Monday, May 21, 2018

Frederick Douglass's Children
Frederick Douglass, Jr.
Frederick Douglass Jr. was Frederick and Anna Douglass’s third child and second son.  He was born March 3, 1842, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  He and his family moved from Lynn, Massachusetts, to Rochester, New York, in 1847 when he was five.  He was educated in racially mixed public schools that his father had forced to integrate.  During their childhood years, Frederick and his brothers assisted his parents in piloting runaway slaves into Canada via the Underground Railroad through Rochester.  Initially, he and his brothers were taught type-setting at his father’s newspaper, North Star, to keep them off the streets and constructively focused.
In 1861, Frederick Douglas Sr. called for the use of Black troops to fight the Confederacy through the establishment of Negro regiments in the Union Army.  After Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Antietam in 1863 President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.  Such service in the army was now possible. 
Although many people would erroneously trace the social activism of the Douglass children to their father, such reconstructions fail to consider that not only was the father patriarch away for extended periods of time working against the pernicious system of slavery and therefore limited in his interaction with his offspring, but also Anna Murray Douglass was as much an activist as her much more renowned husband.
Frederick Jr. was impacted by the social activism he saw occurring all around him.  As a child Douglass witnessed his mother’s prominent role in the Massachusetts abolitionist movement with figures such as Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison.  It would be this tradition that most propelled the Douglass male children on to serve on the Union army side during the Civil War.  Frederick Douglass, Sr. had served as one of the initial recruiters for the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and Douglass Jr., mirrored his father most when he followed his example and served as a recruiter for the Union Army (Jones 1), initially in Massachusetts and then in Mississippi.
Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers’ union.  When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry R. Wagoner, a long-time family friend, taught him the trade of typography.  While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company (Emerson 1).
Frederick returned to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1868 and settled in the Anacostia area of the capitol, east of the Anacostia River in “Potomac City” (today known as the Hillsdale/Barry Farm neighborhood) and opened a small grocery store.  On May 21, 1869, Frederick applied for work as a clerk in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds.  Here is his letter of application.
Simon Wolf, esq., Register of Deeds:
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to request an appointment as clerk in the office of which you have the distinguished honor to be the head. I belong to that despised class which has not been known in the field of applicants for position under the Government heretofore. I served my country during the war, under the colors of Massachusetts, my own native State, and am the son of a man (Frederick Douglass) who was once held in a bondage protected by the laws of this nation; a nation, the perpetuity of which, with many others of my race, I struggled to maintain. I am by trade a printer, but in consequence of combinations entered into by printers’ unions throughout the country, I am unable to obtain employment at it. I therefore hope that you will give this, my application, the most favorable consideration.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Frederick did not receive the appointment.
He was now 27.  Although his health was always tenuous, he did play baseball.  He had played for a mixed race team in Rochester in 1859.  By September 1869, his brother Charles “was serving as President of the city’s Mutual Base Ball Club, negotiating with opposing teams what field to play on, the rules which would govern the still-evolving game, and how to share the gate proceeds” (Muller 1).  When Frederick moved to Washington in 1869, he helped to form the baseball club, the Alerts.  A newspaper account of one of their games appears below.
The announcement that the Pythian, of Philadelphia, would play the Alert, of Washington, D. C. (both colored organizations) on the 15th inst., attracted quite a concourse of spectators on the grounds of the Athletic. The game progressed finely until the beginning of the fifth innings, when a heavy shower of rain set in, compelling the umpire, Mr. E. H. Hayhurst, of the Athletic, to call the game. The score stood at the end of the fourth innings: Alert 21, Pythian 16. Mr. Frederick Douglass was present and viewed the game from the reporters’ stand. His son is a member of the Alert (Thorn 1).
On August 4, 1869, Frederick married Virginia L Molyneaux Hewlett, sister to the Washington attorney and, later, judge, Emanuel D. Molyneaux Hewlett, and daughter of
Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett, the professor of gymnastics at Harvard University.   
