Posts Tagged washingtonians
Washington Bee publishes pamphlet of DC Emancipation Day speeches of Hon. Dr. Frederick Douglass 
In the twilight of a public career spanning more than a half-century, as one of the last old world abolitionist newspapermen breathing, Dr. Frederick Douglass took it upon himself to mentor a quarrelsome younger generation of correspondents and editors of the colored press that vacillated between admiration and antipathy for the former runaway fugitive slave editor.
Of the most pugnacious and confrontational voices within the leading class of Reconstruction journalists of the “colored press” Douglass embraced was native Washingtonian William Calvin Chase, Esq., publisher of the weekly Washington Bee from 1882 until his death in 1921.
Douglass and Chase had countless public disagreements over national and local politics, including the evolution of rival factions in the 1880s over the annual April celebration of Washington City’s Emancipation Day. Some years two parades would occur.
Not part of the modern mythomania advanced by Douglass scholars is the support Douglass directly and indirectly contributed to veterans organizations, relief associations, orphanages, churches, colleges, night schools and the local press, female press and black press during his more than a quarter-century of public life in Washington City.
Don’t believe the dishonorable and shameful lies of the disgraceful scandalmongering David Blight.
Since William Calvin Chase is not among the living to eviscerate Blight’s Pulitzer I will embrace the mandate as a contributing correspondent of Washington City’s modern black press corps.
The extra necessary seriousness of history today is due the extra necessary seriousness of properly and scholastically recognizing and uplifting the history and story of yesterday.
Get your pamphlets up. Study your lessons.
No mercy nor pardon will be afforded.
FOUR GREAT SPEECHES
HON. FRED. DOUGLASS.
The people of this country who desire to read the four great speeches of Hon. Fred. Douglass in pamphlet form can obtain them by sending 30 cents in postage stamps. The pamphlet will contain the Louisville speech, and the three great speeches delivered in this city April 16th, ’84, April 16th, ’85, April 16th, ’86.
The occasions being the anniversaries of the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia. For 30 cents in postage stamps a pamphlet will be sent to any address in the United States. Or we will send a copy of the BEE for one year and Mr. Douglass speeches for $2.20 ets.
W. CALVIN CHASE,
Editors of the Beee 1109 I st. n.w.
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.
Guest post on DCist: “Though Douglass Statue is Moving to U.S. Capitol, His Legacy on D.C. Suffrage Should Not Be Forgotten”
President Obama’s signing into law House Resolution 6336, giving the Joint Committee on the Library two years to move the bronze statue of Douglass now in the lobby of One Judiciary Square to the United States Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, would not impress the Lion of Anacostia.
During his remarkable life Douglass championed many public and private causes—the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, temperance, classical and technical education for freedmen and their sons and daughters, and Irish Independence, to name a few—but his most enduring advocacy on behalf of D.C. and Washingtonians is all but forgotten.
In the recent burst of press releases and stories about the statue’s move, Douglass’ national legacy has been invoked, but not his local one. Nowhere will you find mention of Douglass’ activism with the Citizens’ District Suffrage Petition Association, a late 19th-century organization whose work remains unfulfilled.
Read the full post on DCist.com HERE.
Frederick Douglass contributed decades of spirit, support, and advocacy for the nascent Howard University, founded in 1867. Nearing its own sesquicentennial, the upstart university is nationally known and permanently holds a reverential place in the consciousness of past, present, future Washingtonians. On its campus today, the university’s political science building is named after Douglass. Below is the 1873 City Directory listing Douglass as one of twenty-one members of Howard University’s Board of Trustees.