Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Douglass Prize and The Oxford Comment

Oxford University Press has posted The Oxford Comment podcast, Episode 46, "New Narrative Nonfiction." Why they thought I was a good source, I'll never know, but I was happy to pontificate in case a few good quotes came out that could hold up with such smart authors as Simon Winchester, Dan Drezner, Patricia Fara, Mary Schmidt Campbell, and Philip Nell, as well as bookseller Angela Maria Spring.

From the description: "After the 2008 recession, print book sales took a hit, but now BookScan has recorded consistent growth in print book sales year over year for the past five years. What has been driving these sales? Surprisingly, adult nonfiction sales. Covering topics from history, politics and law, nonfiction saw a growth of 13 percent during the fiscal year. On this episode of The Oxford Comment we take a look at what has narrative nonfiction turning the industry on its head. Host Erin Katie Meehan sad down with bookstore owner Angela Maria Spring and a panel of esteemed Oxford authors to discuss the emerging trends of diversity and education in publishing."

The podcast can also be listened to at these addresses:

Of course, the big news of the week in the world of Douglass and books was the announcement of the finalists for the 2018 Frederick Douglass Book Prize awarded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.

Now, there might be some confusion due to the name of the prize. This is not a prize for the best book on Frederick Douglass. Heck, even the Lincoln Prize is not for the best book about Abraham Lincoln. This is a prize for the best book about slavery, resistance, or abolition. That is, it is for the best book about the subjects that concerned Douglass's life. Douglass was a great man, but part of studying him involves studying and understanding the world and movements that he inhabited. To award a prize to a brilliant book that deepens our understanding of the exploitation of human bodies or the ways that individuals used the rhetoric of their masters to seize their own freedom, or explore the limits and defenses of freedom at the nation's borders would be something that I think Douglass himself could support.

I'm not going to lie: I sincerely wanted to be among the finalists. Then, when I saw the list, I was bowled over and bowed down like Wayne and Garth. They are:
  1. Daina Ramey Berry, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Beacon Press). This book won the SHEAR Book Prize last weekend and, oh my!, what a tragic tale. Masters selling the dead bodies of their slaves for profit. Of course they were, because they had to get every drop of blood, every penny out of African-descended bodies. 
  2. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge  (Simon & Schuster). This book is exciting. You may know about Ona Judge from the first Drunk History segment. Dunbar tells her story quite soberly. A woman who ran from George Washington and refused to return. I think I know what I will assign this fall.
  3. Sharla M. Fett, Recaptured Africans: Surviving Slave Ships, Detention, and Dislocation in the Final Years of the Slave Trade  (University of North Carolina Press) I actually reviewed this book for a journal. Fett studies three ships caught illegally transporting Africans. The people in the ships holds went through multiple dislocations, living in a limbo that was not slavery but not really freedom, and shunted to borderlands even when returned to the continent of Africa, but not their homes. 
  4. Tiya Miles, The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits (The New Press). I confess to being unfamiliar with this book, but I love Miles's other work. I pre-ordered her Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era, then wrote her an actual fan letter about it after I reviewed it. She has a sympathy for her subjects that is so necessary in historical work, and a clear insight to people who exist in places that don't fall into neat or expected definitions. 

The best thing about this impressive list? All of the authors are women and three are women of color! As the database says, "Women Also Know History." This is a victory!

Good luck to all because they are all worthy of a win.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

I Do Other Things, Mystic Edition

Some years ago -- good lord but it has been over a decade now -- I took a detour in life. On that detour, I ended up writing a book about Mystic, Connecticut, where I lived for a time. The book, A History of Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Tourist Town, was published by The History Press, which was later acquired by Arcadia Press. It's not an academic book. I wrote it because I wanted to and because it was something that I wanted to read. I aimed it at a general audience of tourists who would visit the town and who, like myself, might want an overview of its history with lots of pictures.

The cover photo was taken by my friend, Steven Sisk, who was also one of the gardeners at Mystic Seaport. I liked the unintended visual pun in that the trees in the background occupy the site of the Pequot village from 1635 and the ships in the foreground are at Mystic Seaport, one of the main attractions for tourists.

In any case, I'm rather proud of the book because it was something new and different from what I usually did and pretty. Over the years I've done a few book signings but really saw the whole experience as a thing of my past. Then, earlier this year, Martin Smith, a literature professor and author of similar books, contacted me to do a roundtable about the history of Mystic. Well, that was a surprise! Sure!

So, on Saturday, August 18th, the Groton Public Library -- where I spent quite a bit of time -- will host a "Local History Author Roundtable" from noon until 2 pm. The list of authors is quite extensive, including me, Martin Smith, James L. Streeter, Lou Allyn, Hal Keeler, Courtney McInvale, William Tischer, and Jade Huguenin. (I do believe I worked with more than one of them when I did the Christmas Lantern Tours and the Haunted Tours of Mystic Seaport, two of the roles on my rather limited acting resume of that period of my life.)
If you are in the area, please join us! Books will be available (and, if you ask nicely, I can probably set you up with a copy of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass).