Emanuel Molyneaux Hewlett was the first black graduate of the Boston University School of law; he had a thriving legal practice in DC.  Later in his career Hewlett was a justice of the peace and a judge in Municipal Court in DC and worked on ten cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
… the date was December 5, 1887.  On that day Hewlett and his similarly distinguished African American guest were told they couldn't eat at Harvey's [an oyster restaurant]. They were asked to leave.  Hewlett filed a complaint, claiming that Harvey’s had violated the Equal Services Acts of 1872 and 1873, which prohibited racial discrimination in D.C. restaurants.  Harvey’s was fined $100.  Harvey’s appealed, on the grounds that Hewlett was not well behaved.  The defense attorney produced a story from the Washington Evening Star newspaper recounting a trip Hewlett had taken two months earlier to French's, a lunch room in the Center Market...Hewlett had ordered three eggs, a cup of coffee and some biscuits, for which he was charged three times what the meal should have cost.  He asked for the price list...and was told there was none."  When he tried to leave, Hewlett found the doors locked. The black attorney had to climb out a window, then walk along a balcony before entering another room that had access to an elevator.  This proved, Mr. Harvey testified, that Hewlett was a known check skipper. Knowing that, what restaurant would serve him?  A jury (from which the lone black member had been stricken) deadlocked and the case was ultimately dropped by the prosecution (Harvey’s 1).
Virginia had another brother who became famous.  Paul Molyneaux Hewlett “eventually dropped the Hewlett part of his name and became an actor in Europe. He was probably … the second black actor to portray Othello on the American stage.  Douglass, the senior, loved Shakespeare and quoted Shakespeare about as much as he quoted the Bible. I wonder if he ever saw Paul Molineaux, his son’s brother-in-law, play Othello on stage?” (Fought 1).
Frederick and Virginia had seven children.
When his father purchased the New National Era in 1870, Frederick became the newspaper’s business manager.  His older brother Lewis was in charge of editorials, and his younger brother Charles worked as a correspondent.
In 1873 Frederick Jr. campaigned unsuccessfully to be elected as a delegate to the Legislative Assembly of the District of Columbia.
When Frederick Douglass Sr. was appointed United States Marshal of the District of Columbia in 1877, Frederick Jr. was made a bailiff.  That same year Frederick Jr. was the first African American to sign a petition that urged the House of Representatives and the Senate to change the Constitution to grant women the right to vote.  The 33 signatures on the petition demonstrated support the District of Columbia African-American community’s support for women’s suffrage.  Notice the first four signatures.
In Congress Assembled:
The undersigned, Citizens of the United States, Residents of the State of Dist. of Col., County of _________, Town of Uniontown, earnestly pray your Honorable Body to adopt measures for so amending the Constitution as to prohibit the several States from Disfranchising United States Citizens on account of Sex.
Colored MEN:
       Colored WOMEN:
Fred'k. Douglass Jr.    
      Mrs. FredK. Douglass Jr.    
Nathan Sprague                 
       Mrs. Nathan Sprague
       (Petition 1)
“Mrs. Nathan Sprague” was Frederick’s sister, Rosetta.
After the wife of his brother Charles died in 1879, Frederick and his wife Virginia helped raise two of Charles’s sons, ten-year-old Charles Frederick and eight-year-old Joseph Henry. 
Frederick Jr. secured a clerkship in the office of the recorder of deeds in 1881 when his father was appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia.  
On January 19, 1889 Frederick Sr. lauded the National Leader – an African American Washington, D.C., weekly newspaper begun in January 1888 -- as “the most staunch supporter of the Republican Party now published in this country” (Muller 1).  Frederick Jr., the Associate Editor of the newspaper, made this observation in the March 30, 1889, issue.
In parts of the District of Columbia inhabited by colored citizens, improvements are rarely made.  We have a striking illustration of this in visiting Anacostia; one can readily see where colored people’s property begins by observing where the improvements leave off (Muller 1).
Frederick’s wife Virginia died December 14, 1889, during an influenza epidemic.  Frederick lost the ability to cope.  His sister Rosetta became concerned about him.  Frederick wrote his father’s second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass, that Virginia was my all.”  Frederick’s son Charley Paul, age 11, was placed under the guardianship of Virginia’s brother, Emanuel Molyneaux Hewlett.  Charley kept running away.  Hewlett released Charley from his guardianship and Frederick’s brother Charles and his wife Libbie thereafter raised him.
Frederick Douglass Jr. died July 26, 1892, at the age of 50.  He had never had strong health.  He had not enlisted in the army during the Civil War and he had had difficulty getting settled in life afterward.  In September 1891 he had been admitted to Freedmen's Hospital for treatment, had been operated upon, and had returned home. The direct cause of his death was consumption.
