Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Widow Douglass at the National League of Colored Women

Helen Douglass, Frederick's second wife, attempted to carry on the work of her husband. In 1896, she attended the National League of Colored Women's convention in Washington, D.C. The Indianapolis Freeman, a black newspaper, described the meeting as attended by "some of the brainiest women of the race."

They reported this about Douglass:
Mrs. Helen Douglass, widow of the late Frederick Douglass, read a paper. She called particular attention to the [illegible] life of the cities of the Union, and urged that they should unite and bring about a reform in this matter. If the colored women of Washington would unite, she said, they could put an end to living in alleys, and no longer would come from them a steady stream for the workhouse and almshouse.
She spoke of the police court. They ought to find means to keep as many as possible from the place. But there seemed to be a prejudice, and the policeman would pick up a poor old man who sad down weary for a moment in some forbidden place in a park or some thoughtless boy who might pick a magnolia blossom. They would be sent to prison from court the next day. When leniency was to be exercised it was reserved for those who had recklessly taken human life. This was greeted with applause.

Later, Helen invited all of the women up to Cedar Hill on a pilgrimage to view the home of Frederick Douglass. She already had a plan to turn the house into a memorial museum, and these ladies were the key people to court in that regard.

If you've been to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Park in Anacostia, D.C., you have seen that she succeeded.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Not Quite So Underground Railroad, 1850s

When he wrote his Narrative in 1845, Douglass said:
I have never approved of the very public manner in which some of our western friends have conducted what they call the underground railroad, but which, I think, by their open declarations, has been made most emphatically the upperground railroad.
After all, publicity sort of defeated the purpose. But the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and his own growing militancy must have changed his mind.

From Frederick Douglass' Paper, 3 August 1855:

 The U.G.R.R. -- Syracuse Station -- the agent and keeper of the Underground Railroad Depot in this city, Rev. Mr. Loguen, is now busily engaged in providing places for the company of eight fugitives that arrived here on Friday night. He is determined to seek his assistance under like circumstances. We trust that the true lovers of liberty will stand by Loguen in his endeavors in behalf of his poor oppressed brethren who escape from bondage. Those in want of laboring men or women, will do well to call on Loguen, or leave their names with Mr. Wm. E. Abbot. -- Syracuse Journal.
From Frederick Douglass' Paper, 23 July 1858:

To the friends of Humanity:    The entire care of the fugitives who may stop at Syracuse, for comfort and assistance, having been devolved upon me by the Fugitive Aid Society, I hereby give notice that I shall devote myself assiduously to the duties I have undertaken to discharge. I must depend for the support of my family and of the operations I am to conduct, upon the liberality of the friends of freedom, I shall gratefully receive money, clothes and provisions. I will make a faithful use of the same; and will report semi-annually (in Frederick Douglass' Paper, and the Syracuse Standard and Journal) the amounts that I have received and of the numbers of Fugitives that I have sheltered and found homes for. Meanwhile, and at all times, my accounts will be open for the inspection of the friends of the cause.
J.W. Loguen
Syracuse, N.Y. 1858.

The members of the Syracuse Fugitive Aid Society find it no longer convenient nor necessary, to keep up their organization. The labor of sheltering those who flee from Tyranny, providing for their immediate wants, and helping them to find safe homes in this country or Canada, must needs devolve, as it always has devolved, upon a very few individuals. --- Hitherto, since 1850, it has been done for the most part by Rev. J.W. Loguen. He having been a slave and a fugitive himself, knows best how to provide for that class of sufferers, and to guard against imposition.
Mr. Loguen has agreed to devote himself wholly to this humane work; and to depend for the support of himself and family, as well as the maintainance of this Depot on the Under Ground Railroad, upon what the benevolent and friendly may give him.
We, therefore, hereby request, that all fugitives from Slavery,  coming this way, may be directed to the care of Rev. J.W. Loguen; also, that all monies contributed or subscribed may be paid directly to him; and that all clothing or provisions contributed may be sent to his house, or such places as he may designate.
Mr. Loguen will make semi-annual reports of his receipts of money, clothes or provisions; and of the numbers of fugitives taken care of and provided for by him; and he will submit his accounts at any time, to the inspection of any persons who are interested in the success of the Underground Railroad.
Syracuse, Sept. 17, 1857.
Those two notices appeared in Frederick Douglass's Paper through the late 1850s until he stopped publishing the weekly in 1860 (he continued publishing Douglass' Monthly until 1863). Loguen's reports of the fugitives whom he had helped also appeared in the paper.

When I first moved north from Texas, it seemed that every town and every house built before 1950 claimed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad (and, because I lived in Indiana, everywhere seemed to claim some significance in Abraham Lincoln's childhood -- sort of a mid-west version of "George Washington slept here"). Usually the claim rested the presence of a small closet or cellar room. Even in Mystic, Connecticut, someone who really should have known better said of a historic house, "there is a small cupboard in the dining room. We don't know what it was used for, we don't have any documentation, but we think it might have been a hiding place for runaway slaves."

