Posts Tagged photographs
Frederick Douglass was in love with photography. From his earliest known photograph in 1841 until his passing in 1895, he sat for his portrait whenever he could and became the most photographed American of the nineteenth century; more photographed than President Abraham Lincoln. In this first major exhibition of Douglass photographs, we offer a visually stunning re-introduction to America’s first black celebrity — immediately recognizable in his own lifetime by millions.
Scholars John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd are the co-curators of the exhibit [Picturing Frederick Douglass] (http://maah.org/exhibits.htm), based upon their acclaimed book about the famed abolitionist’s photographs. They join Dr. Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, to discuss the impact of the wide distribution of images of Douglass.
At an address delivered in February at the Maryland Historical Society Prof. David Blight pontificated, speculated and invented misleading facts about Frederick Douglass.
Long on flowery and speculative prose while short on original research, Prof. Blight said during the latter years of Douglass’ life he was a “patriarch” who financially and emotionally supported a large family.
While his interpretation is his to advance, it is not his place to make up alternative and error-laden history and invent facts that are not facts. (His former student Prof. Stauffer has the same proclivity to lie.)
During his uninspiring talk Blight offered, “Douglass’ extended family was not a happy family. There is no family photograph.”
Although there may be no KNOWN photos taking during Douglass / Bailey family reunions to survive today or yet to be discovered by researchers, to declare definitively the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence is misleading and inaccurate.
By a short count there are at least four photos (some parts of series) of Frederick Douglass with a family member and there are two photos of his immediate sons sitting with each other and/or their wife.
David Blight has shown himself to distort, speculate and lie about his own research as well as the work of committed Douglass researchers. Blight’s claim there is “no family photograph” is just one of his many lies.
- In 1872 the Douglasses Rochester home was lost to a fire. Could there have been family photos that were lost? It is possible and worth mentioning.
- There are a series of photos of Douglass and his grandson, Joseph Douglass, a renowned violinist whose classical education was largely supported by his grandfather.
- There is a photo of Douglass seated with his second wife, Helen, and his sister-in-law Eva Pitts, an educator. There is also a photo of Helen and Frederick on their honeymoon with a backdrop of Niagara Falls.
- There is a photo of an older Lewis and Charles with Joseph Douglass. (Fred, Jr. passed in 1892.)
- There is at least one photo of Frederick Douglass and members of his family outside the first Washington home on A Street NE.
- A recently discovered photo is believed to be Frederick Douglass with his youngest daughter, Annie, before her untimely death in 1860.
- A photo of Lewis Douglass, the eldest Douglass son, and his wife Helen Amelia Loguen Douglass.
Frederick Douglass looks dead at the camera for photo of the Republican Notification Committee, Washington, D.C., Monday, June 20th, 1892 [NMAAHC]
A black-and-white photograph of men seated and standing in front of a doorway. They wear coats, many wear ties, and several hold bowler and top-hats. At the bottom right of the photograph is the address, “11th and Pa. Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C.”
Below the photograph is written “Republican Notification Committee / Washington, D.C., / Monday, June 20th 1892.” Frederick Douglass stands at the back, just left of the doorway.
A close-up of the visage of Douglass, the look of a man with serious life lived.
While many in the photo seem to have their attentions focused elsewhere or have their eyes slightly askew, Douglass is looking directly at the camera, dead eye.
In recent years a team of meticulous researchers have determined Frederick Douglass was the most “photographed” person (American) of the 19th century. More than 160 known images exist in public and private collections on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean from daguerreotypes to carte-de-vistas either as the cynosure or with company, such as his grandson Joseph Douglass.
Last week I took a tour of the Douglass-related holdings at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Items included copies of Douglass’ autobiographies, Douglass’ Monthly and a couple of photographs, including this image of an aged Douglass seated at a dinner table.
Have you ever seen this photo before? Where was this photo taken? Who is Douglass with? (Helen Pitts Douglass seems to be 3rd seated from the right.)
According to Jennifer Morris, archivist at the museum, this was donated many, many years ago without gathering complete information about his provenance. Speculative chatter has been this is Douglass in Europe. Douglass traveled throughout Europe and North Africa from the fall of 1886 until mid-1887. However, as NPS Ranger Nate Johnson pointed out that is unlikely due to Douglass’ appearance which is more closely consistent with photos taken in the last years of life.
Was this photo captured in Cedar Hill? There are contours of the room that appear both similar and dissimilar. What do you think? Anyone out there have any information on this image?