The funeral of Frederick Douglass, Jr., took place at 3 o'clock today from his late home at Hillsdale. In conformity with the wishes of his father the ceremonies were brief and simple. The handsome casket was placed in the parlor, and a throng of friends gathered around. Rev. Dr. Francis Jesse Peck, Jr., conducted the services. "The Rock of Ages" was sung by four specially chosen members of Campbell A.M.E. choir. Rev. Dr. Peck delivered an address reviewing in appropriate terms the life of the deceased. Remarks were also made by several visiting dignitaries of the church. The remains were interred at Graceland cemetery beside the grave of his wife (Find 1).
The few letters he had sent to his father had been written in beautiful penmanship and had expressed perceptive ideas.  His colleagues and printers at the National Leader remembered him fondly.  He was more effective “in writing editorials that described the struggles of southern blacks following the Civil War.  He also kept scrapbooks of his father’s activities in later years, providing researchers with valuable information” (Emerson 2).      
Sources cited:
Emerson, Mark G.  “Frederick Douglass, Jr.”   Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass.  Web. <>.
Fought, Leigh.  “Day Four: May 25, 2011: The Coolest Thing I Found Today...” Frederick Douglass: In Progress.  May 25, 2011.  Web. <>.
“Frederick Douglass, Jr.”  Find a Grave.  Web. <>.
Harvey’s.”  You Need a Schoolhouse.  February 14, 2018.  Web.  <>.
Muller, John.  “Frederick Douglass Endorses the ‘National Leader.’  Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia. November 2, 2014.  Web.  <>.
Muller, John.  “Frederick Douglass; Honorary Member of the Mutual Base Ball Club (September 1870).”  Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia. Web.
Muller, John.  Frederick Douglass, Jr. letter to Simon Wolf & Simon Wolf letter to Frederick Douglass, Jr. (National Republican, 22 May, 1869).”  Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia.  Web. < <>.
Muller, John.  “In Anacostia “improvements are rarely made” [National Leader, 30 March, 1889, p. 4].”  Death and Life in Historic Anacostia.  Web. <>.
Petition for Woman Suffrage, 1877.”  Documented Rights.  Web. <>.
Thorn, John.  The Drawing of the Color Line, 1867.”  Our Game.  Web. <>.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Frederick Douglass's Children
Lewis Henry Douglass
Lewis Henry Douglass was born October 9, 1840, in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  He and his family moved from Lynn, Massachusetts, to Rochester, New York, in 1847 when he was seven.  He was privately tutored, presumably, until he was admitted to a white Rochester public school in 1850.
Lewis would become a printer by trade.  In her biography about her mother, Lewis’s sister Rosetta wrote:
During one of the summer vacations the question arose in father's mind as to how his sons should be employed, for them to run wild through the streets was out of the question. There was much hostile feeling against the colored boys and as he would be from home most of the time, he felt anxious about them. Mother came to the rescue with the suggestion that they be taken into the office and taught the case. They were little fellows and the thought had not occurred to father. He acted upon the suggestion and at the ages of eleven and nine they were perched upon blocks and given their first lesson in printer's ink, besides being employed to carry papers and mailing them (Sprague 2).
Lewis worked as a typesetter for his father’s The North Star and Douglass’ Weekly.  “At the time of the capture [1859] of old John Brown, his father having suddenly to flee to England, Lewis took full charge of his father's extensive business though only nineteen years of age” (Civil 1).
We get a glimpse of the Douglass family in Rochester during March 1861 from a diary entry written by Julia Wilbur, an ardent abolitionist neighbor.
This P.M. Mrs. Coleman went with me to Frederick Douglass’ & we took tea with all his family & spent the evening. It was a very pleasant & interesting visit. Mrs. Watkyes & Mrs. Blackhall & Gerty C. were there.  There was sensible and lively conversation & music. Mrs. D. although an uneducated black woman appeared as well, & did the part of hostess as efficiently as the generality of white women.
The daughter Rosa is as pleasant & well informed & well behaved as girls in
general who have only ordinary advantages of education. The sons Lewis, Freddy, & Charles, aged 21, 19 & 17 respectively, are uncommonly dignified & gentlemanly young men.
