Posts Tagged Old Anacostia
Tarence Bailey, Grahams Alley Douglassonian of Easton, Maryland, connects with W Street Douglassonians of Old Anacostia
On Sunday, March 18, 2018 in the year of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Mr. Tarence Bailey (US Army, Ret.), whose grandfather (5x) Perry Bailey was the older brother of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass and who passed in 1880 on Cedar Hill, walked the streets of Old Anacostia to connect with local inhabitants and indigenous Douglassonians.
It is not any man, or woman, person or group who can hold the time and attention of young men on the corners by chopping up the math and science of American and African history.
Mr. Bailey shared some of his experiences growing up in Easton in the 1980s and early 1990s when the area was faced with similar challenges that face Anacostia, as well as a tour he took of the Wye Plantation where ancestors of his Tribe are buried in an unmarked mass slave grave that has been maintained for longer than this country has existed. History is not something in a history book or biography to Mr. Bailey.
No firm plans were yet made to unite the two villages but it is known among tribal leaders of Old Ana the Eastern Shore mutually respects and welcomes W Street Douglassonians for a visit across the Bay to the native soil that birthed the Sage of Anacostia and America’s Pharaoh, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.
Mr. Bailey shared some of the differences and similarities of Old Easton and Old Anacostia. His authority and ability to speak on history was respected and openly received. The history of the Bailey Tribe is the history of this country. The history of Mr. (Bailey) Douglass on Jefferson Street is the history of Old Ana. The history of Old Ana is the history of DC. The history of DC is the history of this country.
Young men at 16th & U and some of the older-younger guys at 16th & V spoke with Mr. Bailey and expressed mutual respect and admiration for the unique and sacred Douglassonian legacy the two communities have a shared responsibility to uphold and protect.
For the purposes of local lore and the year of the Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass’ Birth it was a historic and important day for the neighborhood of Old Anacostia to host Mr. Bailey.
Frederick Douglass as profiled by Jane Marsh Parker [Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.]
“A marked characteristic of Frederick Douglass is his love for music. When but a little fellow he would go up to “the great house” to hear the violin play for the dancers. The fiddler, he says, did not play common airs, but the best music, and while he listened the little yellow boy under the window forgot everything else. Love of music drew him to the Methodist meetings, for the singing was music to him, and he joined in with a will. It was at these meetings he began to speak in public, and discovered how well he could talk and the pleasure in being praised for the same. When a Sunday school exhibition by the free negroes was in prospect he found a chance for exercising his budding oratory. He bought a “speaker” with the “tips” his master had given him for blacking boots, and selected a piece with a plenty of big words – a college oration was wherein expounded what man can by imagination. The words were Greek to him, but he particularly liked rolling out: “He can soar aloft where stars glitter on the mantle of light and a more effulgent sun lights up the blushes or morning.”
Talking with Frederick Douglass one is sometimes inclined to think that, interesting as his autobiography is, it does not contain many of the most interesting experiences of his life, those he once thought, perhaps, insignificant to the public. On his wife’s piano at Cedar Hill you may see the very same music book that he slipped into his bundle when he skipped out of Maryland. It is worth something to see him standing with his violin singing with Mrs. Douglass those old “Seraph” hymns. If you had breakfast with him on a Sunday morning he will pass you with his own hand the Maryland biscuit, and is it not worth knowing that are just like the biscuits “Miss Lucretia” used to give him when half starved he sang under her dining room window? “I used to wish I could have my fill of them, and now I mean to have, you see?”
There was living in Washington a year of so ago an old colored man, who was a fellow slave with “Fred,” as he still calls him. His wife was the daughter of the old fiddler of “the great house.” Hearing them talk together – the recorder of the District of Columbia, and the tender of a furnace in the Capitol – laughing merrily over reminiscences of the plantation, was a unique experience.
“No, I don’t remember anything special that Fred used to do in them days,” said the old man in reply to probing inquiry, “only he jes wouldn’t be put upon and wanted to boss everything.”
Full story available HERE:
Salt Lake Evening Democrat, April 23, 1887, p. 4.
* This story was re-printed in papers throughout the country. *
Jane Marsh Parker was friends with the Douglasses for decades and contributed articles to leading magazines of the late 19th century and early 20th century. She wrote novels as well as histories, including an 1884 book about the history of Rochester, New York which features Frederick Douglass.
As the weather in Washington warms join local historian and author John Muller for a walking tour of Old Anacostia to explore the history of the city’s first suburb and the late 19th century stomping grounds of Frederick Douglass.
