Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Anna Murray Douglass Academy

This just in from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:
"School 12, which stands on the former site of the Douglass household on South Avenue, is officially being renamed the Anna Murray Douglass Academy. The Rochester Board of Education approved the measure Thursday night.... The Anna Murray Douglass Academy becomes just the fifth city school or program to be named after a woman, joining School 2 (Clara Barton), School 45 (Mary McLeod Bethune), School 50 (Helen Montgomery) and the Florence S. Brown Pre-K Center." 
As I said in my book, she wasn't anti-intellectual just because she couldn't read. She clearly wanted her children educated, and listened and offered comment on others reading aloud. She might be embarrassed at this honor, private as she was, but I hope she and her husband would be quite proud. Her children absolutely would be.

That the school stands on the site of the Douglasses' South Avenue home seems fitting. Her name is on its deed and all of her actions and others' comments about her housekeeping indicate that she took great pride in being mistress of her own house. Now, her name marks the building on its site. She is remembered in the landscape.

Might I also float a proposal? There are murals going up in various sites, including Rochester and my own home of Syracuse, commemorating Douglass. One in Rochester includes both Frederick and Anna. The Douglass children opposed Helen Douglass's plans for a memorial to her husband in Washington, D.C., believing Rochester the more appropriate place since it had been the site of his most active, abolitionist years and their family life. I would love to see a mural of the Douglass family, including the little daughter Annie, who died in 1860 just shy of her eleventh birthday. A grouping of statues might even top that.

Is there an image of Annie, you ask? Oh, yes, there is. But perhaps that should be saved for another post.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Correspondence, Volume 2

Associate Editor L. Diane Barnes has informed me, so I inform the blog, that the second volume of Frederick Douglass's correspondence has been published by Yale University Press!

This one covers 1853 to 1865, some of the most exciting and fiery years of Douglass's life. His quarrels with the Garrisonians, the Civil War, Rosetta's letters home from her sojourn in Philadelphia and New Jersey, Lewis's and Charles's letters home from army life, and so much Gerrit Smith.

As always, anticipate meticulous annotation (even if they could not use a certain book about Douglass and women because it had yet to be published) and an extensive calendar of unpublished correspondence.

This will be quite the boon to many scholars. Wonderful work!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Genesee Elementary Sings of Douglass and Tubman

On June 6, I had the pleasure of visiting this group of 4th graders from Genesee Elementary School in Auburn, New York.

Here they stand in front of the Frederick Douglass monument in Rochester's Highland Park where they had participated in the city's Frederick Douglass Festival on June 9, the following Saturday. Their class sang "Bridge to Freedom," a song that they had written in collaboration with the folk duo Magpie and dedicate to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. 

What an inquisitive group! I don't spend much time around children, so I really had no idea how to act or what to expect. Oh my! They bowled me over. I could not think of them as "kids" or "children" by the end of our hour together. 

They wanted to know what drew me to Douglass. They peppered me with smart questions about the process of writing a book and about Anna and Frederick Douglass. When they asked how many pages were in my book, the girl in the front row, fourth from the right, was quick enough to ask how many of those were actual writing and not notes or index. Her hand was up almost the whole time, that shoot up and wave style of raising her hand, too. Indeed, many of them had that style. 

They begged for more information about his family and descendants, sighing so mournfully over the story of Annie Douglass's death, then Anna's death. They laughed at the story of Lewis Douglass meeting Harriet Tubman down South during the Civil War. They were so excited to know that Highland Park was near where his house had been in Rochester. 

Some told me that they were even writing their own stories. The girl on one knee, third from the left, even asked how to get a story published. Another girl, almost hidden there in the back wearing a bow, wanted to know how to become a college professor. Oh, I hope they do!

Their teachers and librarians, Anne Mlod and Cinda Gilmore, cannot go without mention for having the fortitude to corral that energy into constructive endeavors like songs and writing and the dreaded "showing your work" every day. Thank you to Laurel Ullyette and Martha Swan, as well, for their good work on the Harriet Was Here project that brings such programs to fruition. 