If you do look at the documentation, however, you will find such things as these notices. Like Douglass said, it was a bit of an "upperground railroad." Not everyone was quite so bold as Loguen -- he was kinda badass in giving the finger to the Fugitive Slave Law. Perhaps the League of Gileadites in Springfield, Massachusetts, surpassed him, but they are a story unto themselves. In any case, there are records. William Still recorded the people who showed up at the Philadelphia Antislavery Society's office, and published them later as The Underground Railroad:

The Coffins in Indiana actually did help runaways, and he kept a journal of the people who passed through. The Rochester Ladies' Antislavery Society and Sewing Circle also have a record of the people whom Douglass helped on their way to Canada, and the Census suggests that one or two young men stayed on to apprentice at his papers.

If anyone is interested in digital history, perhaps a database of these freedom-seekers might be an interesting project, not just in the gathering, but also in making an attempt to quantify this sort of resistance and in seeing what other information might emerge.

By the way, remember that this is the site of Loguen's "depot" today:

Remember also that Douglass's son, Lewis, married Loguen's daughter, Amelia. Another Loguen daughter, Sarah "Aunt Tinnie," a doctor, visited Douglass and his second wife in Haiti and there she met the man who became her husband. She's also another story for another time. Douglass had a "sister" (fictive kin) who, after living with the Douglass family for nearly four years, married, moved to Springfield, and joined that League of Gileadites. But, she, too, is another story for another time.

Friday, July 17, 2015

State Convention of the Colored People of North Carolina, 1865

In Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Society of Historians of the Early Republic (SHEAR) are holding their annual meeting this week.:

If you go one block north, here is what you will find:
That is an AME Church, although it is an early 20th century upgrade from the one that stood there in 1865.

You can read a report of the convention's proceedings at the Colored Conventions website.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who Are The People By the Bay Window?

Let's take a closer look at the picture of the bay window -- and the house attached to it.:

That appears to be Douglass there, just to the right of center, wearing the top hat. I'm guessing that is Anna there on the far right and Rosetta on the far left. I'm basing that guess on the shape of Rosetta's head as it appears here and in another picture of her from the 1860s, presuming that she still wore her hair in a similar fashion. Anna was a little more stout than her daughter, and that appears to be the case between these two women. Anna was supposed to have had darker skin, but you can never tell from photographs because of the light, exposure, deterioration of the object, and other factors that alter coloring. (I wish some of those sorts who do all of that textual reading of historic photographs could figure that out, but I digress.) 
The taller woman standing against the front door frame could be Louisa Sprague. The assorted little girls would probably be Annie, Harriet, and Estelle Sprague. If this picture was taken while Rosetta lived with her parents from 1876 to about 1878, Then Annie was between 11 and 13. Harriet was 10 to 12, and Estelle was 6 to 8. They had a sister, Alice, between Harriet and Estelle, but she had died in 1875. They also had a little sister, Fredericka, and a little brother, Herbert, ages 4 to 6 and 1 to 3 respectively. If this was taken in 1877, then the other man was the dishonored Nathan, fresh from jail in New York. 

This configuration of the household was not uncommon. There was a reason Douglass kept adding onto the house. In fact, take a look at the architecture. His granddaughter, Fredericka, later described the house as "really two connecting houses. Communicating doors were cut through the halls both up and down stairs, thus enabling the family to have desired ample space." According to her, subsequent owners blocked up the connecting doorways and the one house became two.When he moved to Cedar Hill, which was bigger than this house, he enlarged it, as well. 

The front parlor lay beyond the bay window. Fredericka said that Douglass, despite having another room dedicated to his study, sometimes annexed this room, as well. You can read Fredericka's full account of her grandfather in her reminiscences located in the Frederick Douglass Collection in the Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University. They are quite charming.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"The Bay Window is Now Finished"

I love finding little pieces in different documents that fit together like a puzzle, even if they are inconsequential.

In her memoir of her mother, Rosetta told a story about Anna Douglass's "grim humor":
On one occasion several young women called upon her and commenting on her spacious parlors and the approaching holiday season, thought it a favorable opportunity to suggest the keeping of an open house. Mother replied: “I have been keeping open house for several weeks. I have it closed now and I expect to keep it closed.” The young woman thinking mother’s understanding was at fault, endeavored to explain. They were assured, however, that they were fully understood. Father, who was present, laughingly pointed to the new bay window, which had been completed only a few days previous to their call.[i]

I had always assumed that took place in Rochester, perhaps because my research was stuck in Rochester or because Cedar Hill really doesn’t have a bay window that might fit the description, at least not on a floor where Anna might receive company.

Then I came across this letter from Louisa Sprague, who had temporarily taken the Douglass last name, writing to Frederick, who was passing through Rochester on his way back from a tour through the West. The “West” in those days meant St. Louis, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Michigan. She updated Frederick on the household:
My dear father, 
We are very sorry to here that sister Rose is so sick. Mother got a letter from Brother Nathan yesterday saying that she was very sick but he did not say what was the matter. Mother was very unease untell I got your letter to day. We were glad to here that you have left Omaha for Mother was very unease a bout you as well. the Bay Window is now finish. We have been visiting the Capitle and the house this week.  the weather has been very coal here. Mother and Miss pieran sends love to you. We had little Fred a one night with us. your daughter      
 Lou Douglass[ii] 

Charles Douglass, now living in Washington, D.C., too, looked in on the ladies and reported:
 On Sunday morning last I took mother, Miss Peirce, and Louisa to the Presbyterian Church in the large carriage. It was a beautiful day, and to day seems like spring. Ladies are out with parasols. The bay window has been completed, and is now ready for use.[iii]

Lou, incidentally, liked the carriage, especially when she could drive (but that's another story). 

