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. <>

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Frederick Douglass's Children
How often do we see the son or daughter of a famous parent match or exceed that individual’s accomplishments? 
Abraham Lincoln had children. So had Thomas Edison.  What do we know of Martin Luther King’s offspring? 
Imagine the pressure each child must have felt to become somebody extraordinary.  Life does not permit that to happen, usually.  That is not to say that the child will not live a praise-worthy, productive life.   That child’s life becomes interesting if for no other reason than to contrast accomplishment.  Was he a chip off the old block?  Was she her mother’s best self?  If not, then by how much not?  And does that matter?
I was curious to learn what I could about Frederick Douglass’s children.  He had five, two girls and three boys.
Rosetta, born 1839
Lewis Henry, 1840
Frederick Jr., 1842
Charles Remond, 1844
Annie, 1849
I would like to share with you what I have discovered.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Frederick Douglass's Women
Ida B. Wells, Part Four
For a long time, Wells thought of marriage and romantic relationships as oppressive, where women were expected to defer to men and flatter their vanity. But one day, she met a man who must have made her feel very differently, an attorney, writer, and fellow advocate for black rights named Ferdinand Barnett. She married him and they raised four children (Cools 3). She strived to balance caring for her family with her activism and her work as a probation officer in Chicago. As she aged, she devoted much of her time to African-American organization causes.
Wells-Barnett had been and continued to be indefatigable in her documentation of lynching.
Wells would do things like document every lynching in a year, breaking them down by cause and region. Through her research, she was able to demonstrate persuasively that many of these murders had nothing to do with rape, and many were perpetrated against the innocent, the insane, or the merely insolent.
Some of Wells’ methods of work recall today’s “digital media activists.” She circulated “pamphlets” of her own speeches about lynching. Later, when she couldn’t travel because she had a family (and changed her name to the very modern, hyphenated Wells-Barnett), she would… close-read the reportage of white newspapers to make her case. These papers “reported the deaths of [lynch victims] … black men in enthusiastic, almost pornographic detail, making Wells-Barnett’s case against mob violence for her.”
Wells even hired detectives to go on fact-finding missions for her when she couldn’t travel herself, either because of her family obligations or because of the many death threats that prevented her return to areas of the Deep South (Seltzer 1-2).

For many, including some of Well's liberal allies, it was a commonly held assumption that lynching resulted from anger about sexual attacks — but her analysis showed that less than a third of lynchings involved an accusation of rape. She also noted that sexual assault "committed by white men against Negro women and girls, is never punished by mob or the law."

Wells's work made it clear that lynching was being used to terrorize African Americans. Of course, some didn't want to listen to her facts — in an editorial about Wells's lectures abroad in 1893, the Washington Post noted she "studiously ignores the lynching of white men, and devotes all of her time to denunciation of the lynching of blacks."

In 1896, the Republican Women’s State Central Committee wanted the still-nursing Wells to travel and campaign for them across Illinois. To make the journey possible, they arranged for volunteers to take care of her firstborn everywhere she went.

Wells went on to have three more children, and would step back from some of her work in order to have more time for her family. But she'd demonstrated that combining marriage, children and a career wasn't impossible — and as she noted in her autobiography, which she started writing in 1928, "I honestly believe that I am the only woman in the United States who ever traveled throughout the country with a nursing baby to make political speeches" (Kettler 3-4).

In 1896, Wells-Barnett formed the National Association of Colored Women. In 1898, she led a protest in Washington, D.C., that called for President William McKinley to make reforms. She founded in Chicago the Ida B. Wells Club for Negro women and the more activist Negro Fellowship League. She published in 1900 her “Lynch Law of America” creed that argued that without representation in government, lawlessness against black Americans would continue to reign.
In 1908, the year after the occurrence of brutal assaults on the African-American community in Springfield, Illinois, Wells “attended a special conference for the organization that would later become known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Though she is considered a founding member of the NAACP, Wells later cut ties with the organization; she explained her decision thereafter, stating that she felt the organization, in its infancy at the time she left, lacked action-based initiatives” (Biography 5).
In January 1913, she founded the Alpha Suffrage Club, the first such group for black women in Illinois. It would be for Ida the prelude to a major event in Washington, D.C. March 3, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inaugural.