We will meet at the visitor’s center of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (1411 W Street SE) and then ascend to the summit of Cedar Hill, the estate where Douglass spent the last 18 years of his life, and take in panoramic views of the capital city skyline. You will learn stories of Douglass’s professional and personal undertakings there, including his controversial second marriage, his service as United States Marshal, and his mentorship of a younger generation of activists. We will then descend into Historic Anacostia and explore the history, the homes, churches and sights that still remain, bringing forgotten historical characters to life such as Lingarn B. Anderson who followed up on reports of John Wilkes Booth’s presence in Uniontown, Henry A. Griswold who with a group of investors that included Douglass brought the streetcar to Anacostia, and other prominent men and women of 19th century Uniontown.
Everyone will be provided a copy of an 1887 map of the neighborhood and I will share historic photos to provide perspective and a frame of reference.
Tours are $25. Dates are June 8th 11am – 12:30pm & June 22nd 11am – 12:30pm. To reserve a place visit SideTour at http://www.sidetour.com/experiences/discover-the-fascinating-life-of-frederick-douglass-in-dc.
Look forward to seeing you soon!
Here’s what others are saying…
“John Muller served as an excellent and knowledgeable guide for our inquisitive group. Muller gave us a very thoroughly research approach to our tour with 19th century and early 20th century photographs depicting Anacostia or “Uniontown”, as it once was called.” – Nancy Olds, photographer & journalist at the Civil War News
“John is an incredibly knowledgeable leader, just bursting with fabulous information. He guided the tour well and made sure everyone was able to hear.” – Dr. Jack Lowe
“But he’s also clearly an expert on Anacostia, as well; as a reporter with years of experience covering the area, he knows Anacostia inside and out. As he walked us through the area, he was greeted by name by a dozen residents, who obviously knew and liked him. That kind of familiarity with the neighborhood cannot be overvalued, and it made the tour a fascinating mix of Anacostia’s past and its present. I couldn’t recommend his tour more highly!” – Kenlyn McGrew
Throughout 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.”
SideTour of old Anacostia as seen and known by Frederick Douglass; January 19, 2013 & February 2, 2013
This Saturday, January 19, 2013, I will be conducting my first SideTour of old Anacostia as seen and known by Frederick Douglass. There are only four spots left! The next tour will be Saturday, February 2, 2013.
We will meet at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (1411 W Street SE) and then ascend to the summit of Cedar Hill, the estate where Douglass spent the last 18 years of his life, and take in its majestic views of the capital. I will share stories of Douglass’s professional and personal undertakings there, including his controversial second marriage, his service as United States Marshal, and his mentorship of a younger generation of activists. We will then descend into Anacostia and explore the history of the homes and sights that still remain, bringing forgotten historical characters to life such as Lingarn B. Anderson and Henry A. Griswold.
Helen Pitts Douglass was no simpleton; she could handle a lunatic who knocked on her door with ease [Wash Post, Jan. 27, 1889]
Historic memory has been rather unfair to the wives of Frederick Douglass. Simply told, Douglass’ first wife couldn’t read and his second wife was “second-rate.” These attitudes still exist to this day, just ask the Park Rangers at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (FDNHS) who field questions from the general public seven days a week. The forthcoming work of Dr. Leigh Fought should help to eviscerate these fallacies which have held the minds of both the general public and insular academics for decades.
One of the more interesting items I discovered going through thousands of newspaper stories was this one from January 1889 which ran in the Washington Post. The text speaks for itself and I have been told by staff at the FDNHS that this story has helped calm the nerves of some visitors who rush to uninformed judgments about Douglass’ second wife, Helen Pitts.
“At 9 o’clock yesterday morning John Anderson, a colored man living on the Flats in Hillsdale, and who has been acting in a peculiar manner for several days, became violently insane and rushing from his house ran down Nichols avenue, yelling, gesticulating and scattering pedestrians right and left. Turning up Jefferson street, he ran to the house of Fred Douglas and rang the bell. Pushing his way past the frightened servant girl, he confronted Mrs. Douglass and at once proposed to offer prayer. Mrs. Douglass, who was alone, took in the situation, and tried to quiet John, but suddenly he rushed into the dining-room and entered a closet. Mrs. Douglass quickly shut the door and locked it keeping the lunatic a prisoner until Officer W. T. Anderson came and took him in custody. John is a carpenter by trade, and has been subject to temporary attacks of insanity for some time, but was always considered harmless. He was sent to the police surgeon’s for examination and will probably be committed to the asylum.”
Evening Star calls Frederick Douglass Anacostia’s “one historic character among her citizens” [December 5, 1891]
“Anacostia can at least boast of one historic character among her citizens – a man whose name and fame are probably world-wide. Frederick Douglass, the foremost man of his race in the country, lives in the old Van Hook house, built by one of the founders of the town, on Cedar Heights, between Pierce and Jefferson streets. The house, which is quite attractive, stands on a beautiful knoll, from which one of the finest views of the city of Washington found within the District is presented.”