The Douglasses lived neither in Rochester nor on Cedar Hill in 1873. They had just moved to A Street, NE, that June, after their house in Rochester had burned down. Louisa joined them in October (that is also another story).

This house was located just behind the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress -- near the Folger Shakespeare Library, which would have pleased Frederick.  When Louisa says that they went to visit, they only had to walk a block or two. Frederick was in the thick of things there, and so was Anna. She had never courted the limelight or the type of upper class socializing that required holding an open house. She had things to do.

I like that Frederick was amused by her way of expression. He was a man who appreciated words and, with his love of Shakespeare, appreciated a good pun. They may have had divergent differences over the decades, but if she could make a play on words, there was something about her that he appreciated beyond her housekeeping skills.

Here is the house with the bay window back then:

Here is the house with the bay window in 2009:

[i] Rosetta Douglass Sprague, “My Mother As I Recall Her,” 1900, Family Papers, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.
[ii] “LouDouglass” [Louisa Sprague] to FD, Washington, D.C., 31 Jan 1873, Frederick Douglass Paper, Library of Congress.
[iii] Charles Douglass to FrederickDouglass, Washington, D.C., 16 Jan 1873, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.

Image credits: 
Historic photo of house: Frederick Douglass in Front of his A St NE Home, Frederick Douglass, Family and Groups, Photo Gallery, National Parks Service.
2009 photo of house: Me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Woman's Rights Convention," North Star, 14 July 1848

From the  North Star, 14 July 1848:

Woman's Rights Convention.
A Convention to Discuss the Social, Civil and Religious Conditions and Rights of Woman, will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel at Seneca Falls, New York, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July instant.
During the first day, the meetings will be exclusively for women, which all are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be resent on the second day, when Lucrectia Mott, of Philadelphia, and others, both ladies and gentlemen, will address the Convention.
Also on that day, Douglass wrote to Elizabeth McClintock, one of the organizers of the convention:
Dear Elizabeth,
To be sure I will do myself the pleasure of accepting your kind invitation, to attend the proposed woman's convention at Seneca falls. I think that one or two or more of the Post family will be present also. Your notice did not reach me in time for this paper -- but happily I received one from our mutual Friend Lucretia Mott.
With Dear love to the family I am most sincerely, Yours
Frederick Douglass 
If you are in the Seneca Falls vicinity next weekend, you may be interested in attending their Convention Days Celebration, where they will be displaying the original of Douglass's letter to McClintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton will give a tour of her home, and Elizabeth Smith Miller will speak on dress reform (she wore the Bloomer costume before Bloomer did), among many other interesting programs.

Sadly, I shall be schmoozing  attending to business at a conference in Raleigh, NC, this year, but I've gone in the past and they put on a top notch show with many a woman's rights history nerds -- always a fantastic experience!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Graham Crackers

Speaking of Douglass family foods, Frederick himself liked Graham crackers.

In 1874, he wrote to his disreputable son-in-law, Nathan Sprague, who was working hard to stay in the Douglass family's good graces:

My dear Nathan:I know your heart is full of trouble and care and I feel for you. But you are a brave man and while you will do all that a true man can, you will bear up under whatever other trouble which may be added to your present trials and griefs. My own health is not good – but I hope soon to grow better. I shall be very glad when the Graham Crackers come. They usually serve me a very good purpose. I have written to Louisa more about our house affairs and she will tell you. While Rosa is down, I will write all the more to Louisa –Your father in Law
Fredk Douglass[i]

My dear Nathan:
                I am obliged by your letter and also by a box of my favorite crackers. Matters are proceeding here about as usual. The boys are struggling manfully to keep their paper afloat. They had no notion of letting the paper fail, but I fear they will have to. If they do not, and make a success they will be entitled to a large measure of praise. I have got myself in a hard place in this Freedman’s Bank and shall consider myself fortunate if I get out of it as easily as I got into it. I was wanted to bolster up the credit of the concern and to get through some legislation in its favor. When this is done as I hope it will be soon, I may separate myself from it, and go on with my literary work which I should have never abandoned.
                Love to Dear Rosetta, and the children.
                Truly yours,
                Fredk. Douglass[ii]

These Graham crackers were not at all like the sort made by Nabisco that you can buy today. They were a heftier, grittier cracker made with coarse graham flour and less sugarSylvester Graham invented them as part of his special diet. His followers ate them to control certain, carnal urges that might lead to self-abuse, but they probably found that the crackers increased the urge to clean out their colons. Which was not necessarily a bad thing in an age of overly boiled vegetables and high fat meat.