They are sober & industrious & are engaged in the grocery business. F. Douglass is away from home much of the time engaged in lecturing. He continues a Monthly Paper & of course it takes a part of his time. It will be one year tomorrow since his little daughter Annie died under such painful circumstances, & they all feel her loss very much.
Apprehensions for her father’s safety, & grief for his absence caused her death. She was a promising child. She was 11 years of age (Muller 1).
Lewis Douglass has been lauded by many historical commentators as having been the most responsible of Frederick Douglass’s children.  His brief service as a soldier in the Civil War is excellent evidence.
Lewis’s father had strongly advocated that African Americans should be permitted to fight for their freedom. 
The nation was slow to accept the reasoning of Douglass and his co-advocates, however, and many battles were fought and many soldiers’ lives were lost before African American men were seen to be needed for the war effort. 
The first African American unit to see significant action was the famous 54th Massachusetts ­Volunteer Infantry Regiment and Douglass served as a recruiter.  His son Frederick Douglass Jr. also was a recruiter, and his other son Lewis Douglass fought with the 54th at its most famous engagement – the Battle of Fort Wagner,[July 18, 1863] near Charleston, South Carolina.  Its commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who was a member of a prominent Boston abolitionist family, was killed, as were 29 of his men, all African Americans.  Twenty-four later died of wounds, 15 were captured, and 52 were missing in action and never accounted for.  An additional 149 were wounded (Frederick 1).
Two days later, July 20, Lewis wrote this letter to his parents.
My Dear Father and Mother:
Wednesday July 8th, our regiment left St. Helens Island for Folly Island, arriving there the next day, and were then ordered to land on James Island, which we did. On the upper end of James Island is a large rebel battery, with 18 guns. After landing we threw our pickets to within two miles of the rebel fortifications. We were permitted to do this in peace until last Thursday, 16th inst., when at 4 o’clock in the morning the rebels made an attack on our pickets, who were about 200 strong. We were attack[ed] by a force of about 900. Our men fought like tigers; one sergeant killed five men by shoot and bayoneting. The rebels were held in check by our few men long enough to allow the 16th Conn. to escape being surrounded and captured, for which we received the highest praise from all parties who knew of it. This performance on our part, earned for us the reputation of a fighting regiment.
Our loss in killed wounded and missing was forty-five. 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 have reinforced by 14,000 men, we having only a half a dozen regiments. So it was necessary for us to escape.
I cannot write in full, expecting every moment to be called into another fight. Suffice to say we are now on Morris Island. Saturday night we made the most desperate charge of the war on Fort Wagner, losing in killed, wounded and missing in the assault, three hundred of our men. The splendid 54th is cut to pieces. All our officers, with the exception of eight, were either killed or wounded. Major Hallowell is wounded in three places. Adjt. James in two places Serg’t is killed. Nat. Hurley [from Rochester] is missing, and a host of others.
I had my sword sheath blown away while on a parapet of the Fort. The grape and canister, shell and minnies swept us down like chaff, still our men went on and on, and if we had been properly supported we would have held the Fort, but the white troops could not be made to come up. The consequence was we had to fall back, dodging shells and other missiles.
If I have another opportunity, I will write more fully. Good bye to all. If I die tonight I will not die a coward. Good bye.
Lewis (Natural 1)
Lewis had been courting Helen Amelia Loguen, the daughter of Syracuse’s Underground Railroad stationmaster and prominent preacher, the Rev. Jermain Loguen, for more than a year. Here is the letter he wrote to her, also on July 20:
 I have been in two fights, and am unhurt. I am about to go in another I believe to-night. Our men fought well on both occasions, the last was desperate we charged that terrible battery on Morris Island known as Fort Wagoner, and were repulsed with a loss of 3 killed and wounded. I escaped unhurt from amidst that perfect hail of shot and shell, it was terrible. I need not particularize the papers will give a better than I have time to give. My thoughts are with you often, you are as dear as ever, be good enough to remember it as I no doubt you will, as I said before we are on the eve of another fight and I am very busy and have just snatched a moment to write you. I must necessarily be brief. Should I fall in the next fight killed or wounded I hope to fall with my face to the foe.
If I survive I shall write you a long letter. DeForrest of your city is wounded George Washington is missing, Jacob Carter is missing, Chas Reason wounded Chas Whiting, Chas Creamer all wounded, the above are in hospital.