When Washington, D.C.'s first suffrage parade was organized, for 1913, lead planner Alice Paul, a young Quaker woman, expressed concern that white women wouldn’t show up if they knew they had to march alongside black women. “As far as I can see, we must have a white procession, or a Negro procession, or no procession at all,” she reasoned. Wells-Barnett was told that the historic march was segregated and she would have to walk with an all-black group (Dionne 3).

Ida had brought members of the Alpha Suffrage Club to march. “The organizers of the march asked that they walk at the end of the parade.  She tried to get the White Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters.  They either would march at the end or not at all” (Wilson and Russell 1).
By the beginning of the 20th century,… many middle-class white people embraced the suffragists’ cause because they believed that the enfranchisement of “their” women would guarantee white supremacy by neutralizing the black vote (Williams 1).
5,000 women marched. One of the women, Mary Wilson, described what she saw.
“The violence erupted minutes after the parade began. The crowd broke through steel cables and spilled into the street. Men, many of them drunk, spit at the marchers and grabbed their clothing, hurled insults and lighted cigarettes, snatched banners and tried to climb floats. Police did little to keep order. Observed one of Paul’s supporters, ‘I did not know men could be such fiends.’”
By the end of the day, 100 marchers were taken to the local emergency hospital and “Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, responding to a request from the chief of police, authorized the use of a troop of cavalry from nearby Fort Myer to help control the crowd.”
The protesters had to have known the risk before they left the safety of their homes for Washington. But women, black and white, traveled across the country anyway to make their voices heard (Bernard 3-4).
Ida Wells-Barnett refused to march at the back of the parade with an all-black delegation. She noted, "If the Illinois women do not take a stand now in this great democratic parade then the colored women are lost" (Kettler 5).  As the parade progressed, emerging from the crowd, she joined the White Illinois delegation, situating herself between two White supporters.
She continued to fight for African-American equality. “Working on behalf of all women, as part of her work with the National Equal Rights League [she] called for President Woodrow Wilson to put an end to discriminatory hiring practices for government jobs. She created the first African-American kindergarten in her community” … (Biography 6).
In 1917, a group of black soldiers were court-martialed after being involved in a riot in Texas; 13 of them were hanged before they could appeal their death sentences. Wells felt these soldiers were martyrs — willing to defend their country, then killed without due process — and had buttons made to commemorate them.

This drew the attention of government agents, who came to ask Wells to stop distributing the buttons. She refused, but the interaction was added to an intelligence file about her. In 1918, Wells was selected to be a delegate to the peace conference at Versailles that followed World War I. However, she wasn't able to go — considered "a known race agitator," the U.S. government denied her a passport (Kettler 6).

Wells-Barnett went on to serve as secretary of the National Afro-American Council. She founded and became the first president of the Negro Fellowship League. Nevertheless, during the last decade of her life … she found herself pushed to the sidelines by the emerging Negro leadership, having alienated many people with her confrontational style and her difficult personality (Banes 2).
In 1930, Wells made an unsuccessful bid for the Illinois state senate. Health problems plagued her the following year.
Ida B. Wells died of kidney disease March 25, 1931, at the age of 68, in Chicago, Illinois. She left behind an impressive legacy of social and political heroism. With her writings, speeches and protests, Wells fought against prejudice, no matter what potential dangers she faced. She once said, "I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap" (Biography 9).
Works cited:
Banes, Mary Jo. “First Things: Ida Wells-Barnett.” Boston College Magazine. Summer 2004. Web. <>.
Bernard, Michelle. “Despite the Tremendous Risk, African American Women Marched for Suffrage, Too.” The Washington Post. March 3, 2013. Web.  <>.
Cools, Amy. ““Happy Birthday, Ida B. Wells!”  Ordinary Philosophy. July 16, 2017. Web. <>.
Dionne, Evette. “Women's Suffrage Leaders Left Out Black Women.” News and Politics. Aug. 18, 2017. Web. <>.
“Ida B. Wells Biography.” Biography. The Website. A&E Television Networks. January 19, 2018. Web. <>.
Kettler, Sara. “6 Fascinating Facts About 'Crusader for Justice' Ida B. Wells.” Biography.  July 15, 2017. Web. <>.
Seltzer, Sarah. Ida B. Wells, Anti-Lynching Crusader, Was the Godmother of the Social Justice Internet.” Flavorwire.  November 24, 2014. Web.  <>.
Williams, Yohuru. “Women Who Fought for the Vote.” History. Web. <>.
Wilson, Midge and Russell, Kathy. “Black Women & the Suffrage Movement: 1848-1923.” Wesleyan University. Web. <>.