Incidentally, "the boys" were Douglass's sons, whose newspaper, The New National Era, closed operation that October. Douglass had been editor of the paper for a while, but had too much else to do and was losing money at too fast a rate to stay part of the business. The newspaper competition was stiff, and more so for black papers, so this was not some failure of character or laziness on the part of the sons, as many of their father's biographers would have it. The same for Douglass's involvement in the Freedman's Bank, especially in the economically risky years of the 1870s. 

[i] Frederick Douglass to Nathan Sprague, [n.d.], [n.p.], Addition I, FDP, DCL

[ii] FD to Nathan Sprague, Washington, D.C., 30 May 1874 [typescript]

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Maryland Biscuits

Maryland Biscuits
Julia Griffiths, now an English dowager of sorts, step-mother to three girls, sent her greetings to Anna Douglass and fondly recalled the American woman's "Maryland biscuits."

That seemed a strange designation until I realized that Julia, being English, would likely not have encountered the American version of a "biscuit," ours being closer to an English scone and we referring to English version of biscuits as "cookies." (Mmmmmm.....cookie!) So, I imagined a scene in which Anna served biscuits to Julia, who asked what they were. Anna said, "biscuits," to which Julia said something like "these aren't like biscuits in England," and Anna replied, "well, these are Maryland biscuits."

Then, I came across a letter from Louisa Sprague, who lived with the Douglasses from 1871 until Anna died and Frederick remarried. She, too, was from Maryland, although not the same part as Anna. Anna came from the Eastern Shore and Louisa was probably from Prince Georges County. Louisa wrote to Frederick: "this is Sunday morning and I thought instead of making marlland Biskits I would try send you a line." [i]

"Marland Biskits": Maryland biscuits.  Louisa would have no need to designate these as particular, unless there were, in fact a particular kind of biscuit. So, using Prof. Google (shhh...don't tell!) I found that they were, in fact a type of biscuit made by beating the dough to make it rise. (Why would beating make it rise? Science.) The recipe is specific to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Anna probably learned how to make them from her mother.

I also like to think that beating the dough was her form of therapy, not just when Frederick and the kids bothered her, but when she had to think of the things they went through. I also like to think that, if Julia remembered them, they must have been tasty.

[i] Louisa Sprague to FD, Washington, D.C., 15 July 1883, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Musical Douglasses: Rosetta

Frederick Douglass's piano
 In 1861, Daniel Alexander Payne visited the Douglass home on South Street:
My Eastern labors took me in the month of August to the city of Rochester, N. Y., which was then the home of Frederick Douglass. His taste in the elegant and beautiful of nature had kept pace with his advancement in science. The balsam fir, the Norway spruce, the Canadian pine, and the cedar encircled his residence, while the sweet notes of the piano resounded within under the skillful touch of his daughter. It was on one of these musical occasions that I saw the father exhibited in him as I before had seen the orator and the man. She had performed several pieces on the instrument, and closed with the variations upon "Annie Laurie," when he sprung from his chair and seizing her hand in one of his, threw his arms around her and, pressing her to his bosom, exclaimed: "Rosa, my dear daughter, you have moved your father's heart!" [i]
Rosetta was the only daughter left at home. Her little sister Annie had died the year before.  Her brother Charles had lived with family friends, the Piersons, outside of Lockport since John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry nearly two years earlier. Her other two brothers had less work, now that their father had scaled back production on his papers, ending publication of his weekly paper to focus on his monthly paper and to campaign for emancipation and black military service. She and he had planned to visit Haiti in April, but had cancelled the trip when the war began only days before their departure.The next year saw her in Phildadelphia in search of a teaching position, which she found in Salem, New Jersey. She returned to Rochester when Charles and Lewis joined the Massachusetts 54th regiment. Nathan Sprague entered her life, and they married at the end of 1864. While she was pregnant with their first child, Annie, he also joined the army. They eventually had seven children, six girls.

Nathan, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was his own self (seriously, the man could not get out of his own way) had difficulty providing for his growing family, and they relied heavily on the support of the Douglasses for two decades. In the estimation of Frederick and the Douglass sons, Nathan had failed as a man, and the sons complained about him bitterly. Frederick vacillated between cursing Nathan for his shortcomings and praising him when he tried to do well. Rosetta, however, had to bear the brunt of their problems at home.

In 1876, after Frederick and Anna had moved to Capitol Hill -- just before they moved to Cedar Hill -- Nathan was arrested for stealing letters from the post office, where he had secured a position through Frederick’s patronage. He spent a year in jail. While he was there, Rosetta decided to move in with her parents. Hearing that she was leaving town, the creditors came calling. In despair, she wrote to her father:
The past two weeks have been full of events and I am having a singular time and I wonder can it be me. My breaking up has caused such a flutter among Nathan’s creditors and I am being sued on every side.
She listed all of the things that the creditors demanded and took, but one item she would not let go:
Rosetta Douglass Sprague
....The piano she [Mrs. Rodenbeck, who came to collect her due] cannot hold at any rate. It is a poor rule that does not work both ways. I cannot dispose of the furniture to pay N’s debts as it is considered his personal property, it is mine as much his for housekeeping purposes and I can remove it but cannot dispose of it but my piano is my personal property and it can be seized to settle debts contracted by Nathan. Dist. Attorney Raines assures me it cannot be kept and tomorrow morning is the time set for deciding if I can be made responsible for N’s debts if I cannot be so responsible the other parties that have sued me will have to withdraw their suits.[ii]

For these reasons, woman’s rights activists had agitated for married women’s property protections. They
had success in New York in 1848 and 1860, but the latter had been rolled back in 1862. Rosetta, more than Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Abby Kelley, or any of the famed activists, taught Douglass about the necessity for protecting women’s property within matrimony.

