This Black History Month article is about Frederick Douglass, the African-American man who now seems to be getting recognized more and more—partly because of DJT’s somewhat puzzling comment to that effect on Feb. 1.
Last Thursday I flew to Washington, D.C., where son Keith picked me up. At my request we went straight from the airport to the Frederick Douglass Historic Site in southeast D.C. It was a wonderful visit of the Cedar Hill residence that Douglass purchased in 1877 and lived in until his death in 1895.
Douglass was able to purchase the splendid house in Anacostia because of his appointment as Federal Marshal of Washington, D.C. Soon after President Hayes’s inauguration in March 1877, he named Douglass to that position, partly in appreciation for his support during the heated presidential campaign of 1876.
Here is a picture I took of his spacious Cedar Hill home:
|Statue of Douglass in Visitors Center|
It is not certain that Douglass was born in February, but his birthday was celebrated at the Historic Site this week on Monday. Most sources now say he was born in 1818, although Charles Chesnutt’s 1899 biography of Douglass gives his birth year as 1817. There were not good historical records kept on slaves—and Douglass’s mother was a slave in Maryland at the time of his birth.
When he was about twenty years old, in 1838 Douglass escaped from slavery, fleeing to New York. That same year he married Anna Murray, who became the mother of his five children and was his wife until her death in 1882.
In 1841 Douglass became widely known as a public speaker, delivering speeches for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Seven years later, he attended the first women’s rights convention and also became an advocate of suffrage for women.
Then in 1858 John Brown stayed in the Douglass home (in Rochester, N.Y.) for a month, but Douglass never condoned Brown’s plan for the Harpers Ferry attack. He did, however, later recruit Black soldiers to fight for the Union. He also served as an adviser to President Lincoln during the Civil War.
(This link to Douglass’s timeline gives much more historical information.)
Douglass died in his Cedar Ridge home on Feb. 20, 1895. Since he had been a lifelong Methodist, his elaborate funeral was held at a large AME Church in D.C.
In the appendix of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), the first of his three autobiographies, Douglass explained what he had written about religion in his book:
What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest, possible difference--so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.