Posts Tagged Metropolitan AME

VIDEO: Fred Morsell as Frederick Douglass – “The Lesson of the Hour,” Washington, D.C.; 1894


Ed Note: Many years ago we had dinner with Mr. Fred Morsell and Frank Faragasso discussing the lost history of Douglass. We thank Mr. Morsell for his contributions to the field of Douglass Studies and sustained advocacy.

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Evening Walking Tour of the Churches of Frederick Douglass -> (Friday, August 30, 2019 – 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM)

BCC Howard Road SEJoin local reporter and historian John Muller on a special evening walk tour through Old Anacostia and Barry Farm, examining the history of the neighborhood churches Frederick Douglass regularly attended.

While Douglass’ contributions to Metropolitan AME Church in downtown Washington City are well known, from laying cornerstones that remain today to teaching Sunday school Dr. Frederick Douglass was an active supporter of Bethlehem Baptist Church on Howard Road SE and Campbell AME Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in his local community.

Following a special sunset program at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM walk the same path Frederick Douglass planned to walk to Campbell AME the evening he took his last earthly breathe.

TICKETS:  * * FREE ** [suggested donation of $10]


Starting point and end point are NOT the same.

DEPARTURE : Frederick Douglass National Historic Site at 1411 W Street SE

CONCLUSION : Campbell AME Church at Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Sumner Road SE in Barry Farm.*

* The tour concludes up the street from the Anacostia Metro Station.


Wear walking shoes, total travel is 1.5 miles.
Parts of the tour are not accessible for people with mobility issues. Tour is not ADA accessible.

Parking at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site will not be accessible.

Metro: Anacostia (Green Line)

BUS: 92, V2, B2

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Howard University President Jeremiah Rankin on Dr. Frederick Douglass: “How knoweth this man letters?” … “he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford.”

Image result for frederick douglass readingAs a self-educated fugitive slave-scholar Dr. Frederick Douglass, when a young man in his twenties, schooled Anglo-Saxon abolitionists, politicians, philosophers and statesmen of the old world to his world of American slavery. Reciprocally, Dr. Douglass benefited from an invaluable education to the ways of oration, statecraft and moral, political and legal activism.

As previously reported here, cited by Frederic May Holland, people often asked Dr. Douglass where he received his education. To which he replied, “Massachusetts Abolition University. Mr. Garrison, President.”

In this spirit we share an excerpt from the eulogy offered by Rev. Jeremiah Rankin of Howard University at Douglass’ funeral in Washington City.

I do not at all underrate the work done by those magnificent champions of freedom, who took this young man at twenty-five into the charmed coterie of their fearless eloquence; who gave him the baptism of their approval; who laid their hands upon his head, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Philips and their associates.

But they needed him as much as he needed them.

After their cool and eloquent logic, after their studied irony and invective, which, mighty as it was, was wanting in the tremolo of the voice of one that has suffered, of one whose very modulations signified more than their words; when this man arose, as one rises from the dead, as the ghost of one, the crown and scepter of whose manhood has been stolen away, while he goes from land to land proclaiming the wrong and asking for justice, then the climax was reached.

This man made work of such men as Garrison and Phillips and Sumner and even Lincoln possible.

I do not wish to use the language of exaggeration. It is not fitting the occasion. It is not in keeping with the dignified manner and methods of the man whom we commemorate, or the providential movement of which he was so long a part.

But I believe the birth of Frederick Douglass into slavery was the beginning of the end; and that this was just as needful to his anti-slavery associates as to himself.

God planted a germ there, which was to burst the cruel system apart.

It was though He said, “Go to, now, ye wise men of the Great Republic, ye Websters and Clays, I will put this Samson of freedom in your temple of Dagon, and his tawny arms shall yet tumble its columns about the ears of the worshipers. I will put the ark of my covenant in the soul of this man, and the time shall come when your idol-god shall lie toppled over upon his nose in his presence.”

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Frederick Douglass in his library at Cedar Hill. LOC/NPS-FDNHS.

I think Frederick Douglass is to be congratulated on the kind of tuition that came to him; no, that God had provided for him, through these anti-slavery associates.

