707.5221 or http://www.read.gov/cfb.