This regiment has established its reputation as a fighting regiment not a man flinched, though it was a trying time. Men fell all around me. 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 cannot 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. Good Bye to all Write soon
Your own loving Lewis (Lewis 2)
In 1863 Lewis was teaching black students in a school in Maryland.  Hearing that his brother Charles had enlisted, Lewis resigned his teaching position and enlisted in Charles’s regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. Almost immediately he was promoted to the rank of sergeant-major, the highest rank that a black man could attain. He was wounded after the Battle of Fort Wagner, became ill, and was discharged a year later. 
In 1866 Lewis and his younger brother Frederick, unsuccessful in business ventures at home, settled in Denver, Colorado Territory.  Lewis “was employed as a compositor on the Denver News, a Democratic paper. He was forced out of that job by the ‘Union’” (Civil 2).
Skilled African American craftsmen … found Denver trade unions extremely hostile to their aspirations.  … Partly because of his experience with the Denver labor movement in the 1860s, Lewis H. Douglass … roundly condemned “the folly, tyranny and wickedness of labor unions” in the mid-1870s. Lewis Douglass had come to Denver seeking work as a typographer but was unable to find regular employment because of his exclusion by No. 49.  “There is no disguising the fact—his crime was his color,” said Frederick Douglass in a speech denouncing the Denver Typographical Union and locals in Rochester and Washington, which had also denied admission to his son (Brundage 2).
Lewis and Frederick, in Denver, strived to be successful, responsible citizens in other ways.  They owned a laundry business.  They “created Denver's first black school, ran a mortuary, a restaurant on California Street and petitioned for Colorado to remain a territory until all men could vote” (Douglass 1).
On October 7, 1869, Lewis married Helen Amelia Loguen at the Loguen family home in Syracuse, New York.  Her father was Jermain Wesley Loguen, a prominent African-American abolitionist and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the author of a slave narrative, The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, a Narrative of Real Life.  Amelia (Helen Amelia) and Lewis followed in their parents' footsteps, passionate for justice and education for the enslaved and newly freed. Amelia was excellent in math and French, her mother being her first educator. Mrs. Loguen, the former Caroline Storum of Busti, NY (near Jamestown), was a biracial woman from a free and educated abolitionist family. After the Civil War and Lewis's safe return home, Amelia and Lewis rejoined the Loguen family in Syracuse, dedicated to teaching, reuniting and rebuilding broken, destitute families after slavery. During the early 1860s, Amelia assisted her father while he preached (and ushered slaves to safety) in and around Binghamton, NY, an hour from Syracuse. She taught children (often from her own pocketbook) on Hawley Street at "School no. 8 for Colored children". As black churches in that time often had to double as school rooms, Miss Amelia held adult night classes at the AME Zion church in Binghamton as well” (Jermain 2).
Eventually, Lewis moved to Washington, and was appointed a compositor in the Government Printing Office [the first of his race], and was later promoted to proof reader, but during all this time the typographical Union No. 101, of this city, was making a spirited war upon the Public Printer, Hon. A. M. Clapp, for his (Douglass') removal. This was under the administration of President Grant, who visited the office during Douglass' employment there and urged him to "stick," and he did stick; the "Union" for its own safety being obliged to open its doors to colored membership, though Douglass was made the target for the bitterest and most cowardly kind of intimidation. Threats of death, cross bones and skulls, and every other means to force him out were employed, but he would not surrender. Thus he opened the way for many others of his race who have since found employment there (Civil 4).
In 1870 Lewis, frustrated with the discriminatory treatment he had experienced working at the Government Printing Office, joined his father and brother Charles to help edit a newspaper that the senior Douglass had just purchased half ownership.
Businessman George Downing and pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, John Sella Martin, encouraged the elder Douglass and his children to launch a newspaper in Washington that would serve as the black community’s voice in chronicling both local affairs and Reconstruction efforts throughout the former Confederate States.  On Thursday, January 13, 1870 the New Era was published as a weekly, making it the only paper of its day published and edited by “colored men.” In September Frederick Douglass purchased all ownership rights and re-christened the paper the New National Era (Muller 4).
On September 8, 1870, Frederick Douglass ran a small note explaining the name change.