Of course, after a hard day of singing and Douglassing, one must celebrate: Ice Cream!

Photos courtesy of Martha Swan.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Major Award!!!!!

You know, as a kid, I never won a trophy. I am too old for "trophies for everyone." I think I got 5th place in the standing broad jump in 4th grade. which satisfied me just fine because the ribbon was pink and I was all about pink. Turns out band earned me a couple of medals in 8th grade, which I only just emerged from the haze of suppressed memories and old boxed items from my parents house, a surprising find since I made a concerted effort to be last chair. Otherwise, prizes have been few and far between in my life.

I tried not to put too much stock in awards because, well, I really would loved to have won a prize for something -- anything! -- but disappointment is a pill bitter enough to ruin the fun of doing things. Still, a prize for this book? With much shame, I admit that I desperately wanted a prize for this book. Any prize! I didn't care from whom or for what. I didn't care if it was the result of the adage that the winner is always the third choice of everyone on the prize committee -- the only one they all could agree upon. I didn't care if it was the book equivalent of "Miss Congeniality." I wanted the validation, dammit!

Thank you, New York Academy of History, you have given me that validation! Women in the World of Frederick Douglass received its Herbert Lehman Prize for Scholarship in New York History, sharing the prize with Mike Wallace's Greater Gotham: A History of New York City From 1898-1919 (for some context, Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize for his previous installment of his multi-volume history of New York City). I am honored and privileged and thrilled to have received such recognition!

Here is the coverage in Le Moyne's school newspaper, which itself was kind of cool.:

And here is me with the award. Thanks to the miracle that is texting, I could send this to my parents and my brothers' families and my nephew as it happened.:

It isn't a leg lamp, but it will do.

With all of these accolades, I do hope that I have done right by all of the people in the book. May sympathy and understanding of their lives have increased.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"The Women of Cedar Hill," Douglass National Historic Site, 18 February 2018

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Anacostia, D.C., was once again kind enough to invite me to speak at their annual Frederick Douglass Birthday Celebration in February. This, of course, was a big one being the Bicentennial. The audience was filled with women who were so excited to hear about the women who lived in Cedar Hill.

[A video should appear here, but for some reason it will only appear in preview. When I post, it sometimes disappears.]

Before my talk, as I contemplated the Maryland biscuits (which were tasty!), a woman and her young daughter and I began a conversation about Anna. She had fallen in love with Anna -- "obsessed" her daughter said -- and had been up all the night before researching her on the internet. She ran in and bought my book, and I signed it right there for her and her daughter. If you are out there, ladies, I hope you enjoyed it and are still reading about the first Mrs. Douglass!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Anna Douglass in the Smithsonian Magazine, 5 March 2018

In early March, Smithsonian Magazine published an article about Anna Douglass, Frederick's first wife, "The Hidden History of Anna Murray Douglass." The writer, Lorraine Boissoneault, contacted me and Rochester local historian Rose O'Keefe (look for her talk at the Rochester Public Library this fall) to offer some insight.

Anna Douglass might have been embarrassed by all of this attention to her, but hers was a history that many women out there are so very happy to learn about. Her life mattered to many women.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Frederick Douglass at 200 at Linfield College, Oregon, 27 April 2018

This past spring has been quite busy in the Frederick Douglass world, and for Women in the World of Frederick Douglass. Much gratitude to everyone who has read the book, to everyone who has purchased the book, and to everyone who has expressed in any way their appreciation of it by reading it, buying it, coming to a talk, talking to me about Douglass and the women in his life, inviting me to talk about it, and awarding the book a prize.

Here is a video of a talk that I gave at the "Frederick Douglass at 200" symposium at Linfield College in McMinville, Oregon, in April.:

The full playlist of speakers can be found here. They include Diana Schaub, David Blight (who gives us an outline of his upcoming and eagerly anticipated biography of Douglass, out in October), Melvin Rogers, and Ibram Kendi. They are all fantastic, and it was an honor to share the program with them.