Posts Tagged Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

Prof. Solomon G. Brown, first African American official of the Smithsonian Institution, friend to Dr. Frederick Douglass and community activist

EMANCIPATION DAY -

Source available upon request.

With recent announcements of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum naming a new director followed by news the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture, Lonnie G. Bunch III, will become the Smithsonian Institution’s 14th Secretary we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Professor Solomon G. Brown, who served the Smithsonian Institution for more than a half-century as its first African American employee.

While an activist resident of the Hillsdale community on Elvans Road, Prof. Brown was friends with Dr. Frederick Douglass of Jefferson Street in the nearby Anacostia community. Brown and Douglass attended (and spoke) at the same literary events, local church groundbreakings and school graduations. Prof. Brown was a member of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. Upon his passing in 1906, Rev. Francis Grimke, who performed the ceremonies for the second marriage of Dr. Douglass, officiated Brown’s funeral.

Image result for solomon g brownAccording to the Smithsonian, Brown served from 1852 to the early 1900s and during his time at the Smithsonian, he held many titles and performed many duties in service to the Institution. Brown served under the first three Smithsonian Secretaries, Joseph HenrySpencer Fullerton Baird, and Samuel P. Langley.

As local inhabitants well know the Salvation Army building at Morris Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE is named after Professor Brown.

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Smithsonian Associates walking tours of Old Anacostia sold out, new tour dates available in March & April via eventbrite

John Muller _ walking tour (3)Thank you to all who have reserved advance tickets for the Smithsonian Associates offering of the neighborhood walking tour. It is currently sold out.

According to their website, please call (202) 633-3030 to be placed on a waiting list for future tours that may become available.

By request and due outstanding demand new dates have been added in March and April. We look forward to seeing you as the weather warms and thank you for your continued support in uplifting the local history and importance of Frederick Douglass as an active and leading member of Old Anacostia.


–*March 17 @ 9:30 AM –*

–*April 13 @ 3:00 PM –*

–*April 28 @ 11:45 AM –*

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Program for FREE Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Community Conference (Sat., Dec. 9th, 9am – 4pm @ DC Prep — 1409 V Street SE]

cover _ Draft _ Program _ FD Community Conf _ 12.9.20187_1p. 2 _ Draft _ Program _ FD Community Conf _ 12.9.20187_1p. 3 _ Program _ FD Community Conf _ 12.9.20187_1

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Have you ever seen this photo of Frederick Douglass seated at a dinner table before?

cropped _ FD seated at a dinner table, looks to be late in his life -- SmithsonianAnaCommunityMuseum

Courtesy of Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

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?

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“Douglass would play baseball with the children” [undated interview with “Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson”]

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Story _ Exhibit Records _ Box 217 [Accessed, 7.25.2014] _ Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum

In researching the upcoming Death and Life of Old Anacostia I have had the chance to review the exhibit records for The Anacostia Story: 1608 – 1930. Last Friday I reviewed Box 217 which is replete with Douglass references. Here’s one particular item that caught my attention which appears to be an early draft of The Anacostia Story.

“One of the few prominent black families recorded as living in Uniontown was the Wilkinsons. Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, the widow of an early black school administrator, recalls her husband describing Frederick Douglass and his estate. ‘My husband’s family lived on the street which the Douglass home fronts (W Street) and Douglass would play baseball with the children. Mr. Wilkinson was a clerk in the Pension Office and very political and he and Mr. Douglass would argue about current events.'”

Questions / Comments:

What is the source of this quote? I could not determine its origins in reviewing the draft. It’s not from a story in the Star or Post.

Garnet C. Wilkinson “presided for nearly 40 years over of Negro Division of the Washington public schools before desegregation,” according to his obituary in the Washington Post on 29 January, 1969. The same article said that Wilkinson moved to Washington from South Carolina when he was 8. If he was born in 1879, this means he moved to Washington by 1886 or 1887. In the 1887 Washington City Directory there is a “Wilkinson” on Nichols Avenue and another “Wilkinson” listed as living in Hillsdale. Could this have been the family of Garnet C. Wilkinson?

If this is, in fact, taken from Mrs. Garnet C. Wilkinson, she died in June 1942 while her husband was still living. Wilkinson remarried. Is this from Wilkinson’s second wife? When was it taken?

In early February 1978, the DC Public Library system opened the Garnet C. Wilkinson Branch inside the elementary school with the same name. Wilkinson had been a member of the Library’s Board of Trustees from 1959 – 1965. At the event, according to the Washington Post, Caroline Wilkinson, the widow of the honored, spoke. This timeline is consistent with what looks to be an oral interview taken from Caroline Wilkinson in the 1970s.

When Douglass died in 1895, Wilkinson couldn’t have been much more than 16 years old. How could he have been a clerk in the Pension Office at such a young age?

Lastly, it appears that Garnet C. Wilkinson helped to make a “pilgrimage” to the Douglass home by students from the city’s division of colored schools an annual event.

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