The Groton Public Library, by the way, is not too far from Mystic itself, and has better parking.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Last Week at Seneca Falls

If this works correctly, you should be able to see a video below of my talk at Seneca Falls last Friday, July 20, 2018. My apologies if you cannot. My apologies for the terrible angle if you can. 
For some odd reason, I sense a Laura Dern vibe in my delivery. Maybe it is the covering-an-accent accent that I have. Well, I should be so lucky as to resemble her in any way whatsoever.

Meanwhile, one of the fantastic features of giving public talks has to be meeting audience members engaged in their own work. When they share that work with you, even better! Carol Simon Levin, a librarian -- long live librarians! -- and writer who portrayed Abigail Adams over the weekend, graciously gave me a copy of her book Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candiates, Amazing American Women, Not JUST a Coloring Book, now in its 2nd edition and preparing for its third.
I was also quite happy to recommend Majorie J. Spurill's Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics. In talking Douglass, women's rights, intersectionality, and feminism, the saddest thing to realize is that we have to keep fighting the same battles over the same turf over and over. It's like World War I trench warfare, and just as bloody. We keep fighting because there is nothing else that you can do, even if the fight is to enlarge the body of knowledge and raise the next generation to be better that the last.

ETA: So, it appears that the video is too big to add into a blog post. Working on that behind the scenes at the moment. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Millican, Texas

A few days ago, I learned about the Millican "Riot," 1868 project, headed by Texas A&M Prof. Amy Earhart. The website describes the Milican "Riot":
Details remain unclear, but we believe that the Klan marched through Millican, a small central Texas town on the Houston and Central Texas Railroad, during a Sunday church service led by Pastor George Brooks, a Methodist preacher, former Union soldier, and Union League organizer. The worshiping freedmen were armed and fired on the rally, driving the Klan out of town. After the rally, George Brooks began a black militia of about 200 townspeople. The white community asked Nathan H. Randlett, local agent of the Freeman’s Bureau and former union infantry Captain, to stop the militia action, but Randlett refused.
Newspaper accounts and maps help readers navigate the details of the events. A number of years ago I wrote a blog post about Perry Downs, Frederick Douglass's brother. Downs ended up in Millican after the Civil War. He contacted Douglass in 1867 and Douglass brought the Downs family up to Rochester that year, so they escaped the events of the "riot." My whole life I lived so close (relatively speaking) and knew absolutely nothing about this.

Prof. Earhart is now engaged in a community effort to have a marker dedicated to those events. May they be successful in placing the memory of this event in the landscape.

Monday, July 23, 2018

This one is for my Dad

Writing from his diplomatic post in Port-au-Prince, Douglass wished his daughter, Rosetta, a happy 51st birthday.:

My dear Rose,

The first thought that came into my head this fine morning was that this is your fifty first Birth day. You have already passed the stage of life wherein people are called young. Fifty one years ago I had no idea that I should live to see you at your present age. All the boys that I knew when a boy are gone the way of the Earth. The sands of life are running out so fast with me that I some times ask myself why I am using up my last days in this exhausting climate. But after all what better could I do? I am now hoping for a line from you by the Steamer which will be due here on Thursday. I am almost afraid to open a letter from home lest I should find sickness death or disaster staring me in the face. Good news from home has not been my luck lately but “I still keep hoping on.” I see that Mr Bruce is being assailed by a man of the same stripe of those who assailed me but I think Bruce can stand it. My [next seven lines are blacked out] – In never have and never shall lower my head a single inch for all that such persons can say or do against me.

I think considering that all my family have knowledge of my intention to come home for a brief vacation it is creditable that no breath of it has got into the papers. I now think I shall reach New York about the 25th July – and may reach Washington on the night of the same day. The month between now and then will seem shorter at the other and than at this for I am anxious to get away from this enervating climate. I have not been really and soundly well for two months back though I manage to keep on my feet and make out to do some work, though not with my usual vigor. I am hoping made benefit from the voyage. I am usually pretty well at sea. This perhaps will be my last letter from Port au Prince, for the present. I expect much happiness in once more seeing you and your little flock, as indeed all the members of your family. I shall be glad as well as sorry to see Joseph Douglass because I know how little he likes to be in Washington and yet it may be for the best that he should be there. My love to all your flock

Your affectionate father –

Fredk Douglass

There are many things of historical note to say about this letter, but I post this because today is my 51st birthday and I can imagine my father saying the exact same things to me.

Source: FD to RDS, Port au Prince, 24 June 1890, Addition I, FDP, DLC [Note on top of page “22 yrs old when mama was born”]

Another Major Award!

The Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, also known as SHEAR, awarded Women in the World of Frederick Douglass the Mary Kelley Book Prize in the History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Prize! My sincere gratitude to the committee members, Nicholas Syrett, Stacey Robertson, and Kate Haulmann for their generosity in bestowing this award.

Here is Nick's citation:

I did not make a Jennifer Lawrence trip, as I did (off camera) at the Herbert Lehman Award ceremony. Perhaps the broken toe makes my gait more cautious. Toward the end you see me thank two people off camera. The first was April Haynes, who wrote a fantastic book, Riotous Flesh, about the solitary vice. The second was Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemings of Monticello, who so kindly blurbed Women in the World of Frederick Douglass and who is the new president of SHEAR. The outgoing president, the delightful Craig Friend, sits in the background in the video.

Also, when you win an award and the person for whom it is named is not only a person whose work you admire but is also in the audience, you get a picture with her and hope to be as distinguished as she is one day!:
Then, later, when one of the women's historians whose work you have admired since you first read The Plantation Mistress and who has supported your work from the beginning is there, you hunt her down and get a picture with her, too.:
I did not have the wit to get a picture with my former advisor, Richard Blackett; but the Women's Rights National Historical Park had both of our books in the bookstore. His book, Making Freedom, is on the higher shelf, of course!
Then, you find your friend and former co-editor, Diane Barnes, and she shows you her work, the second volume of Frederick Douglass's Correspondence.
Women in the World of Frederick Douglass was also down at Oxford UP's booth, too. (All copies sold by the end of the weekend! Plus one given away as a door prize to Daniel K. Richter's wife, and I read Richter's work for my master's degree back when I studied the colonial backcountry, so there you go!):
So, a fine weekend made more so that my friend and colleague Holly Rine could be there and will, with any luck, be accepting an award one day herself, and that so many people who had a hand in the book in some small way, if even just by writing a book that appeared in the endnotes, were there as well. Then, of course, my husband, Douglas Egerton, who was the important catalyst.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lewis Douglass at Battery Wagner, 18 July 2018

Frederick Douglass called "Men of Color to Arms!" His sons Lewis and Charles responded. Charles was first in line, signing on to the Massachusetts 54th Infantry on March 25, 1863.

Both young men, twenty-two and nineteen-years old respectively, had grown up on their father's history. They had known both John Brown and Shields Green, and suffered the grief, trauma, and fear of their loss after their executions after Harpers Ferry. They had helped the black men, women, and children fleeing slave-catchers. Their time to fight back, to be men, had come. The middle brother Frederick, Jr., did not join, but used his name as his uniform to go south to the western front and recruit among the freedmen.

Lewis had only just become engaged to Amelia Loguen, daughter of his father's friend and comrade in Syracuse, Jermain Loguen. Lewis wrote to her of their journey toward their training at Camp Meigs, in Readville, Massachusetts.:
"It may perhaps be pleasing to you to know something of the manner in which my men that I left Syracuse with came here and I will tell as briefly as possible: I started from Syracuse with 17 men apparently able bodied and fit for soldiers, we were t have second class cars, but owing to some misunderstanding the conductor failed to furnish them consequently we had to ride in first class cars which of course was very agreeable; on the way to Binghampton my men amused themselves by singing John Brown and other songs to the delight of the white passengers in the car The Syracuse men conducted themselves throughout the journey in a decorous and gentlemanly manner giving me no trouble whatsoever, and I very often made the remark to the other men who came under my charge that I wished them to follow the example of the Syracuse men. I could trust them to get in and out of the car at pleasure without any fear of their deserting, a more earnest lot of men I do not believe are in camp. When we arrived at Binghampton we were met by a detachment of the Loguen guard and escorted to a colored church and there met the volunteers from Binghampton after a few minutes hand shaking we were invited by Mr Jones Mrs Brown and another lady whose name I have not to dinner, I and James Highgate taking dinner at Mr. Jones’ with Fra Logeren and Edmonia and Willella, after diner Mrs. Jones and myself took a walk ‘around town’ until time for us to leave, at which time we were escorted to the depot by the same detachment of the Loguen guard, where I met my brother, who had in charge six men, starting from home with nine men and losing three by the way. It is impossible for me to finish this letter as I wish as I must post the Regiment books immediately that is the order from the Adjutant. I shall embrace the next opportunity and write. Whatever I have said in a joke about your not loving me means nothing you are ever dear. I have enlisted for three years or duration of the war. I am thought a good deal of here I must close. Good Bye
Ever Lovingly
Lewis "[1]
"Binghampton" is, of course, Binghamton in the very southern tier of New York; and that six young men there named themselves the Loguen Guard testifies to their respect for Amelia's father.

Edmonia was sister to James Highgate. She and Lewis seem to have had some sort of romantic misunderstanding a few years earlier in which one had a crush on the other and one wrote a letter that was later regretted. All very innocent and sweet when seen in the context of later events. Edmonia later joined the American Missionary Association in Norfolk, Virginia, teaching freedpeople. Her time there briefly overlapped with Helen Pitts'. She has more of a story that perhaps should wait for another time.