They were regarded as the offscouring of the earth, and yet many of them received their culture in the choicest New England schools, and they sprang from the noblest New England stock.

And when he went abroad, it was his privilege to hear such men as Cobden and Bright and Disraeli and O’Connell and Lord John Russell and Lord Broughman.

These men Mr. Douglass studied, admired and analyzed.

His more elaborate address, too, show the influence of the first and greatest of New England orators – Daniel Webster.

But even beyond the great American orator, whose model orations in all our schools-books was Mr. Douglass in the quality of fervor and fire.

Ah! that was a day when the runaway slave heard the great statesman at Bunker Hill. And he told me that he owed a great debt to the poems of Whittier.

To converse with Mr. Douglass, to hear him in public, one who knew his humble origin and limited opportunities, might well ask, “How knoweth this man letters?”

But, in the art of which he himself had such mastery, he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford, while not one the great men mentioned had such a theme as his.

How carefully he improved his intercourse with such men, his observations of them, one has to only read his life to discover.

Howard University, I believe, gave this man the degree of doctor laws, and there were some laws that no man knew better how to doctor than he.

But there was not an official of the University who could reach high enough to put a wreath on his brow. It had to be done from above, by the winged genius of the University.

SOURCE:

“Frederick Douglass’ Character and Career.” address by Jeremiah Rankin, President of Howard University at Metropolitan AME Church, 25 February, 1895.

Published in a variety of journals and magazines, including Our Day: The Altruistic Review, Volume XIV. January – June. (1895). p. 172 – 173

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Huffington Post DC: Notes on Frederick Douglass’ Long Journey to the U.S. Capitol

Before the Frederick Douglass statue at One Judiciary Square moves to the US Capitol he takes time to read a new book about his life and times in Anacostia. Photo_ John MullerOn February 23, 1895, three days after Frederick Douglass died in his Anacostia home and two days before his funeral was held at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, just blocks from the White House, Richard F. Pettigrew from South Dakota rose on the Senate Floor to offer a resolution for immediate consideration.

“If it is to be passed at all it must be passed now,” Pettigrew said.

The resolution read, “Whereas in the person of the late Frederick Douglass death has borne away one of our most illustrious fellow-citizens, who served his country long, faithfully, and honorably as citizen, diplomat and statesmen: Therefore, Be it resolved, That out of respect to his memory his remains be permitted to lie in state in the rotunda of the National Capitol between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on to-morrow.”

Arthur Poe Gorman, a senator from Douglass’ native Maryland, was not interested. “Let the resolution go over,” he said.

Read the entire article HERE!

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Was Frederick Douglass a Prince Hall Freemason? No.

What Would Frederick Douglasss SayOne of the many random, and not necessarily helpful, things I was repeatedly told during my research was that Frederick Douglass was/is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. True, Douglass is an honorary member and the only member initiated after death, but Douglass is not really an Alpha brother.

One of the more helpful and interesting questions and/or tips I received during the research was from an older gentlemen in Baltimore, who knew Douglass biographer Dr. Benjamin Quarles, and had spent years trying to confirm if Douglass was, in fact, a Prince Hall Freemason. Douglass could have been a member at a Rochester, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C. lodge. Take your pick.

The gentleman’s main hunch was that in a photo of Douglass’ funeral outside of Metropolitan AME on Feb. 25, 1895 there appear to be black men in white robes. This, among many things, is characteristic of a fraternal organization whether it be the FOP or Prince Hall Masons. The Baltimore gentleman had thoroughly checked Maryland lodge records to see that Prince Hall Freemasons had arrived in Washington at Douglass’ funeral en masse. That’s the sum of what he reported in addition to some unique ways Douglass ran his Cedar Hill home.

Masonic Wall Paper at Cedar HillFirst, at Cedar Hill women slept on the west side of the home while men slept on the east side. This a fraternal practice. Secondly, the wall paper. In the wall paper there are symbols that are fraternal. While taking a tour of the home a couple years back with my friend William Alston-El, a Moorish American, he identified the Star of David and the Star and Crescent.

