Friday, June 5, 2015

"Miss Rosa Douglass"

In the "Gleanings of News" column of Frederick Douglass' Paper, 13 January 1854:

    Miss Rosa Douglass has been holden in 
$500 at Norfolk, for assisting her mother, 
who has absconded, to teach negroes to read 
and write.
This is not Rosetta Douglass, Frederick daughter, however, but another woman with a similar name. Because Rosetta was working at the paper at that time, perhaps she saw this item in another paper and both she and her father thought it amusing and, perhaps, ironic. Her own mother, Anna, had "absconded" back in 1838 to marry Frederick Bailey (aka Johnson, aka Douglass), and Frederick had taught slaves, including himself, to read and write. Anna could not read, but perhaps Rosetta tried to help her learn at some point. Rosetta, after all, was the one who said her mother could read "a little," but she was also the one tied to both parents as her mother's amanuensis.

As for Norfolk, ten years after this notice, a future Douglass taught hundreds of former slaves to read and write. At the time, she was Helen Pitts, working for the American Missionary Association among the freedpeople at the epicenter of emancipation.

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