The piano was more than property, too. The ability to play a piano marked a young woman as accomplished and a lady. This was especially important for young African American women of the middle class, like Rosetta. She was a daddy’s girl, for sure, and this piano connected her to her father, the violinist.

This was a low moment in her life. Her huband was in jail, and his debts called in. Her parents lived in a faraway city. She had buried her third child, Alice, a year earlier. Her fourth child, Estelle, was staying with Frederick and Anna. Her youngest -- the sixth -- was only a year old and her oldest was six. She should at least have the comfort of her piano!

[i] From Daniel Alexander Payne, Recollectionsof Seventy Years (Nashville, 1888), 143.

[ii] RDS to FD, Rochester, 17 Sept 1876, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.

Images: Virtual Museum Exhibit, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Anacostia, D.C..

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Black and Abroad under the Dred Scott Decision, 1860

[This was axed from a chapter. I liked the incident, and if this were a more traditional biography, it would have stayed. In a book about Douglass and women, and in a chapter about Rosetta Douglass, it was more of a tangent, although it does involve a woman.]

Sarah Parker Remond
At a January 1860 meeting in Wakefield, Douglass crossed paths with Sarah Remond and Caroline Putnam, sisters of his former travelling companion, Charles Lenox Remond. They appeared on the same program, one of the few times that Douglass was able to share the stage with a black woman. Douglass suspected that “it must have been embarrassing to Miss Sarah,” he and her brother having been at odds for some time, but “she did not rebel.” Instead, Remond spoke “with her accustomed calmness,” and he noted that “the audience was much pleased with the two blacks from America.”[i]

Douglass and Remond both discovered that, for all the welcome in England, their disfranchised status in America followed them.  Both planned to visit France, “a long-cherished desire,” Douglass confessed. He applied for a passport and she for a visa. “True to the decision of the United States Supreme court, and true, perhaps, the petty meanness of his own nature,” Douglass reported, the American Minister George Dallas rejected their applications on the grounds that he did not have the authority to grant them permission to travel because, thanks to the 1857 Dred Scot decision, neither had American citizenship. Remond and her sister Putnam took their passports to Dallas’s office. “I informed him I was a citizen of Salem, Massachusetts,” Remond wrote, “and Massachusetts acknowledged my citizenship.” Dallas continued to refuse her a visa, and threatened to throw her out of his office if she persisted in demanding one. She did, pointing out that free blacks like herself “have been subjected all their lives to the taxation and other burdens imposed upon American citizens” simply because of their skin color, only to have their rights ignored by “the Ministers of their country, whose salaries they contribute to pay.”  Douglass did not press the issue with Dallas, refusing to “beg or remonstrate.”  Instead, he turned to the French minister who granted permission while she turned to the British government. Remond remained abroad for the rest of her life, but tragedy drew Douglass home.[ii]

[i] Amy Post to FD, Rochester, 13 Feb 1860, IAPFP, NRU; FDP, 17 Feb 1830.

[ii] FD, L&T, 252-53; “Sara Parker Remond and the Passport Issue,” Black Abolitionist Papers, ed. C. Peter Ripley (Chapel Hill, 1985), I: 469-73; Dorothy B. Porter, “Sara Parker Remond, Abolitionist and Physician,” Journal of Negro History, 20, 3 (July 1935): 287-93. Ottilie Assing allegedly planned to join Douglass in Paris. Douglass himself never referred to such an eventuality, and the evidence is inferred from letters that Rahel de Castro, Assing’s friend, wrote to Ludmilla Assing reporting on her correspondence with Ottilie. If, however, Remond and her sister also traveled in Paris at the same time, Douglass would not be so unwise as to engage in the sort of clandestine, interracial rendezvous as described by Maria Diedrich. He may have planned to visit with Remond or, much more likely, Crofts, who had rejected a visit to France in 1855 to promote Douglass in England. Assing, however, probably did intend to coordinate a trip to Europe with Douglass’s plans, and her reaction to his cancellation of his trip focuses on her own disappointment rather than its tragic reasons.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Not that Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

Most people do know -- or should know -- about Douglass's "What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July" speech, given at the invitation of the Rochester Ladies' Antislavery Society to their 5 July 1852 meeting.  If 1852 was bad, two years into life with the Fugitive Slave Act, March 1857 brought the Dred Scot decision, which said that African Americans were "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." 