There’s a new book of essays out, “All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry” which recognizes, or rather recycles (Levine, Robert. “Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass and the Politics of Representative Identity.” UNC Press, 1997.) a known Douglass quote that runs counter to those who believe he was a member of a fraternal organization such as the Prince Hall Freemasons.

In fact, Quarles, reportedly a Prince Hall Freemason, even includes a line in his biography of Douglass that explicitly says Douglass had enough associations and was too involved to lend his time, or need to, to be a member of a fraternal organization.

True scholars of Douglass know how deep his understanding of world and American history truly was. Douglass, a journalist and editor, knew the heartbeat, pulse, and rhythm of his life and times and the men, women, and children of his race. In his writings and lectures he recognized the “occult.” Douglass was a man of all seasons but he was not everything. Many of his friends were freemasons but there is no single piece of evidence that I know of that indicates Douglass was a Prince Hall Freemason.

Please tell me I am wrong. And, please, stop saying Douglass was/is an Alpha unless you clarify he is an “Honorary Alpha.”

(I actually had someone tell me they saw a photo of Douglass marching in Baltimore at the head of an Alpha Phi Alpha procession…. only that Douglass died in 1895 and the Alphas were founded as the first black Greek-letter organization for black college students more than a decade later in December 1906!)

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“Lincoln” ignores historic self-agency of black Washingtonians

Spoiler Alert: In the pursuit of pre-ordained film awards and potential box office receipts, famed director Steven Spielberg and screen writer Tony Kushner have minimized and distorted, intentional or not, the historic self-agency of black Washingtonians in “Lincoln,” according to a recent New York Times Op-Ed.

Kate Masur, associate professor of history at Northwestern University, writes that for decades “historians have been demonstrating that slaves were crucial agents in their emancipation.”

The voices of radical Republicans, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner and Ohio Senator Benjamin F. Wade, were in Lincoln’s ear advocating for the rights of black folks, as well as black folks themselves such as Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne and Frederick Douglass.

In fact, Spielberg, who’s been working on this project for many years, originally wanted to concentrate on the relationship between Douglass and Lincoln, which was dramatized at Ford’s Theatre last year.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Kushner came aboard ‘Lincoln’ after a few other screenwriters had tried and failed to deliver a script to Spielberg’s liking — one early take focused on Lincoln’s friendship with Frederick Douglass.”

But the script was flipped. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a confirmed plagiarist, and her 2006 book “Team of Rivals” (which has now been re-released as a “Film Tie-In Edition”) became the guiding historic source. Douglass, says Masur who saw a screening in Chicago, is now “nowhere to be seen or heard.”

What the movie is left with, is by all accounts, a captivating performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and strong supporting roles by Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Sally Fields as Mary Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Lincoln, Hal Halbrook as Francis Preston Blair (the founder of Silver Spring), and others.

Leaders of Washington’s black community and intimates of the Lincoln White House, Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade are portrayed but, as Masur notes, come across as though they’re fresh from “central casting.”

The film tells an incomplete story, Masur contends.

“The nation’s capital was transformed by the migration of fugitive slaves from the South during the war, but you’d never know it from this film. By 1865 — Mr. Spielberg’s film takes place from January to April — these fugitives had transformed Washington’s streets, markets and neighborhoods. Had the filmmakers cared to portray African-Americans as meaningful actors in the drama of emancipation, they might have shown Lincoln interacting with black passers-by in the District of Columbia.

Black oral tradition held that Lincoln visited at least one of the capital’s government-run “contraband camps,” where many of the fugitives lived, and was moved by the singing and prayer he witnessed there. One of the president’s assistants, William O. Stoddard, remembered Lincoln stopping to shake hands with a black woman he encountered on the street near the White House.

In fact, the capital was also home to an organized and highly politicized community of free African-Americans, in which the White House servants Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade were leaders. Keckley, who published a memoir in 1868, organized other black women to raise money and donations of clothing and food for the fugitives who’d sought refuge in Washington. Slade was a leader in the Social, Civil and Statistical Association, a black organization that tried to advance arguments for freedom and civil rights by collecting data on black economic and social successes.”

In Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C. I briefly touch on what Masur recognizes; when Washington swelled with “contrabands,” it was the black churches and their parishioners that took the lead in forming “Relief Associations.”