Lewis's drawing of his stripes.
By the time Lewis wrote this letter, he had proved himself a natural leader and been elevated to the rank of sergeant major. The military would not allow black me to serve as officers. Lewis proudly described his uniform to Amelia, with particular detail given to his stripes. "My badge of offices is three stripes placed on my coat in the shape of half diamond, and three circular stripes rounding off from the diamond somewhat like this [he drew his badge here] on each sleeve, and a wide stripe down the leg," he told her. [2]

Amelia's little sister, Sarah, called "Aunt Tinnie," mistook the term as "servant of a major." "Wherever did she get such an idea?" wondered Lewis, then teased Amelia, "if I only had courted her all would have been right."[3]

Cpl. Charles Douglass, 1863
Training continued into May. "Our men are learning very fast," Lewis reported, "and are now quite proficient in the manual of arms, our evening dress parades all ready attract many many visitors." [4]Charles had not taken to command the way Lewis had. In true big brotherly fashion, Lewis observed that "he is a little green at first and has not learned yet to boss his men around, which is very necessary." (Little brothers often just learn to get out of the way, you know.) [3]

Then, Charles fell to the common ailment of army life, the sicknesses of camp. "I trust nothing serious," Lewis told Amelia, having only recovered from a "slight cold" himself. Charles on the other hand, "has a severe cold." His lingering illness and lovely penmanship (a boon to researchers) led to his assignment as a clerk at the rank of corporal. He proved very proficient. [4]

Their mother, Anna Douglass, and sister, Rosetta, arrived to watch the drills every day. They stayed with a black family that included the dramatic reader, Louise De Mortie. [5]Their father visited, too, and "was much pleased at [Lewis] looking so well compared with my visage when I was last home."[6]The training was all for a purpose. "Something tells me I will not be Killed," Lewis reassured Amelia, "though I may be wounded and that is not so bad you know, as it will be an honor."[7] Still, the thought lingered.
"We are soon to leave a week longer we may stay then we go to the south where I know not exactly Who will return? Selfishness I have always tried to avoid, but I hope I may return, and love the one who so dearly loves me, one whose love all the treasures of the earth cannot purchase from me, the love of your own dear self....Remember that if I fall that it is in the cause of humanity, that I am striking a blow for the welfare of the most abused and despised race on the face of the earth that in the solution of this strife rest the question of our elevation, or our degradation, our happiness or our misery....Think of me as aiding in the glorious work of bursting loose those chains which keeps the husband, wives, children, lovers, and friends, of millions of human beings to a level scarcely on footing with the brute. Think of the joy, the inexpressible joy to those millions, freed from such a foul system and then think that I threw in my mite to bring about that joy, that happiness, then rejoice yourself that you encouraged one you held dear to help bring about this bliss."[8]
Sgt. Maj. Lewis Douglass, 1863 
(note the stripes)
Amid fanfare, the 54th departed, marching down Beacon Street, past the State House, past the Boston Common of Revolutionary War gatherings, past the family home of their colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, where Frederick Douglass watched his oldest son head off to fulfill his mission. What strange mixture of pride and terror and helplessness and grief and love could he have felt? Anna and Rosetta, did they stay? The steel to face the loss of  another child.

Lewis, headed to action, with the men around him, had more immediate concerns. "We were six sea-sick days coming from Boston to Port Royal or Hilton Head," he told Amelia.
"Our steamer the “De Molay was tossed and pitched about by the waves like a play thing in the hands of a child, now away up up up, then down, down no on this side, now on that, frightening some while others had very serious expressions on their faces. To see the men huddled about on deck looking as though Death would be welcome visiter was sad enough, many wishing they never had gone for a soldier. I stood it first rate, I was sick only a half hour. Arriving at Beaufort S.C. the first man to whom I was introduced was Robert Small I there met Harriet Tubman who is a captain of a gang of men who pilot the Union forces into the enemy’s country. We staid in Beaufort four days and then came to this place. A week ago to day we went to Darien Georgia expecting to have a fight Darien lies on the Altamaha river about 8 miles from its mouth in going up the river our gunboats shelled the woods along the way, but could discover no enemy. We landed at Darien took some $100,00 north of different articles consisting of furniture which the Rebels had run away from a year ago and never came back after. We found two white women in the town and one white man the escaped the women we left after burning every building or shelter in the place to the ground I felt a little sympathy for feminines."[9]
Robert Smalls was the former slave who had liberated himself and others by appropriating the Confederate boat Planter and sailing to U.S. lines. Harriet Tubman needs no introduction. Lewis, of course, knew her from her forays through New York. The engagement that Lewis describes here, which took place on June 11th, was opposed by Col. Shaw, but ordered by Shaw's superior.