This editorial appeared in Frederick Douglass' Paper that year, on 10 July 1857:

Judging from the little interest which the return of our national Anniversary excites now-a-days and contrasting it with the magnificent eclat with which it was wont to be celebrated in days gone by, we are somewhat inclined to the opinion that "Freedom's natal day," has well night worn out its welcome. so far as this section of the country is concerned the day fell upon people like a wet, musty, tattered blanket. There was not even the usual number of drunken fights in this locality. this, however may be reasonably attributed to the liquorary action of our last Legislature, rather than to any serious decline in the article of Patriotism. The cities of New York and Detroit have amply compensated for any defection of this kind.
Our New York correspondent [James McCune Smith] thinks that we, the colored people, ought to celebrate this day. Many things can be said in favor, and many things against this opinion. We don't know but that as our white fellow citizens are losing their respect and veneration for the sublime lesson which the day inculcates; as the country appears to be rushing to destruction, with greedy haste, forgetting the illustrious example of our fathers; it were well something could be done to preserve the memory of the eventful day. We would, however so far as we are concerned, feel rather awkward in marching in a procession celebrating the Jubilee, the Anniversary of our country's freedom, when four millions of our brethren still wear the heavy yoke, and the Supreme Court of the Nation solemnly declares they (and we) "have no rights which white men are bound to respect." If our active participation in Fourth of July festivities will tend to a practical exemplification of the theory so eloquently enunciated by our Fathers,  let us celebrate the day with music, and with [illegible]; but if not [illegible] thin our mournful silence will be an expressive rebuke of the inconsistencies of this God-defying nation.

This appeared in Frederick Douglass' Paper, 1 July 1858:

The eighty-third anniversary of American Independence is near at hand, and will no doubt be celebrated with the usual amount of speeches, songs, ringing of bells, fire crackers, whisky, and religious mockery. On that day we shall hear the United States lauded to the skies, as the freest nation on the earth, "the land of the free and the home of the brave;" we shall hear that "all men are created free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;" we shall be told all this, and be made to believe that these principles are practised in this great country. The people may or may not forget that this free and brave country upholds a system of oppression much worse than the tyranny that cause the Revolutionary war, and which has never had an equal in wickedness at any time.
What do all their songs and speeches amount to, when their very actions give the lie to everything they say? To a stranger in this country, it would seem that the Americans were crazy, or half witted. In praising their institutions as the freest, when such advertisements as the following are paraded in their newspapers, without causing the slightest blush:
Sale of Negroes, &c.: -- By consent of parties, I will on the 4th day of July next, at the Court House door, in the town of Winchester, sell for cash the following negroes: Elle, about fifteen years old; Fed, about -- years old; Bonaparte, about 14; Richard, about 11; Joan, a girl, about 8; David, about 6; Ben, about 4; Charles, about 2; Eda, about 33, and her infant child; Juda, about 24; also, one top buggy; on bay mare; and James A. England's interest in lots No. 29, 30, 32, and 37 at Cowan, which interest will be explained on day of sale; also the tavern University House and fixtures at Cowan. it being property conveyed to me by deed of trust from J.A. England about the 1st of March, 1859.
June 9.     J.B. HAWKINS.
---Winchester (Tenn.) Journal.
No doubt they will have a good time at that sale, as we see no other plan advertised for celebrating the "4th" at that place; and any person who doubts that the United States is "the land of the free and the home of the brave," let him attend on that occasion.

Friday, July 3, 2015

In Sight

So it requires a revision, an introduction, some supporting apparatus like a finished bibliography, and more images, and it won't really be a manuscript until it's in a box on the way to the publisher, and it won't really be a book until it's between two covers and in my hands. Still, I sort of have something here. Over 360 pages of something that tells a story from beginning to end.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lewis Douglass "thrown into the shade" by Frederick, Jr.

Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Rochester, 6 June 1861, Walter O. Evans Collection (private)
My Dear Amelia,
Your letter bearing date May 29, but unfortunately for me, not mailed until the 31st reached me last evening, finding me well. Ever since you apprised me that it was not your intention to poke fun at me by that Kiss I have ceased to fancy that you so intended. If by that Kiss you intended to ameliorate my feelings towards you, let me apprise you that you have triumphantly succeeded in your Amelia – rating. Just at the present moment I would be glad to receive another Amelia ration, as I shall hereafter call your love inspiring kiss, they now are rations which I will always be glad to receive.  That cold “good evening” when we met at our house the time of your visit on returning from the falls, I am excusable for though I had seen you on four occasions before I never had an introduction to you. The time you were at our home in 1857 I did not even speak to you, in fact I was completely thrown into the shade by a younger brother who I remember staid away from the office for the purpose of entertaining you, you will no doubt remember the circumstance. The next time I saw you was the 2nd of Oct. 1857 at 6 ½ o’clock p.m. at your home, then I  did not speak to you, and the next time I saw you was in June 1858, father and myself were on our way to McGrawville, then I had no introduction to you and nothing but a “cold good afternoon” escaped either of us, it was on that occasion, that you were dressed in that near approach to masculine unmentionables, bloomers, and sang ‘I’ll never see my darling any [nivey?],’ you will also remember this occasion, again, the next time we met was in Geneva, August 1, 1859, then I had no introduction to you but I believe we exchanged nods as we were walking down to the park, this time you will remember as you were waited upon by a highly interesting (to say the least) ‘dark’ from Syracuse I believe, on the discovery of which I ‘sloped,’ leaving you and Miss Douglass in the enjoy

[letter incomplete]

Lewis, Frederick Douglass's oldest son, was not yet twenty-one when he wrote this, working for his father as. Amelia Loguen was one of the daughters of Jermain Loguen and Caroline Storum Loguen of Syracuse. A Rite-Aid now sits on the site of their home at the corner of Genesee and Pine.