This change is made, mainly because there are so many newspapers in the country bearing the same name.  The addition to our title is, however, highly appropriate, and the new name clearly describes the new character of our journal.  The field of our labors is as wide as the limits of the nation; it is our aim to speak to and for the people of the whole land rather than of any particular locality, and to make the NEW NATIONAL ERA a national journal in its truest and broadest sense (Muller 5)
This paper was the largest enterprise in the printing business ever undertaken by colored men, and the paper itself was the largest colored weekly ever published by colored men. They had their own steam presses, and all the matter printed was original matter.  The paper was ably edited [mostly by Lewis Douglass] and conducted, but the race at that time did not measure up to the importance of such a Journal, and for lack of support it had to be suspended  [in 1874]. Over ten thousand dollars was sunk in this enterprise (Civil 4)
In early 1871 Washington was given its own limited form of territorial self-government with a bicameral legislature of a popularly elected lower house and an appointed upper house.  [Frederick] Douglass was appointed in April of that year to the city’s eleven-member Legislative Council by President Grant. With the demands of running his newspaper and other commitments Douglass’s career as a city legislator, however, was short-lived. On June 20, 1871, Douglass resigned. His eldest son Lewis would fill his seat (Muller 2). 
Pushing for racial equality during his one term Lewis wrote a bill that would have required restaurants to post their prices so they could not overcharge African Americans.  He took an active interest in the city’s public school system while a member of the Upper Chamber and afterward.  He attempted to serve his race and the general public as best he could given the racial limitations placed on him.  He became an Assistant U. S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, and, later, an inspector for the Post Office Department.
He is said by contemporaries to have “had hosts of friends in every walk of life, and especially among the younger set.  He was passionately fond of children, and children took a great liking to him, though he had none of his own” (Civil 5).  He is described as being “of medium size, a little darker in complexion than his father, has a manly walk, gentlemanly in his manners, intellectual countenance, and reliable in his business dealings” (Muller 1).  Lewis’s health was damaged by a stroke in 1904.  He died four years later, at the age of 67.
Works cited:
Civilwarbuff. “Lewis Henry Douglass.” Find a Grave. February 5, 2015. Web.
“The Douglass Brothers (1840-1908).” Colorado Black History Month.  DSST Public Schools. Web.
“Frederick Douglass,” Frederick Douglass Honor Society.  Web.
Jermain Wesley Loguen.”  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  Web.
Lewis Henry Douglass.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. WikiVisually.
Muller, John. “Diary Tells of Evening of Tea & Music …”  Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia.  Web.   <>.
Muller, John. “Frederick Douglass, Editor of the New National Era, Explains Newspaper’s Name Change.” Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia. Web.
Muller, John.  “Frederick Douglass in Washington.”  MidCity:  Web.  <>.
Muller, John.  “Lewis H. Douglass.”  Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia.  Web.
Muller, John.  The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in Anacostia (Washington, D.C.) as told in the Washington Evening Star.”  Readex Report.  Volume 9, Issue 1.  Web.  <>.
National Historical Publications and Records Commission. July 18, 2013. School of History, Philosophy & Religion.  Web.
Sprague, Rosetta Douglass. “My Mother as I Recall Her.” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan., 1923). Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. Web.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Frederick Douglass's Children
Rosetta Douglass Sprague
Rosetta Douglass was born June 24, 1839, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a year after her parents had escaped Baltimore seeking asylum in the North.  Frederick had not yet drawn the attention of prominent abolitionist leaders.  1839 was the year that he subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator.  Two years later, speaking at a meeting of the Bristol Anti-Slavery Society, he gained Garrison’s notice.  Urged by Garrison, he traveled widely in the East and Midwest for the American Anti-Slavery Society lecturing against slavery and campaigning for rights of free Blacks.
When Rosetta was five (1844), she and her family moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.  A year later, she was sent to Albany, New York, to be educated by the well-known abolitionist sisters, Abigail and Lydia Mott.  Abigail taught her to read and write, and Lydia taught her to sew.  The same year, 1845, Frederick’s first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, was published.  To escape slave catchers, he traveled to England and lectured throughout the kingdom.  The following year, 1846, British supporters purchased his freedom.  After returning to America, attracted by Susan B. Anthony's active women's movement, in 1847 he moved his family to Rochester, New York.  Rosetta was then 8, her brother Lewis 7, her brother Frederick 5, and her brother Charles 3.
The Rochester school system was segregated.  Douglass refused to have his children attend an all-black school.   He placed Rosetta and her brothers “under the instruction of Miss Phebe Thayer, a Quaker lady who was employed as governess in the family” (Gregory 1).  In 1848 he enrolled Rosetta in the prestigious Seward Seminary in Rochester.  