After Darien, the regiment moved to St. Helena Island for the remainder of June, then on to Folly Island and from there to James Island.  "On the upper end of James Island is a large rebel battery with eighteen gun," Lewis wrote to his parents. Battery Wagner protected the mouth of Charleston Harbor, approachable on land at low tide via a narrow strip of land. "After landing on James Island we threw out pickets within two miles of the rebs fortifications," he reported,
we were permitted to do this in peace until last Thursday the 16th inst. when about four in the morning the rebels made an attack on our pickets -- who were about two hundred strong -- with a force of nearly nine hundred men. Our men fought like tigers, one sergeant killing five men by shooting and bayonetting. The rebels were held in check by our front men long enough to allow the 10th Connecticut to escape being surrounded and captured for which they received the highest praise from all parties who knew of it. It earned us our reputations as a fighting regiment. Our loss was in killed wounded and missing 45.
As if that were not enough
That night we took according to our officers one of the hardest marches on record through woods and marsh. The rebels we defeated and drove back in the morning. They however were reinforced with 14000 men we having only a half dozen regiment, so it was necessary for us to escape. I cannot writ in full I am expecting every moment to be called into another fight. Suffice it to say we are now on Morris Island.
The march, through a rainstorm no less, took place from nine in the evening of the 16th until five in the morning on the 17th. They waited all day for transports to arrive to evacuate them back to Folly Island, where they arrived on the 18th. Then, they received their orders. Lewis wrote:
Saturday night we made the most desperate charge of the war on Fort Wagoner. Our loss in killed wounded and missing was 300. The splendid Fifty Fourth is cut to pieces, all of our officers with the exception of eight are either killed or wounded. Col. Shaw is a prisoner and wounded Major Hallowell is wounded in three places the Adjutant in two places. Serg't Simmons is killed Nat Hurley missing and a host of others. I had my sword sheath blown away while on the parapet of the fort. I have received the praise of the officers for coolness. The quartermaster says I have made my mark. The grape and cannister shell and Minie swept us down like chaff, still our men went on and on, and if we had been property supported we would have held the for. But the white troops could not be made to come up, the consequence is we had to fall back dodging shells and other missiles. If I have another opportunity I will write more fully. God bye to all. If I die tonight I will not die a coward. Good Bye Lewis.[10] 
To Amelia he wrote:
A shell would explode and clear a space of twenty feet. Our men would close up again, but it was no use we had to retreat, which was a very hazardous undertaking. How I got out of that fight alive I can not tell, but I am here. My Dear girl I hope again to see you I must bid you farewell should I be killed. Remember if I die I die in a good cause. I wish we had a hundred thousand colored troops we would put an end to this war.[11]
Col. Shaw, they did not yet know, had been killed in the charge and was buried in a mass grave with his men. Ned Hallowell recovered and assumed Shaw's command, returning with a vengeance.

All of the men served without pay, in protest for the lower wages that they received, from which the costs of their uniforms were also deducted.

Lewis and Amelia Douglass 
after the war.
Lewis Douglass sacrificed his descendants. He did not tell Amelia nor his parents that the blow that took away his sword and sheath left shrapnel in his groin. The wound festered. In August, he wrote to Amelia that hwe "suffering slightly from a pain in the head caused by the climate. I have thus far held out against the climate, but I now fear that I am going to be sick....My head aches so bad that I scarcely know what I am writing so you must excuse this disjointed scribble."[12] The infection grew so dire that he had to be evacuated to New York in September, where he was put under the care of his father's friend Dr. James McCune Smith. He did not recover enough to return to service, although he did join Louisa De Mortie's brother as a sutler. He and Amelia eventually married, but the nature of his wounds likely prevented them from having any children. He became the good uncle.

Charles later moved to the Massachusetts 55th Cavalry, which was dismounted, and served in South Carolina. He then worked for the Freedman's Bureau in Washington, D.C.

Frederick Douglass kept a Harper's engraving of the charge on Battery Wagner in his home, and you can still see it hanging there in the front hallway. A moment of pride, of terror, of courage, of sacrifice.

Many of the men who died at Battery Wagner, died in debt to the U.S. government for the clothes on their backs. While Massachusetts would have allowed them to vote, the majority of them came from further west where they could only vote if they owned $200 worth of property if they could vote at all. They fought in service to a nation that did not consider them citizens, thanks to the Dred Scott decision. They fought to prove their manhood, they fought to free slaves, they fought for freedom. 

They fought for an idea we have yet to realize. 

[1] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 31 March 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[2] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 8 April 1863, Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. (Start here.)
[3] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 15 April 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[4] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 9 May 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[5] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 15 April 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[6] Lewis H. Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, 20 May 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[7] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 15 April 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[8] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 20 May 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[9] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 18 June 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).
[10] Lewis Douglass to Frederick and Anna Douglass, Morris Island, SC, 20 July [1863], Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. (Start here.)
[11] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Morris Island, SC, 20 July 1963, Carter G. Woodson Collection, Library of Congress. (Here.)
[12] Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, 15 August 1863, Walter O. Evans Collection, Savannah, Ga. (private).