According to records of the Christian Recorder from November 1862 the Union Bethel Church (later Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church) announced, “Brethren and Sisters: We appeal to you for aid in behalf of our poor, destitute, and suffering people from the South, who have come amongst us destitute of all the comforts of life, and in the most abject poverty and want, from the hoary-headed old man and woman, to the infant at the breast.”

Washington’s black community, largely free persons of color, did not sit idle waiting for the omnipotent benevolence of President Lincoln; the paternalistic spirit of which is captured in the Emancipation Statue at Lincoln Park in Northeast.

There’s plenty of good scholarship on how Washington’s black community organized to advocate and prepare for emancipation. Unfortunately, Spielberg, Kushner, Goodwin, and others who ushered “Lincoln” to the box office seem to have been oblivious.

 

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Happy (belated) 172nd birthday to Lewis Henry Douglass, Frederick Douglass’s eldest & most trusted son, b. Oct. 9, 1840 d. Oct. 9, 1908

L-R_Charles Douglass, Joseph Douglas, Lewis Douglass. Courtesy LOC

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.

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“Nearer, my God, to the Thee” sung at Frederick Douglass’ funeral at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church [Feb. 24, 1895]

“Though like a wanderer, daylight all gone / Darkness be over me, my rest a stone / Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God to thee / Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to thee!” Choir at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1518 M Street NW, funeral of Frederick Douglass, February 24, 1895.

* This song was reportedly one of Douglass’ favorites. It is still sung as part of Sunday services at Metropolitan AME. *

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Frederick Douglass’ days as a preacher “among the happiest days of my life”

Metropolitan AME Church, 1518 M Street NW

HON. FREDERICK DOUGLASS

My connection with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church began in 1838. This was soon after my escape from slavery and my arrival in New Bedford. Before leaving Maryland I was a member of the Methodist Church in Dallas Street, Baltimore, and should have joined a branch of that Church in New Bedford, Mass., had I not discovered the spirit of prejudice and the unholy connection of that Church with slavery. Hence I joined a little branch of Zion, of which Rev. William Serrington was the minister. I found him a man of deep piety, and of high intelligence. His character attracted me, and I received from him much excellent advice and brotherly sympathy. When he was removed to another station Bishop Rush sent us a very different man, in the person of Rev. Peter Ross, a man of high character, but of very little education. After him came Rev. Thomas James. I was deeply interested not only in these ministers, but also in Revs. Jehill Beman, Dempsy Kennedy, John P. Thompson, and Leven Smith, all of whom visited and preached in the little schoolhouse on Second Street, New Bedford, while I resided there. My acquaintance with Bishop Rush was also formed while I was in New Bedford.

It is impossible for me to tell how far my connection with these devoted men influenced my career. As early as 1839 I obtained a license from the Quarterly Conference as a local preacher, and often occupied the pulpit by request of the preacher in charge. No doubt that the exercise of my gifts in this vocation, and my association with the excellent men to whom I have referred, helped to prepare me for the wider sphere of usefulness which I have since occupied. It was from this Zion church that I went forth to the work of delivering my brethren from bondage, and this new vocation, which separated me from New Bedford and finally so enlarged my views of duty, separated me also from the calling of a local preacher. My connection with the little church continued long after I was in the antislavery field. I look back to the days I spent in little Zion, New Bedford, in the several capacities of sexton, steward, class leader, clerk, and local preacher, as among the happiest days of my life.

SOURCE:

One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; or, The Centennial of African Methodism, by James Walker Hood, 1895 (Documenting the American South, UNC Chapel Hill)

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Frederick Douglass pew at Metropolitan African Methodist Church, 1518 M Street NW

Around the corner from the White House is the Metropolitan African Methodist Church at 1518 M Street NW. Inside the historic church certain pews denote famous black Americans. No stranger to Metropolitan AME, it’s only fit and proper that on the inner aisle of the pews on the right side (looking towards the altar) there is a small unassuming plaque with simply, “FREDERICK DOUGLASS.”

Douglass was a regular lecturer at Metropolitan. His funeral services were held at Metropolitan.

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