Likely having accepted Rosetta in the first place because her father was a well-known man, the school’s principal Lucilia Tracy, in deference to the school’s trustees, made Rosetta learn her lessons in a separate room from the other students. Rosetta, no surprise, was the only black student enrolled. When Rosetta tearfully told her father of this, Douglass was enraged. He confronted Tracy, who tried to evade responsibility by putting it to a student vote: who would object if Rosetta would sit next to them? One after the other, every student in the room said they were not only willing, but many requested that Rosetta be placed next to them. As is so often the case, these children proved themselves more fair-minded and far more progressive than even most of the adult citizens in Rochester, where racism was still rife. Yet in response to the notes that Tracy sent home with the students reporting the situation, every parent voted in tandem with their children, except one, the editor of the Rochester Courier. As he had with train car segregation in New England, Douglass took this battle to the public, castigating this H.G. Warner in the North Star and other papers, and all those like him in front of the School Board of Education. 
In his vigorous expose of the injustice and harm in such undignified treatment of children, Douglass’ campaign to integrate the public schools in Rochester was ultimately successful (Cools 1-2).  Douglass’s children were admitted to white schools in 1850.  The public schools were integrated entirely in 1857.
Douglass had started printing his own newspaper, the North Star, in 1847.  Some local citizens were unhappy that their town was the site of a black newspaper, and the New York Herald urged the citizens of Rochester to dump Douglass's printing press into Lake Ontario. Gradually, Rochester came to take pride in the North Star and its bold editor.  Starting the North Star marked the end of his dependence on Garrison and other white abolitionists.
The cost of producing a weekly newspaper was high and subscriptions grew slowly. For a number of years, Douglass was forced to depend on his own savings and contributions from friends to keep the paper afloat. He was forced to return to the lecture circuit to raise money for the paper. During the paper's first year, he was on the road for six months. In the spring of 1848, he had to mortgage his home.
In England he met Julia Griffiths and brought her home to live with him in the Rochester family house as a tutor for his children and for wife Anna in 1848. But his effort with his wife failed and Anna remained almost totally illiterate until her death (Timeline 3-4).
At the age of eleven, 1850, Rosetta “was employed by her father in his office in folding papers and in writing wrappers. As she advanced in age and acquired skill and experience, she became his amanuensis [a literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts], writing editorials and lectures at his dictation” (Gregory 2).  In the evenings Douglass enjoyed having her play the piano for visitors.  Perhaps this occurred during the interlude of time between Julia Griffiths’s departure from the Douglass’s house (1852) and Ottilia Assing’s arrival in 1855.  During her later adolescent years Rosetta attended in Ohio Oberlin College’s Young Ladies Preparatory and New Jersey’s Salem Normal School.  She did not attend college.
Rosetta would describe her parents as “Two lives whose energy and best ability were exerted to make my life what it should be, and who gave me a home where…a cultivated brain and an industrious hand were the twin conditions that led to a well balanced and useful life” (Schmitt 1).
She taught school briefly in Salem, New Jersey. The Civil War erupted.  On December 24, 1863, at the age of 24, she married Nathan Sprague, a poorly educated ex-slave struggling to secure a job.  Sprague would serve with Rosetta’s two oldest brothers as soldiers in the Civil War.  The Spragues were living at the Douglasses’ South Avenue farm the night their house burned in 1872 and Nathan Sprague helped save many of the Douglass’ possessions. The couple later lived in a home owned by Frederick Douglass on Hamilton Street in Rochester” (Schmitt 3).  They would have seven children.
Rosetta is credited with having a keen sense of racial justice, inherited from her father’s example of activism and from her experience as a woman in antebellum and Reconstruction America. She advised Frederick Douglass against accepting the presidency of the Freedman’s Bank and did not support his interracial marriage, after her mother’s death (Temple 2).
Rosetta “developed into a prominent orator of her own right and spoke publicly, lecturing alongside other famous speakers like Sojourner Truth.  In 1986, Rosetta founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) with Ida Wells-Barnett and Harriet Tubman” (Rosetta 1).  She converted to Seventh-day Adventism in the 1890s and was a member of Washington, D.C.'s First Church.