For further reading: 
Douglas R. Egerton, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America (New York: Basic Books, 2016). -- This is a fantastic book that you will not be able to put down. I don't just say that because I am married to the author, either.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Woman's Rights Convention," 14 July 1848

Let's say today in 1848 you finally get around to reading last Friday's issue of the North Star, the new newspaper by that intriguing Frederick Douglass.  July 16 in 1848 was a Sunday, so you have a little time. 

Oh, look, on page two! So many things to do! The Friends of Freedom in Western New York will be holding their "Freedom's Jubilee," the First of August celebration of West India Emancipation, in Washington Square in Rochester. That must be on the agenda of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society Executive Committee's agenda for their meeting on July 18th at the Anti-Slavery Office. 

William C. Nell, the executive secretary who placed that notice, is such a nice fellow, and such a witty man. If only you could have attended his lectures on "science, history, and every-day experience." Do you think this long piece on "What are the Colored People Doing for themselves?" is an extract? 

In any case, later, in mid-August, the Western Anti-Slavery Society will be holding their Annual Meeting in Salem, Ohio.  Then, on September 6th, The Great National Convention of Colored Freemen of the United States will meet in Cleveland. "This is a CRISIS and something we MUST and WILL DO!" writes Martin Delany. Very true, that. After all, the war with Mexico is bringing in so much territory to the United States. Look at that article about the "Free Soil Convention in Worcester" on the front page! General Taylor of that war, from a slaveholding state, is running for president, and look at the lengthy report from Delany from the Liberty Party Convention and the excerpts from other papers that follow it to see how disastrous that could be! The Ram's Horn, one of the only other black-edited antislavery newspapers in the country, is moving from New York to Toronto.

But, wait...what is this?
Rights of Married Women -- Mr. Horn of Washington county, has introduced a bill in the Senate to exempt married women's property
Did not that bill pass in April?

And a little above it? My goodness!

A Convention to discuss the Social, Civil and Religious Condition 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 present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, and others, both ladies and gentlemen, will address the Convention

Who shall attend? Well, you would imagine the editor of the paper, in spite of his sore throat. Do you think maybe Nell would accompany him? Or would he be needed at the paper. You can be sure that a number of the women listed as accepting donations to the Anti-Slavery Fair will be there.

"Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 29th of July instant" in 1848 is this Thursday and Friday in 2018, 170 years later. Seneca Falls and the Women's Rights National Historical Park will be holding their annual Convention Days commemorative events all weekend. It will be my own great honor to be speaking of Frederick Douglass and Women's Rights in that very chapel on Friday, 20 July, the very day that Douglass himself spoke in support of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's proposition for woman's suffrage.
Full schedule here.

If only I had a purple bloomer costume to wear! (Although I would probably regret it in this heat.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sarah Remond Pintor in Rome, July 8, 1887

Sarah Parker Remond, Sarah Parker Pintor by 1887, I have mentioned before in a post from last year about Douglass visiting the Vatican. I shall limit this one today to a letter that I ran across in my search for the original of Douglass's letter to Helen, the subject of yesterday's post, and makes me long to visit Rome again.

Piazza Barberina, May 2017. 
No. 6, is just to the right of center, behind the bus.
Piazza Barberina No. 6
Primo Piano
Roma Italia
July 8th 1887

My dear friend Frederick Douglass.

I have just received the promised and welcome letter dated July the 2nd. You did not direct it right and therefore it has been detained till to day, although the Postmen know where I am. I hope you will receive this before you sail for America. The above address will find me till I write you to the contrary. It will be useless for me to write to my friends as you will be no longer in England. I write to you by return of the Post, and shall hope to hear again from you just as soon as you are rested after your ocean voyage. Ill as I was from sea sickness, I can never forget the beauty, and at times the awful grandeur of the Atlantic ocean! Broad and deep as it is we will have a chat now and then on paper. Rome is now quite deserted so far as the birds of winter passage are concerned every day since you left the English speaking people have been going out of Rome and the Italians some of them go to the sea, country, et cetera. Rome at this season is quite another place. No one knows Italy till they see it in summer. The beauty heightens with the heat. I do not like the heat, but it does me good.
A pathway in the Pincio, May 2017. 
That's a bust of Galileo, which I  mistakenly thought was the
monument to Galileo that Douglass saw dedicated. 
I was wrong.
The lovely Pincio is always beautiful and I often seek a shady nook even at the noon day hour when the fierce sun comes down with intense white heat there is always a cool spot to be found there. The summer months often cure invalids if they can be persuaded to try it, and lead the right kind of life. I have some interesting facts on this point. You know all of my kin took flight some time ago. Mrs. Edmund and her father leave in a few days I believe then I shall be obliged to speak mostly Italian as there will be perhaps in all Rome only two or three persons that I know who speak English. The Italian Parliament closed its session yesterday. The debates have been of unusual interest lately. Please give my kind regards to Mrs Douglass, and with my most cordial regards for yourself I am always most sincerely

Sarah Remond Pintor.

