Posts Tagged William Alston-El

Honorable Master Historian William Alston-El remembered on every historic marker of ANACOSTIA HERITAGE TRAIL (photos)

No photo description available.


The late Honorable Master Historian William Alston-El, founder of Old Anacostia Douglassonians, is remembered on every historic / heritage marker throughout the communities of Old Anacostia, Barry Farm and Hillsdale.


William Alston-EL - 10th Anniversary ACM pub

William Alston-El speaking to Washington Informer Denise Rolark Barnes at a community meeting in Anacostia.

William Alston-El being interview by WAMU

William Alston-El by vacant Frederick Douglass Community Center -- Alabama Ave SE

 

,

Leave a comment

Congratulations to “Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia” cited 8 times in 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History

William Alston-El - Frederick Douglass wheat paste on lower MLK

The late Honorable William Alston-El is featured in Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia, cited 8 times by 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner in History. 

——-
For a distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States, Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster)

WINNING WORK


 

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

By David W. Blight

The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. He wrote three versions of his autobiography over the course of his lifetime and published his own newspaper. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, often to large crowds, using his own story to condemn slavery. He broke with Garrison to become a political abolitionist, a Republican, and eventually a Lincoln supporter. By the Civil War and during Reconstruction, Douglass became the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. He denounced the premature end of Reconstruction and the emerging Jim Crow era. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. He sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican Party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

— from the publisher


FINALISTS

Nominated as finalists in History in 2019:

Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition, by W. Fitzhugh Brundage (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, by Victoria Johnson (Liveright/W.W. Norton)

Annette Gordon-Reed* (Chair)

Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History; Professor of History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Tiya Miles

Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor, Harvard University

Marcus Rediker

Distinguished Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh

 

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Lost Comrades of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass

As a front line warrior-pharaoh Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass survived danger zones from his Tuckahoe birth to initiation as a “Point Boy” to his later years as a Washingtonian where his proclivity to walk the city streets was observed by the New York Tribune.

In the committed cause lives were lost. Dr. Douglass, not dissimilar to youngsters being raised within the tempestuous communities of Baltimore, Rochester and Washington City, was exposed to brutality and savagery at an early age, a birthright inheritance of American slavery.

Inter and intra-neighborhood violence and harassment by law enforcement remains an element of life in contemporary Douglassonian communities. Conditions faced by school-aged children in Old Anacostia have troubling similarities to conditions Frederick Bailey negotiated in pursuit of his liberation.

The spirit of Dr. Douglass is a guardian angel with wingspan and reach expansive to shelter and comfort the fallen and lost souls. There are generations, including the late William Alston-El, a legendary indigenous Old Anacostia Douglassonian, who lost classmates, cellmates, friends and family to the streets yet elevated and uplifted his own humanity to serve as an international corner-man ambassador. My friend William is a modern lost comrade of the spirit of Dr. Douglass.

Illustration

Life and Times, 1892. p. 79

Independent research by biographer Dickson Preston confirmed the archival record of the death — and potential open murder case, as recalled in the Narrative — of “Denby” on the Lloyd plantation. Other early incidents of ultra violence in the life of Frederick Douglass and his closest family are recorded in his autobiographies, including his imprisonment in Easton, Maryland for plotting an organized escape.

Coming up as a young lion Dr. Douglass came up within a complex danger zone to achieve his freedom. Alongside Anna, a militant abolitionist, the Douglass household in Rochester was an active Underground Railroad station.

Within the city of Rochester and surrounding towns, villages and counties of Western New York Dr. Douglass was widely known as an active conductor. As the Civil War approached the daily sheets reported fugitives being directed to the newspaper office of Editor Douglass.

Before his execution by the government for a failed attempt to seize a federal weapons arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, abolitionist John Brown, in company with his sons, delivered homicide upon pro-slavery factions in “Bleeding Kansas.”

The presence of Dr. Douglass commanded respect as equally with Methodist preachers as with runaway slave-scholars and radical young journalists, such as Ida Wells, armed with pen and pistol.

In the whirlwind Dr. Douglass lost family, friend and foe.

A statue of Octavius Catto, an educator murdered in Philadelphia in 1871, was installed last year. 

Less than a year before his own flight from Fell’s Point editor Elijah Lovejoy was killed by mob in Illinois. While establishing himself as a local fugitive-slave scholar and abolitionist in Massachusetts and connecting with William Lloyd Garrison riots in Cincinnati broke out. Charles Van Loon, a preacher and abolitionist, was attacked and killed in late 1847 just weeks after sharing the stage with Dr. Douglass.

Weeks after speaking with Abraham Lincoln in Washington City the first American President was assassinated by a deranged actor ready to conspire and murder in the name of white supremacy. On Election Day in October 1871 Douglass’ associate and radical educator Octavius Catto was murdered in Philadelphia. In 1876 John Sella Martin, a young man Douglass looked out for, succumbed to death by his own hand.

While it is the style of historians to fashion an event, institution or person this way or that way, prejudicial to their own perspective, Dr. Douglass is of infinite styles and smarts. Neither preachers, biographers nor newspaper editors can ever fashion Dr. Douglass nor his family.

The smarts of Dr. Douglass can only be understood by Gods who have safeguarded generations of men and women preaching rebellion on street corners as long as there have been street corners to preach on.

Somehow and someway Dr. Douglass survived. The Gods of the Streets know. Biographers do not.

