Posts Tagged Mount Vernon

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

Uncle Akelo Washington of Old Anacostia looks on as a camera crew from WETA interviews Mr. Ray out front of E’s store with a mural of Frederick Douglass facing 16th Street SE.

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.

George Washington and William Lee, John Trumbull (American, Lebanon, Connecticut 1756–1843 New York), Oil on canvas, American

General George Washington with aide-de-camp Honorable William “Billy” Lee” on horse. John Trumbull, 1780. Metropolitan Museum. Inside the main residence at Wye House a painting of Washington held a prominent place, as Douglass recalled later in life. Charles Wilson Peale painted several members of the Lloyd Family of Maryland, as well as Washington.

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

 

 

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A note on steamboats & 1878 visit of United States Marshal of the District of Columbia Frederick (Bailey) Douglass to Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington

 - Within recent weeks we have begun compiling nearly a decade of research notes and recollected thousands of conversations with community members concerning the lost history of Frederick (Bailey) Douglass of Washington City by way of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and George Washington of Virginia, the founding father of America.

One of the most evident examples of the lifelong sentiment Douglass held for Washington are the half-dozen or so visits he made to Mount Vernon, in both private and a public capacity, while living in Washington City following the Civil War.

While serving as United States Marshal of the District of Columbia in the administration of 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes Frederick Douglass joined an assemblage, on the steamer Mary Washington, to Mount Vernon in June 1878 attached to the annual meeting of the council of vice regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

The MVLA welcomed Governor Frederick Holliday of Virginia and Governor Henry Matthews of West Virginia among other prominent officials, socialites and philanthropists.

A man of modern conveyances, Douglass was a frequent and extensive traveler on steam ships around waterways in and around Washington City, Baltimore, Annapolis, Maryland’s Eastern Shore and tidewater regions of Virginia for the last thirty years of his life. This history has been lost and is unknown today in all existing scholarship on Frederick Douglass.

Traveling up and down, back and forth across the Chesapeake Bay by way of area rivers and tributaries from the Potomac to the Choptank to the Patapsco to the Chester to the Elizabeth to the Wye to the James to the Severn to the Miles, Frederick Douglass was a most conspicuous presence on any ship he boarded.

Although not infrequently the recipient of discrimination on steamships in antebellum America and during voyages across the Atlantic and to the Caribbean, it was widely reported that captains of the Chesapeake steam fleet welcomed Douglass aboard, often inviting him and his company into the captain’s quarters.

According to a section of Tindall’s Standard History of Washington City on local steamboat companies and their specific operations, including the Mount Vernon line:


The steamer W. W. Corcoran commenced making trips to Mount Vernon about 187[8], and continued to do so until re- placed by the Charles Macalester in 1890. She was burned at her dock in September, 1891.

About 1876, and for some years after, the Arrow, a small fast steamer, also took excursions to Mount Vernon.

The Mary Washington, a flat-bottomed steamer, equipped with a centerboard, was operated by E. S. Randall as an excursion boat to White House and Occoquon from about 1873 to 1882.


Further background on the Mary Washington and Mount Vernon’s line of steam boats can be gleaned from the indispensable writings of “The Rambler” in the Washington Star.

In 1920 the Rambler turned his rambling attention to steamers; specifically a series of “Rambles” featuring “Famous Old Passenger Craft of Historic Water Route – Phantom Ships as They Pass in the Night – The Mary Washington.

The Rambler wrote:


Somehow or others, as the talk in the harbor office turned to old boats of the Potomac river, the first one mentioned was the Mary Washington and the first of the river captains mentioned was the Mary‘s first commander, Capt. Gregg.

Although it is perfectly proper to class the Mary Washington with the old Potomac steamboats, she was not so very old even when she passed away. Yet she was a famous boat and nearly every Washingtonian traveled on her. For years she was an excursion carrier to the popular river resorts, and the feature which endears her in the memory of so many Washington men and women is that they danced merrily on her decks. She was a dancing boat. Her decks were broad and smooth and the music furnished by the many bands that served on her was said to be always good

Thousands of people who are following these lines danced on the Mary Washington, which as the years went by came to be affectionately called “the Old Mary.” The Mary was not built to be an excursion steamer. She was built for business, and as the Rambler’s memory serves him, she was built at the instance of the Potomac Fruit Growers’ Association, an organization of Virginians that was quite active in the 70’s.

The Mary was built on Accotink creek, below the village of Accotink, in 1874.

The Rambler finds this paragraph in The Star of Saturday, June 6, 1874: “The new steamboat Martha Washington was launched at Accotink, Va., on Thursday morning and towed up to Alexandria, where she is to receive her engines.”

She seemed to have been named the Martha Washington at her launching, for that name occurs several times in the chronicles, but in a month after she was given to the river she was called the Mary Washington.

About the time of the Philadelphia centennial – that is, in 1876 – the Mary Washington came under the ownership of Capt. L.L. Blake, and by agreement with the Mount Vernon regents the Mary Washington become one of the Mount Vernon steamboats, the other being the Arrow, which was still commanded by Frank Hollingshead.

Col. Joseph C. McKibbin entered into partnership with Capt. Blake and they bought Marshall Hall, and for some time the Mary Washington was the Mount Vernon and Marshall Hall steamboat.


The Mary Washington was the steamer Douglass took to Mount Vernon in 1878 piloted by Captain Levi Lowell Blake.

(Douglass knew many prominent men who had once been affiliated with steamboats, not the least of the likes of Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens and P. B. S. Pinchback.)

The Baltimore Sun reported on the 1878 excursion of Frederick Douglass to the home of George Washington, writing:

A very large number of persons accompanied the invited guests to Mt. Vernon, on board the Mary Washington, Capt. L. L. Blake, to whose untiring courtesy very much of the success attending it is owing,

Among the party was Mr. W. W. Corcoran of the board of visitors, after whom the new boat of the association will be named; the Governors of Virginia and West Virginia, with large delegations from their States of ladies and gentlemen; Mr. Rogers, private secretary to President Hayes; Fred. Douglass, Marshal of the District; Judge Chas. B Ball, of Leesburg, Va.; ex-Lieut. Governor Thomas, president of the board of visitors; Col. B. P. Nolan and ex-Congressman Sweat, of Maine.

The council will adjourn to-morrow.


In 1869 Frederick (Bailey) Douglass took the Arrow to Mount Vernon. Over nearly 30 years Douglass visited Mount Vernon several times.

Courtesy of National Park Service, FDNHS.

Note, article & research registered with United States Copyright Office; Library of Congress.

Authorship: JHM & JLM

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