P.S. I hope you can read this. In summer we have to shut windows and blinds to keep out the heat and one has to add instinct to sight in all they do for many hours of the day as you probably know.

Pintor's reminiscence of her trans-Atlantic voyage went back to early 1859 when she arrived in England for a lecture tour. Douglass arrived a year later and they debated, being in different antislavery camps at the time. Both also tried to obtain passports to visit France. Being black and, thanks to the Dred Scott decision, were deemed unqualified because they were not U.S. citizens. Remond (as she was at the time) decided she would proceed, regardless, and ultimately became an ex-patriate. Much of her family followed her over. She married an Italian, which would be of questionable interracial status in America, but I wonder what that meant in Europe, really. Clearly, she became bi-lingual, she learned and practiced medicine in Florence, and witnessed the unification of Italy. You see all of the elements in this letter. Outside of the United States, she could transcend far more borders than inside.

Sarah Remond Pintor

Source: Sarah Remond Pintor to Frederick Douglass, Rome, 8 July 1887, General Correspondence, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. (Start here.)
See also: Sirpa Salenius, An Abolitionist Abroad: Sarah Parker Remond in Comopolitan Europe (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2016).
Photo of Sarah Remond Pintor: Antislavery Collection, Boston Public Library.
Other photos by Leigh Fought, taken during a lovely and long-wished-for vacation to Italy in May 2017.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Frederick to Helen, July 12, 1887

Returning to Frederick and Helen Douglass in Europe, my post series from a year ago, let's choose something happening on this day, July 12th. 

Almost a year into their journey, Helen had returned to care for her ailing mother in Honeoye, New York. Frederick stayed behind for a few months longer, revisiting old friends. He wrote to her on July 12, 1887, from Bridport, England (fans of British crime series may recognize the region from Broadchurch, fans of the Victorian novel may know the area better as Thomas Hardy's Wessex.).

When Helen returned home, however, she walked into a delicate situation that require some maneuvering. Her father had not been pleased, to say the least. In fact, whether she knew it or not at this point, he had cut her out of his will shortly after her wedding. Her mother, on the other hand, at least by 1887, must have wished them happiness. Frederick wrote to Helen that, to her mother, “If I sent her all the kind messages my heart would glad dictate I would send her many. I am glad you have such a mother and that she may still remain with you yet many days.”

Later in the letter, he refers to her younger sister, Lorinda Short. Lorinda and her family also did not approve of the Douglasses' marriage.  "I note what you say of the people on the farm at Honeoye," he remarks. "It is fortunate for now & that this world and that America is not wholly composed of Shorts." The Shorts must have said something pointed about Frederick himself, because he points out that "I need give myself no concern about the hate and malice of the Shorts or the Longs. We move in very different grooves."  A pun!

Then, his thoughts turn to Helen and the approbation that she bears, "I hope you will bear yourself not proudly, but with your own dignity wherever you go in Honeoye you will neither be ashamed of yourself nor of your husband."  He need not worry, she adored him. 

Of her siblings, Helen had been closest to her next younger sister, Jennie. Jennie supported the Douglasses and appears to have been caring for their mother until Helen arrived. "I believe all you say and all that the Dr says of your excellent sister Jennie," Frederick commented. "She is as good as she is brave.”

As for her sister Eva, she was herself travelling to England and had been expected to arrive in Liverpool on June 30th. In an earlier letter, Frederick mentioned to Helen that, "Should I see Miss Eva on the streets of that city, I shall not put myself in her way for if she hates me it must give her pain to see me and I do not desire to give her the least pain during her brief tour abroad." Clearly, she did not approve of the marriage either (and this is one of the reasons that I do not believe that she is the other woman in the picture with Douglass and Helen).

His thoughts, ultimately, turn to home: “On some accounts I should like to stay abroad a month or two longer – but I still have fear that my business is suffering and at any rate it is time that I was on Cedar hill – looking over my books and papers."  He had been visiting old friends, or the children of old friends, or sometimes the grandchildren of old friends, which had become a bit depressing. Then, of course, he did not want to wear out his welcome, although,  "My friends here have not yet tired of me – and I think would not if stayed in England a year longer." There was the matter of his temperament, as well, and he admitted, "I am too independent in spirit to live long on my friends even when they desire me to do so.” 

As for the return journey, well, her new Paris dress may have to lose its "tremendous box" but he would bring it home, and purchase another trunk to accommodate their accumulated goods.

