Frederick Douglass's Children
Lewis Henry Douglass
Lewis Henry Douglass was born October 9, 1840, in
. He and his family moved from New Bedford, Massachusetts Lynn,
Massachusetts, to ,
in 1847 when he was seven. He was
privately tutored, presumably, until he was admitted to a white Rochester, New York public school
in 1850. Rochester
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  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
during March 1861 from a diary
entry written by Julia Wilbur, an ardent abolitionist neighbor. Rochester
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
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 Massachusetts 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 ( Boston 1). Frederick
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
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. James Island
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
. 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 Morris
Island ] is missing, and a host of others. Rochester
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
’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: Syracuse
MY DEAR AMELIA:
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
. Hearing that his brother Charles had enlisted,
Lewis resigned his teaching position and enlisted in Charles’s regiment, the 54th
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. Massachusetts
In 1866 Lewis and his younger brother Frederick, unsuccessful in business ventures at home, settled in
Territory. Lewis “was employed as a compositor on the Denver
News, a Democratic paper. He was forced out of that job by the ‘ Denver,
Colorado Union’” (Civil 2).
Skilled African American craftsmen … found
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 Denver Typographical Union and locals in Rochester and ,
which had also denied admission to his son (Brundage 2). Washington
Lewis and Frederick, in
, 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). Denver
On October 7, 1869, Lewis married Helen Amelia Loguen at the Loguen family home in
. 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 Syracuse,
New York Busti, NY
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 Jamestown ,
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 Syracuse Binghamton,
NY, an hour from . She taught children (often from her
own pocketbook) on Syracuse 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
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. … [ Washington ]
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). Frederick
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
, and, later, an inspector for the Post
Office Department. District
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.
Brundage, David Thomas. The Making of Western Labor Radicalism:
Organized Workers, 1878-1905. Web.
< https://books.google.com/books?id=km17gPiR2VwC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=Lewis+Douglass,+Denver&source=bl&ots=pVUKmVwgU2&sig=cU5vkWw791KI0FjMO4EQ3Hd5lOE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi517yXq_zaAhUB-GMKHRmyC044ChDoAQgzMAI#v=onepage&q&f=false>. Denver
Civilwarbuff. “Lewis Henry Douglass.” Find a Grave. February 5, 2015. Web. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/142221918/lewis-henry-douglass.
“The Douglass Brothers (1840-1908).”
History Month. DSST Public Schools. Web. https://www.dsstpublicschools.org/colorado-black-history-month-0. Colorado
“Frederick Douglass,” Frederick Douglass Honor Society. Web. https://www.frederickdouglasshonorsociety.org/douglass-history.html
“Jermain Wesley Loguen.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jermain_Wesley_Loguen.
“Lewis Henry Douglass.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. WikiVisually. https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Lewis_Henry_Douglass
Muller, John. “Diary Tells of Evening of Tea & Music …” Frederick Douglass in
: The Lion of Anacostia. Web.
Muller, John. “Frederick Douglass, Editor of the New National Era, Explains Newspaper’s Name Change.” Frederick Douglass in
: The Lion of Anacostia. Web.
Muller, John. “Frederick Douglass in
wwwmidcityDCNews.com. Web. < http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/frederick-douglass-washington-0>. Washington
Muller, John. “Lewis H. Douglass.” Frederick Douglass in
The Lion of Anacostia. Web. https://thelionofanacostia.wordpress.com/tag/new-national-era/. Washington, D.C.
Muller, John. “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in Anacostia (
as told in the Washington Evening Star.”
Readex Report. Volume 9, Issue 1. Web.
< https://www.readex.com/readex-report/life-and-times-frederick-douglass-anacostia-washington-dc-told-washington-evening-star>. Washington, D.C.
National Historical Publications and Records Commission. July 18, 2013.
, Philosophy & Religion. Web. https://www.facebook.com/osu.shpr/posts/463312860431882.
School of History
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. http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc5400/sc5496/051200/051245/images/2713462.pdf.