Posts Tagged William Lloyd Garrison

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 …


 

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Howard University President Jeremiah Rankin on Dr. Frederick Douglass: “How knoweth this man letters?” … “he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford.”

Image result for frederick douglass readingAs a self-educated fugitive slave-scholar Dr. Frederick Douglass, when a young man in his twenties, schooled Anglo-Saxon abolitionists, politicians, philosophers and statesmen of the old world to his world of American slavery. Reciprocally, Dr. Douglass benefited from an invaluable education to the ways of oration, statecraft and moral, political and legal activism.

As previously reported here, cited by Frederic May Holland, people often asked Dr. Douglass where he received his education. To which he replied, “Massachusetts Abolition University. Mr. Garrison, President.”

In this spirit we share an excerpt from the eulogy offered by Rev. Jeremiah Rankin of Howard University at Douglass’ funeral in Washington City.

I do not at all underrate the work done by those magnificent champions of freedom, who took this young man at twenty-five into the charmed coterie of their fearless eloquence; who gave him the baptism of their approval; who laid their hands upon his head, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Philips and their associates.

But they needed him as much as he needed them.

After their cool and eloquent logic, after their studied irony and invective, which, mighty as it was, was wanting in the tremolo of the voice of one that has suffered, of one whose very modulations signified more than their words; when this man arose, as one rises from the dead, as the ghost of one, the crown and scepter of whose manhood has been stolen away, while he goes from land to land proclaiming the wrong and asking for justice, then the climax was reached.

This man made work of such men as Garrison and Phillips and Sumner and even Lincoln possible.

I do not wish to use the language of exaggeration. It is not fitting the occasion. It is not in keeping with the dignified manner and methods of the man whom we commemorate, or the providential movement of which he was so long a part.

But I believe the birth of Frederick Douglass into slavery was the beginning of the end; and that this was just as needful to his anti-slavery associates as to himself.

God planted a germ there, which was to burst the cruel system apart.

It was though He said, “Go to, now, ye wise men of the Great Republic, ye Websters and Clays, I will put this Samson of freedom in your temple of Dagon, and his tawny arms shall yet tumble its columns about the ears of the worshipers. I will put the ark of my covenant in the soul of this man, and the time shall come when your idol-god shall lie toppled over upon his nose in his presence.”

Image result for frederick douglass reading

Frederick Douglass in his library at Cedar Hill. LOC/NPS-FDNHS.

I think Frederick Douglass is to be congratulated on the kind of tuition that came to him; no, that God had provided for him, through these anti-slavery associates.

They were regarded as the offscouring of the earth, and yet many of them received their culture in the choicest New England schools, and they sprang from the noblest New England stock.

And when he went abroad, it was his privilege to hear such men as Cobden and Bright and Disraeli and O’Connell and Lord John Russell and Lord Broughman.

These men Mr. Douglass studied, admired and analyzed.

His more elaborate address, too, show the influence of the first and greatest of New England orators – Daniel Webster.

But even beyond the great American orator, whose model orations in all our schools-books was Mr. Douglass in the quality of fervor and fire.

Ah! that was a day when the runaway slave heard the great statesman at Bunker Hill. And he told me that he owed a great debt to the poems of Whittier.

To converse with Mr. Douglass, to hear him in public, one who knew his humble origin and limited opportunities, might well ask, “How knoweth this man letters?”

But, in the art of which he himself had such mastery, he had the best teachers and examples the Anglo-Saxon schools could afford, while not one the great men mentioned had such a theme as his.

How carefully he improved his intercourse with such men, his observations of them, one has to only read his life to discover.

Howard University, I believe, gave this man the degree of doctor laws, and there were some laws that no man knew better how to doctor than he.

But there was not an official of the University who could reach high enough to put a wreath on his brow. It had to be done from above, by the winged genius of the University.

SOURCE:

“Frederick Douglass’ Character and Career.” address by Jeremiah Rankin, President of Howard University at Metropolitan AME Church, 25 February, 1895.

Published in a variety of journals and magazines, including Our Day: The Altruistic Review, Volume XIV. January – June. (1895). p. 172 – 173

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Frederick Douglass comes to your local PBS station tonight in Part 1 of “The Abolitionists” [January 8, 2013]

Although, Frederick Douglass was written out of Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln” Douglass cannot be written out of history altogether. Tonight the American Experience premiers “The Abolitionists, Part 1 (1820 – 1838).”  The 3 part series will air throughout January. Douglass makes his appearance in Part 2 (1838 – 1854).

WETA’s schedule here.

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Frederick Douglass coming to your local PBS station in “The Abolitionists” [Premiers January 8, 2013]

Although, Frederick Douglass was written out of Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln” Douglass cannot be written out of history altogether.  Tonight Frederick Douglass will come alive in Part 1 of the American Experience’s “The Abolitionists.” The 3 part series will run throughout January.

WETA’s schedule here.

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Obit for J. Sella Martin, editor of “The New Era” [NY Times, August 17, 1876]

Frederick Douglass saw them come and he saw them go. A good friend of mine, Anthony Moore, who inspired this book said, “Everyone died, but ol’ Freddy-Fred stuck around.” Indeed.

In the 1870s  Douglass saw, among others, Charles Remond, Salmon P. ChaseCharles Sumner, Henry Wilson, William Lloyd Garrison to the grave. Another man that Douglass outlived was John Sella Martin, one of the main antagonists who courted Douglass to back the start-up of a negro newspaper in Washington, DC in the years following the Civil War.

Born enslaved, Martin was learned as he came to be a valet de chambre, or personal assistant, to his owner. Like Douglass, he got ghost and fled to the North where he became affiliated with the Church.

Martin’s name appears on the inaugural masthead of The New Era (January 13. 1870), but by the fall his name’s no longer affiliated with the paper. Less than six year years later, Martin, more than a decade younger than Douglass, was dead.

News of his death was carried in the New York Times.

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