Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cedar Hill

Cedar Hill, home of Frederick Douglass, freed slave, abolitionist and statesman

This beautiful home in the Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast Washington belonged by Frederick Douglass, a freed slave and abolitionist. Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in February 1818 near Easton, Maryland, he was separated from his mother shortly after his birth. Until the age of seven, he lived with his grandmother. After her death, he was sent as a slave to the plantation of Hugh Auld of Baltimore. It was there that Auld's wife, Sophia, began teaching young Frederick the alphabet--a practice discouraged among slave owners because they feared the ability to read would lead to discontent and slaves would then demand rights or attempt to run away. Frederick was taken from Hugh Auld and given to a ruthless man named Edward Covey, who continually whipped the young man almost to the point of breaking him. But Frederick rebelled and fought Covey, who, defeated, never whipped him again.

The Growlery--Douglass' backyard respite where he would contemplate and write.

In September 1838, with a few failed escape attempts under his belt, Frederick finally succeeded in running to freedom and escaping Covey's servitude. Armed with false identification papers from a freed black sailor and dressed in a sailor's uniform, he boarded a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland. From there, he traveled to the Susquehanna River and crossed over to Delaware by ferry, then caught a train to Wilmington, a steamboat to Philadelphia, and eventually made it to New York. And all in less than 24 hours! He was now a free man and changed his name to Douglass. Eventually, he arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he settled with his wife, Anna Murray.

The view from the front of Cedar Hill.
On a clear day, one can see all the way to the Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception in northeast Washington. (Click on the image to enlarge
and see the Capitol and the Library of Congress.)

Douglass became a fiery orator and spoke out against slavery, advocated for suffrage and rights for women, and was a trusted adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. In 1872, Douglass was a candidate for vice president on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president. In 1877, Douglass and his wife purchased a home in Washington, D.C., in the Anacostia community not far from the Anacostia River. He named it Cedar Hill and from here not only did he continue to work for the rights of African-Americans in post-Civil War America, but Douglass believed in equality for all and worked tirelessly for the rights not only of his own people, but for Native Americans, women, and immigrants.

Magnolia in bloom on the grounds of Cedar Hill.

Douglass and his wife, Anna, had five children. In 1882, she passed away leaving Douglass bewildered and depressed. In 1884, Douglass married a white feminist named Helen Pitts, the daughter of a fellow abolitionist. The marriage was controversial and resulted in Pitts' family not speaking to her and Douglass' children feeling hurt. On February 20, 1895, after attending a meeting of the National Council of Women in downtown Washington, Douglass returned home where he had a massive heart attack and died. Frederick Douglass is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York. He was believed to be 77 years old at the time he died.

*** Note: This entry has been edited to correct an error. Victoria Woodhull died and is buried in England, not in Congressional Cemetery here in Washington as was previously stated. Her contemporary, and the second woman to run for president in the U.S., Ann Lockwood, is buried in Congressional Cemetery. My thanks to an anonymous commenter for bringing this error to light. ***

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 6/08

15 comments:

Mike Licht said...

Before moving to Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass lived at 320 A. Street NE on Capitol Hill for seven years -- see

http://www.nahc.org/fd/index.html

Hilda said...

Such a sad, but inspiring, story. Thank you for posting this. Freedom and independence has been on my mind today too. It's the Philippines' Independence Day. But it's such a mixed up day. Read, not My Manila, but my post today in Happy at Home and you'll understand why.

D.C. Confidential said...

Mike: Thank you for this additional information. I really appreciate it! I'll have to check out his home.

Hilda: I read that on your blog yesterday. How odd? Every Filipino I've ever met in the U.S. seems pretty proud of their heritage. Of course, heritage and country aren't the same thing, are they?

b.c. said...

another great post...my parents live near where he is buried...

Anonymous said...

FYI - WOODHULL is buried in England and there is a lovely memorial at the Teweksbury Abby.

Check out the documentary, America's Victoria, Remembering Victoria Woodhull which aired on PBS.. on Amazon

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

You've published delightful images this week, Jane. Thank you. :)

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

I really hope you like the name Jane, Janet...

Sorry! Sigh...

D.C. Confidential said...

B.C.: Thanks! I looked up the cemetery where he's buried. If I ever get up to Upstate, I'm planning a visit!

Anon: Thank you for that correction. I've amended my entry to reflect your information. You are correct. Victoria Woodhull died and is buried in England. I confused her with the second female candidate for U.S. President and Woodhull's contemporary, Ann Lockwood. It is Lockwood who is buried in Congressional Cemetery. Again, my thanks to you for calling this to my attention.

Fénix: I can think of far worse things to be called! :-) Thanks for the compliments.

Maya said...

What an amazing story! And, the photos are great too. People like this amaze me. Talk about overcoming adversity!!

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: I remember reading about Frederick Douglass as a little kid and being amazed by him, but having no real context for who or what he was. (I grew up in Utah.) Living out here and seeing these places, I'm continually in awe of the people and events that have shaped our history. Douglass was an amazing man! Can't wait to go back to Cedar Hill and see the inside of his home!

Nancy said...

Thanks for the beautiful photos and story. I was at Cedar Hill in March researching a novel I've written on the life of Helen Pitts called The Second Mrs. Douglass, and was so moved by the peace and beauty of Cedar Hill. It is in great contrast to the neighborhood around it, and I wonder how Frederick would feel to see it today...thanks for keeping Mr. Douglass' story in plain view.
http://nancydaviskho.blogspot.com/

D.C. Confidential said...

Nancy: Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I also wonder what Douglass would think, but I especially wonder how he would feel about the current presidential race. My guess is, he'd be thrilled beyond words.

Look forward to exploring your websites a little more. The work you do looks like a lot of fun!

Nancy said...

I think Frederick and Helen would have shared the thought I hold: it's an embarrassment of riches in this election cycle, with a black man and a white woman at the top of the nomination! (But probably would have been shocked that those were the Democratic, not Republican candidates...how times have changed.)

Maya said...

Yes, this sort of history is lacking in the SW (I grew up in Arizona so can relate). It must be great to be around so many interesting sites!

D.C. Confidential said...

Nancy: Ironically, the platform of the Republicans in the late 1800s is largely the platform of the Democrats now and vice versa! I'm sure in a couple hundred years it will shift the other way. I have a feeling you're right: Mr. and Mrs. Douglass would have been delighted!


Maya: There's never a lack of things to photograph, that's for sure!