This was supposed to be an introduction to two specific small anecdotes which demonstrate and edify the point that Dr. Douglass survived danger zones but it somehow became its own entry.

To be continued …


 

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Community Memorial Service for William Alston-El, Co-Founder of Old Anacostia Douglassonians (Sat., April 7, 2018; 9 AM to 11 AM – America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, 2315 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE)

Image may contain: 1 person

Washington Post, ‘Metro’ section, April 4, 2018.

William Alston-El was born in the mud and passed on the mountain top as an original Garveyite and Co-Founder of Old Anacostia Douglassonians.

A legendary presence on the streets of Southeast Washington, an internationally known diplomat of corner men and a proud Moorish American, our dear friend will be remembered by family, friends and those whose humanity he uplifted on Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 9 AM to 11 AM at America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, 2315 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Abandoned Frederick Douglass Community Center on Alabama Avenue SE remains despite “New Ward 8”

WIlliam Alston-El stands by the abandoned Frederick Douglass Community Center on Alabama Avenue SE.

WIlliam Alston-El stands by the abandoned Frederick Douglass Community Center on Alabama Avenue SE.

Douglass and Stanton Dwellings may be long gome but this relic of the past remains.

“This is shameful. Even in plain sight, hundreds of cars and people pass here every day, Fred is forgotten. They give out food in the back to people but don’t even have the decency to pick up their boxes. Well, nothing new. Oh, wait, it’s a new day in Ward 8. Haven’t you heard?” – William Alston-El, November 9, 2014

The legacy of John W. Blassingame has been all but forgotten.

, , ,

5 Comments

Was Frederick Douglass a Prince Hall Freemason? No.

What Would Frederick Douglasss SayOne of the many random, and not necessarily helpful, things I was repeatedly told during my research was that Frederick Douglass was/is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. True, Douglass is an honorary member and the only member initiated after death, but Douglass is not really an Alpha brother.

One of the more helpful and interesting questions and/or tips I received during the research was from an older gentlemen in Baltimore, who knew Douglass biographer Dr. Benjamin Quarles, and had spent years trying to confirm if Douglass was, in fact, a Prince Hall Freemason. Douglass could have been a member at a Rochester, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C. lodge. Take your pick.

The gentleman’s main hunch was that in a photo of Douglass’ funeral outside of Metropolitan AME on Feb. 25, 1895 there appear to be black men in white robes. This, among many things, is characteristic of a fraternal organization whether it be the FOP or Prince Hall Masons. The Baltimore gentleman had thoroughly checked Maryland lodge records to see that Prince Hall Freemasons had arrived in Washington at Douglass’ funeral en masse. That’s the sum of what he reported in addition to some unique ways Douglass ran his Cedar Hill home.

Masonic Wall Paper at Cedar HillFirst, at Cedar Hill women slept on the west side of the home while men slept on the east side. This a fraternal practice. Secondly, the wall paper. In the wall paper there are symbols that are fraternal. While taking a tour of the home a couple years back with my friend William Alston-El, a Moorish American, he identified the Star of David and the Star and Crescent.

There’s a new book of essays out, “All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry” which recognizes, or rather recycles (Levine, Robert. “Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass and the Politics of Representative Identity.” UNC Press, 1997.) a known Douglass quote that runs counter to those who believe he was a member of a fraternal organization such as the Prince Hall Freemasons.

In fact, Quarles, reportedly a Prince Hall Freemason, even includes a line in his biography of Douglass that explicitly says Douglass had enough associations and was too involved to lend his time, or need to, to be a member of a fraternal organization.

True scholars of Douglass know how deep his understanding of world and American history truly was. Douglass, a journalist and editor, knew the heartbeat, pulse, and rhythm of his life and times and the men, women, and children of his race. In his writings and lectures he recognized the “occult.” Douglass was a man of all seasons but he was not everything. Many of his friends were freemasons but there is no single piece of evidence that I know of that indicates Douglass was a Prince Hall Freemason.

Please tell me I am wrong. And, please, stop saying Douglass was/is an Alpha unless you clarify he is an “Honorary Alpha.”

(I actually had someone tell me they saw a photo of Douglass marching in Baltimore at the head of an Alpha Phi Alpha procession…. only that Douglass died in 1895 and the Alphas were founded as the first black Greek-letter organization for black college students more than a decade later in December 1906!)

, , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Thank you to Anacostia resident William Alston-El for keeping alive the spirit of Frederick Douglass

If you have been in Anacostia more than once in the past forty years there is a good chance you have come across William Alston-El. Over the past two years I have come to know William, writing about him for stories on Greater Greater Washington. Like Frederick Douglass, he once ran the streets with a reckless abandon. But William has since turned a new corner in his life and takes leadership roles in Anacostia not many others can take. “I show up at all the meetings to speak for those who aren’t there,” he has often told me. When walking the neighborhood William employs tough love as well as encouragement to many of the men and women he has known for decades but are still struggling with substance abuse issues. “If I can change, and make a difference in my community, so can you brother/sister,” he often says. Additionally, William is in touch with the younger generation often imparting advice to them. He can speak their language and has a legitimacy which few others have. William, a painter by trade, advocates the “mechanical arts” much like Douglass did in his later years.

It is through men and women like William that the spirit of Frederick Douglass lives on in today’s Anacostia.

, ,

Leave a comment