Clearly, Amelia had entranced Lewis's younger brother, Frederick, Jr., who was a mere fifteen in 1857. Poor Lewis was an elderly seventeen at the time, with many more responsibilities in his father's office.

When Lewis saw her the second time he and his father were in Syracuse for a celebration of the Jerry Rescue, which had taken place when he was eleven.

In June 1858, the elder Douglass spoke at New York Central College. Frederick Douglass' Paper had been advertising the school, which billed itself as teaching "Radical Anti-Slavery and the Equality of the Sexes." She may have been visiting Rochester because father Douglass had no speaking engagements in Syracuse that month, and Syracuse was not in their path from Rochester to McGrawville. Clearly, Lewis was not a fan of the Bloomer dress, which was on its way out of fashion at the time. That Amelia, a black woman, wore a dress so reviled in polite society suggests her commitment to that area of reform.

Their Geneva meeting took place at a West Indian Emancipation Day celebration. The "dark," which was probably an insult, seems to have been a young man interested in Amelia, who appeared to have been accompanied by Rosetta, Lewis's sister. 

Unfortunately, the rest of this letter was missing. I would like to know how these early, distant exchanges became the flirtation in which she "poked fun" of him with kisses. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Articles" for the Bazaar

From Frederick Douglass' Paper, 10 July 1857:
Some of the articles mentioned in the Bazaar Report as commanding a ready sale, are as follows: -- materials for children's dresses unmade; aprons and pinafores of all kinds made up; baby linen, with the exception of caps; hosiery, worked collars, and cuffs; crochet work of all kinds, tatting, and knitted edgings; cambric handkerchiefs; fine Irish linens; boxes of tapes; white crochet mats and doyleys; purses and balls; needle-books and pin-cushions of superior quality; knitted and embroidered slippers; sofa cushions, and carriage bags; Honiton lace; papier machie ornaments; Irish bog oak ornaments; fancy stationary, and water colored drawings.
Antislavery women, "were forced to defer to the men and to sit home expending their energy on handicraft monstrosities to send to Maria Chapman for her antislavery bazaars in Boston," wrote William McFeely in his biography of Frederick Douglass (p. 142). Granted, the volume came out in 1991, when historians were only beginning to scratch the surface of women's roles and work in the antislavery movement. Still, this passage makes me cringe. 

The excerpt from Frederick Douglass' Paper above, shows the types of items that these women made and which ones sold well. "Children's dresses," "aprons and pinafores," "baby linen," "slippers," "carriage bags," "hosiery" and so forth were all useful items that could take time to make and not available ready-made. Nicer items, such as the lace, drawing, and stationary all made nice gifts. As the two types of "ornaments" indicate, even then people purchased items for Christmas, a holiday gaining popularity in a form that we would recognize, with Christmas trees and presents, even if the whole celebration would shock today's celebrants with its modesty. 

As for the bazaar, mentioned in such passing as to suggest its irrelevance, Chapman could bring in a thousand dollars or more each year. That kept antislavery lecturers on the road and the Liberator and National Anti-Slavery Standard in print. 

Don't underestimate the knitters!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More Love Advice

More advice on love from Frederick Douglass' Paper, 7 July 1857:

Never shrink from a woman of strong sense. If she becomes attached to you, it will be from seeing similar qualities in yourself. You may trust her, for she knows the value of your confidence, you may consult her, for she is able to advise, and does so at once, with the firmness of reason, and the consideration of affection. -- Her love will be lasting, for it will not have been lightly won; it will be strong and ardent, for weak minds are not capable of the loftier grades of passion. If you prefer attaching yourself to a woman of feeble understanding, it must be either from fearing to encounter a superior person; or from the poor vanity of preferring that admiration which springs from ignorance, to that which approaches to appreciation.

If this did not come from another paper, I suspect that the author was Julia Griffiths. Of course, Frederick Douglass would not have objected. He had a thing for women "of strong sense," both as wives and as friends.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Issues of Frederick Douglass' Paper

I've been meaning to post this for maybe two or three years. I'm a bit slow. I've also realized only last week that this blog's time zone was still set to Irish Summer Time, such as Ireland has a summer time.

Anyway, here is the point of the post:

No known full runs of the North Star or Frederick Douglass' Paper exist in any repository, microfilm edition, or database. Readex's America's Historical Newspapers  and African American Newspapers databases have some, but your library has to have a subscription. St. John Fisher College in Rochester has a few, which they have kindly digitized through New York Heritage Digital Collections, which is accessible to the public. You can find them here.They also include issues of Douglass' Monthly, full runs of which are available through academic libraries in print facsimiles, and the New National Era, full runs of which are available in microfilm through academic libraries.