"With a heartful of love Your husband,” he signed off. Then, he departed for Street to visit Helen Bright Clark.

Source: Frederick Douglass to Helen [Pitts] Douglass, Bridport, 12 July 1887, and Carlisle, 28 June 1887, General Correspondence, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.

Friday, July 6, 2018

I Do Other Things

Or, more accurately, I did other things. This is a blog interview with John Fea on "The Author's Corner" of The Way of Improvement Leads Home

The interview is not about Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, would you believe? Way back in the 1990s, I wrote a dissertation that was turned into a book about Louisa S. McCord. The book, published by University of Missouri Press back in 2003 under the dear and, sadly, departed Beverly Jarret, will be released in paperback in September. 

Who was Louisa S. McCord? Well, you will have to read the interview to find out! I will tell you that, except for in intellect, she was about as far away from Frederick Douglass as you could be, ideologically, and still be in the nineteenth-century United States. 

Oh, and here's a six-degrees-of-separation-type of story about Louisa McCord and Douglass.

Rev. Thomas Smyth
When Douglass first travelled in Ireland, Scotland, and England, he joined a protest by abolitionist members of the Free Church to refuse money donated by U.S. slaveholders. "Send Back the Money," they chanted. The Presbyterian minister representing the American churches who had brought over the money was the Rev. Thomas Smyth of South Carolina. He became a particular target. To shut down the abolitionist in general and Douglass in particular, he started circulating a rumor that Douglas had been seen patronizing a brothel in Manchester. Note the use of the passive voice there. Well, Douglass had been nowhere near Manchester at the time (I checked, too) and therefore slapped Smyth with a libel suit. Smyth backed down immediately. He had only heard, you understand, not actually witnessed, and the whole story was third-hand. 

Well, Smyth had a son, Augustus, who went on to add an -e to the last name. Augustus grew up, joined one of the South Carolina regiments during the Civil War, courted, and then married Louisa Rebecca Hayne McCord. That Louisa McCord's mother was Louisa Susanna Cheves McCord, subject of Southern Womanhood and Slavery

So: short, written to be accessible for freshmen, available used, as an e-book, and now in paperback. If you are teaching one of those large U.S. history surveys, remember that Auntie Leigh needs a new pair of boots!

ETA: University of Missouri will actually have a stock in their warehouse, ready to ship, on August 1st, just in case you want to assign for your fall classes!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Annie's Birth

So many odd things turn up in your research after you think you are done. A few weeks ago the intrepid Amy Cools, blogger at Ordinary Philosophy, who a few years ago went on a fantastic trip following in Frederick Douglass's footsteps, called for some help. She's now pursuing a degree in Edinburg and required access to Gerrit Smith's papers. Those are here in Syracuse, so I was happy to help. With the miracle of modern technology, we can now simply take pictures of the documents and load them into the Cloud.

Well, this was a lovely adventure back into these documents, somewhat refreshed after some time away. Almost immediately, I encountered one of the tidbits that made research so exciting.:
This letter from Douglass to Gerrit Smith, dated Rochester, March 30, 1849, appeared in my book for the financial troubles that it details. After all, Douglass was early in his publication trials and Julia Griffiths had not yet arrived on the scene. But the P.S. was the stuff that caught my eye this time around.:
The dear little boy of ours of whom I spoke in the paper of today as being sick seems much better this morning. We have also a dear little girl under our roof -- only one week old. Mrs. Douglass is doing very well up nearly all day yesterday.

Yes, that is the announcement of the birth of Annie Douglass in Rochester, and the illness of Frederick Douglass, Jr.  

When we annotated this letter at the Douglass papers back in the days before online databases like "America's Historical Newspapers," we had to cobble together snapshots of The North Star from incomplete runs on microfilm. Many people don't know this, but there is no full collection of his papers available anywhere. (That would be a worthy digital project, but that is a thing for another time and for people with access to more influence than I.) 

Therefore, all we could get ahold of at the time was this snip from the March 9, 1849 issue:
For which the transcription was:
Owing to serious illness in our family, we were reluctantly compelled to disappoint the meeting advertised for us, to be held in East Mendon last Thursday. We assure our friends in that region that nothing less than such an excuse would have prevented our presence there at the time appointed. We hope that another opportunity of visiting that town will be afforded us soon. When it arrives we will give our friends there due notice. -- F.D.

But, now with databases, I can find that, Frederick, Sr., did mention his son's illness in the North Star on March 30th:
The transcription being:
Constant attendance upon our sick family the past week, must be our apology, if apology be needed, for the small amount of editorial matter in this week's number of the North Star. Our youngest son, between four and five years old, was attacked more than four weeks since with inflammation of the lungs, which was followed by typhus fever of a very malignant type. he is now but slowly recovering. -- F. D.
Can you imagine? Expecting a baby, and then a newborn in the house with so small a child so deathly ill. Life was so fragile.