Friday, August 5, 2011

Frederick Douglass Hall

In my research yesterday, I came across this letter, dated 4 May 1934:
My dear Friends:
It was pleasant to receive your telegram expressing appreciation of the University’s action in naming its new classroom building after your distinguished grandfather. We are sorry that the notice reached you too late for your attendance. I am happy to report to you that the dedication was well attended, that many eminent persons were present, including six members of the Douglass family. For your full information, I am sending you, herewith, a copy of the University’s news release of the occasion.
With cordial regards and best wishes, I am
Sincerely yours,
Mordecai W. Johnson
What building had been named after Frederick Douglass, might you ask? This one:

The Frederick Douglass Memorial building on Howard University campus, right across the quadrangle from the library in which I was sitting while reading that letter and in front of which I ate lunch (because the Moorland-Spingarn closes for lunch) all week.

Now, I find that I absolutely must locate (wherein "absolutely must" means "it would be cool, but not really necessary except for fun") "L'ouverture Terrace" in Takoma Park. Rosetta Douglass Sprague, Frederick Douglass's daughter, had a home there in the 1890s. Since I have worked in Takoma Park for the past 4 years, finding her home might be rather interesting. If the same house is standing, then I might be able to ascertain the style of living enjoyed by her family at that point in time. Her husband, after all, was supposed to have been a former slave and had to struggle for survival (and respect) in the aftermath of Emancipation and the rise of Jim Crow. That's a story that I'm still trying to tease out.

The "dear Friends" to whom this letter was addressed, Hattie B. Sprague, Fredericka Douglass Perry, and Rosabelle Sprague Jones, were three of Rosetta and Nathan's five children.


  1. Historic Takoma is EXTREMELY interested in tracking down Rosetta's house in Takoma Park - we have land records for two different houses and would like to figure out how to best track it down. Have you uncovered any new leads?

  2. DK, I wish I did, but this is about it. I'd love to know about the records and the houses. That would be fantastic if you could locate it!