“Worried that her mother’s legacy would be overshadowed by her father’s considerable achievements,” Rosetta wrote in 1900 a biography titled, My Mother as I Recall Her.  In the book, she “revealed that her mother lived an isolated life while regularly hosting white abolitionists who could barely hide their hatred for her. Anna Murray never learned to read despite her husband’s attempt to teach her how. Sprague’s manuscripts are preserved in a series of Douglass family papers at the Library of Congress” (Gilliam 1).
Here are several excerpts.
In the home, with the aid of a laundress only, she managed her household. She watched with a great deal of interest and no little pride the growth in public life of my father, and in every possible way that she was capable aided him by relieving him of all the management of the home as it increased in size and in its appointments. It was her pleasure to know that when he stood up before an audience that his linen was immaculate and that she had made it so, for, no matter how well the laundry was done for the family, she must with her own hands smooth the tucks in father's linen and when he was on a long journey she would forward at a given point a fresh supply.
Being herself one of the first agents of the Underground Railroad she was an untiring worker along that line. To be able to accommodate in a comfortable manner the fugitives that passed our way, father enlarged his home where a suite of rooms could be made ready for those fleeing to Canada. It was no unusual occurrence for mother to be called up at all hours of the night, cold or hot as the case may be, to prepare supper for a hungry lot of fleeing humanity.
She was a woman strong in her likes and dislikes, and had a large discernment as to the character of those who came around her. Her gift in that direction being very fortunate in the protection of father's interest especially in the early days of his public life, when there was great apprehension for his safety. She was a woman firm in her opposition to alcoholic drinks, a strict disciplinarian-her no meant no and yes, yes, but more frequently the no's had it, especially when I was the petitioner. So far as I was concerned, I found my father more yielding than my mother, altho' both were rigid as to the matter of obedience.
During her wedded life of forty-four years, whether in adversity or prosperity, she was the same faithful ally, guarding as best she could every interest connected with my father, his life- work and the home. Unfortunately an opportunity for a knowledge of books had been denied her, the lack of which she greatly deplored. Her increasing family and household duties prevented any great advancement, altho' she was able to read a little. By contact with people of culture and education, and they were her real friends, her improvement was marked. She took a lively interest in every phase of the Anti-Slavery movement, an interest that father took full pains to foster and to keep her intelligently informed. I was instructed to read to her. She was a good listener, making comments on passing events, which were well worth consideration, altho' the manner of the presentation of them might provoke a smile.
In 1882, this remarkable woman, for in many ways she was remarkable, was stricken with paralysis and for four weeks was a great sufferer. Altho' perfectly helpless, she insisted from her sick bed to direct her home affairs. The orders were given with precision and they were obeyed with alacrity. Her fortitude and patience up to within ten days of her death were very great. She helped us to bear her burden.
Unlettered tho' she was, there was a strength of character and of purpose that won for her the respect of the noblest and best. She was a woman who strove to inculcate in the minds of her children the highest principles of morality and virtue both by precept and example. She was not well versed in the polite etiquette of the drawing room, the rules for the same being found in the many treatises devoted to that branch of literature. She was possessed of a much broader culture, and with discernment born of intelligent observation, and wise discrimination she welcomed all with the hearty manner of a noble soul (Sprague 97-101).
Rosetta Douglass Sprague died November 25, 1906, at the age of 67 in Washington, D.C.  She was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.
Works cited:
Cools, Amy. “Frederick Douglass, Rochester NY Sites Day 2.” Ordinary Philosophy. Web. <>.
Gilliam, Karim. “10 Things You May Not Have Known About Frederick Douglass.” HuffPost: The Blog. Feb 02, 2017. Web. <>.
Gregory, James M. “Rosetta Douglass Sprague.” Frederick Douglass the Orator. Awesome Stories. Web. <>.
“Rosetta Douglass (1839-1906).” Fine Ancestry.Com Historical African American Families.Web. <>. 
Schmitt, Victoria Sandwick. “Rochester's Frederick Douglass Part Two.” Rochester History. Vol. LXVII. Fall, 2005. No. 4. Web. <>.
Sprague, Rosetta Douglass. “My Mother as I recall Her.” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan., 1923). Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. Web.
Temple, Christel. “Rosetta Douglass-Sprague (1839-1906).” Web. <>.
“Timeline of Frederick Douglass and Family.” African American History of Western New York. Web. <>