Their collection also includes several other antislavery papers. One, The Radical Abolitionist, was edited by William Goodell, who was minister of the church in Honeoye (not that he was actually that was ordained) attended by Helen Pitts' family.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Frederick Douglass in the News

"'Mount Misery': Frederick Douglass Confronts Donald Rumsfeld," from the Daily Beast, review of a play in which Douglass meets Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld, you know, owns the property where Edward Covey, the slave breaker in Douglass' Narrative, once lived.

"Famed Abolitionist Frederick Douglass 'Visits' Darlington During Annual Community Celebration," from the New Castle News (Pennsylvania).

"New York City's Juneteenth: Remembering Frederick Douglass's Eulogy to Abraham Lincoln at a Pivotal Moment in the City's Racial History," from the New York Daily News. (Yes, Texans, Juneteenth is celebrated everywhere.)

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.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Some Days I Have No Idea What He's Talking About

At the 1858 National Woman's Rights Convention in New York City, Douglass made this uncharacteristically short speech:
Loud calls were made for “Douglass,” when Fred. Douglass took the stand, and delivered a speech in behalf of woman’s rights. Having experienced slavery in his own person, it was impossible that he could be indifferent to any call for freedom. He based the rights of woman to freedom and to equality with man upon the same grounds on which he advocated the right of the slave to freedom and equality with the white race. The only difficulty that, in his opinion, existed anywhere in relation to this question was on that arose less out of the idea of rights than out of the idea of duties, or the idea of the possibilities of woman. What could woman do? Had been asked and answered generally, but he was inclined to think that woman herself was uneducated in a fuller notion of what she could do. He believed a woman could do anything a man could do, and by so doing could assimilate herself to man. If she handled the grubbing hoe instead of the needle her hands would become large and horny just as men’s hands do. There was no inherent principle of beauty in woman more than in man, for if they were to change places man would assume all that delicate texture of skin and beauty which woman has in her present position. He advocated the carrying out of the woman’s rights idea among the poorer classes, and instanced the fact of a man now building a house who was assisted by his wife in laying the bricks, splitting the wood, &c., and in such cases he saw the same hard features, hands, &c., both in man and woman.  On the plantation a woman was expected to hoe as many rows in a day as a man, and in consequence acquired physical strength and health; therefore a woman need not be afraid to go out West, for nature would furnish her with gloves of steel as well as the man. Let women go out there and do as in England, where the finest women, in his estimation, were working in the field.
The New York Times printed this variation:
Mr. Fred Douglass said he had never had the slightest difficulty with this question of woman's rights. On all the principles upon which he asserted the right of Slavery to freedom, he found that woman's rights could be based and would be based. The only difficulty in his opinion, existed anywhere in relation to this question was one that arose less out of the idea of rights than out of the idea of duties, or the idea of the possibilities of woman. What could woman do? had been asked and answered generally, but he was inclined to think that woman herself was uneducated in a fuller notion of what she could do. He believed that she could do anything that man could do, and by doing everything that man can do she would assimilate herself to man. if women could do as  men did they would look just about like what men did, and be able to do what men did. 
I suspect that he did not plan to make this speech or to speak at all at this convention. He had not appeared at a woman's rights convention since 1853, just before he and William Lloyd Garrison had a spectacular falling out (a longer story for another time -- or, as I call it, Chapters 4 and 5). Most of the women and men who attended the national and state conventions fell in line with Garrison, including Garrison himself. So, women's rights conventions were not something Douglass went out of his way to attend.

This one, however, took place for the first time during "Anniversary Week" in New York City, when and where Douglass was participating in two other meetings. My theory is that, as long as he was in town, he would slip into this one. Someone spotted him, hence "loud calls were made for Douglass," so he was obliged to say something.

But what on earth is he trying to say? This appears to be the outline of his speech:
1) I'm for women's rights.
2) The basis for women's rights and the emancipation of slaves is the same.
3) What can women do? That is the question.
4) Women can do anything a man can do, like physical labor, they just don't know it, yet.
5) In doing so, women assimilate to men. (Like the Borg? Is resistance futile?)

He seems to be intentionally uncontroversial here, but then he seldom said controversial things at women's rights conventions, as far as I can tell. At the American Equal Rights Association in the late 1860s, yes, but not at these antebellum conventions or at later woman suffrage conventions. His emphasis on physical labor is unusual, since he tended to focus on intellectual work. I'd like to think that this, as well as his mention of enslaved women, was his way of needling the largely white and middle class women's rights activists, who struggled to incorporate those groups into their national conventions.

I'd partly like to chalk this up to his being unprepared to speak, but he had always spoken extemporaneously.  Indeed, in later years, some of his old fans complained that they preferred his improvised speeches over his prepared ones. Of course, they may have been speaking more from nostalgia than from evidence. By 1858, he was making more prepared speeches, such as his "What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July?" So, he could have been rusty. Another possibility is that the transcription was rubbish.

The assimilation piece (joking aside) appears to be the key to fitting this speech in with his larger philosophy, once I figure it all out. Then, again, I'm not sure if he ever figured it all out. That actually makes me feel like he and I are puzzling through his ideas about women together. If only I could just turn to him and ask "really: what the heck do you mean here?"  Alas! A Ouija board is not a scholarly source, and he would never stop laughing disdainfully at the idea.