Frederick Douglass Rochester NY Sites, Day 1

Susan B. Anthony Square, Rochester NY, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

At Susan B. Anthony Square

Ninth day, Monday Mar 28th

On a cold, gray, and blustery spring morning, I drive from Syracuse to Rochester NY, and head straight for a certain house very near Susan B. Anthony Square. As I suspect might be the case, the house is closed to the public today so I’ll return tomorrow; I head here first anyway to scope things out in person because, as it turns out, I have more free time to explore Rochester this morning than I thought I would. Hooray!

For the moment, I leave my car in the Madison St parking lot adjacent to the house and head to the square just around the corner, going east through Yack Alley, not the only or even necessarily the shortest way but I choose it because the name makes me smile. Susan B. Anthony Square, at 39 King St, is a little park crisscrossed with meandering paths and dotted with benches and neatly trimmed shrubbery, in the center of pretty blocks of well-maintained early 19th century houses. The square is dominated by a life-size sculpture of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony by Pepsy Kettavong, called ‘Let’s Have Tea’, installed in 2001.

Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony statue by Pepsy Kettvong, Rochester NY, 2016 by Amy Cools

Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony sculpture by Pepsy Kettvong in Susan B. Anthony Square, Rochester NY

The sculpture presents an idealized picture of Douglass’ and Anthony’s friendship, a view I had long held myself and never really questioned, I suppose because I admire them both and wish it were true! As my research for this series reveals, however, the real relationship between Douglass and Anthony was a long, complicated, often troubled one over the years. (I should have known something was up given that Douglass doesn’t write about her in his autobiographies except for a brief mention of her as one of the authors of History of Woman Suffrage.) Sometimes they were real friends, such as when they first met; at other times, they were estranged co-activists in a shared cause, presenting a united front solely for practical, political reasons. For all her admirable work in promoting women’s and black rights over her long career as a social reformer, Anthony, as you may remember from my Albany account, resorted to using racist language in her campaign against the 15th Amendment’s granting voting rights only to men, regardless of race, and also sadly, she was among those spreading rumors that Douglass’ friendship with North Star colleague Julia Griffiths might be …ahem, less than respectable. (For more about the troubles in Anthony’s and Douglass’ relationship, listen to the second part of my interview with Douglass scholar Leigh Fought, starting at about 9:30).

Historical Marker and plaque for site of Amy and Isaac Post's house, Rochester NY, 2016 by Amy Cools

Historical Marker and plaque at 50 Plymouth St, marking the site of Amy and Isaac Post’s house

Douglass began the move to Rochester near the end of 1847, and brought the rest of his family here in February of 1848. Douglass said the move was ‘for motives of peace’. He wanted to start his own newspaper independently of the Garrisonians, who were centered in Boston (Lynn, where Douglass was living, is very close to Boston) and who disapproved strongly of his new pro-Union, pro-Constitution political views and newfound independence of thought and decision-making. Besides the fact that his good friends Amy and Isaac Post lived here, that it was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and that it was a center for the feminist movement where the Post’s and his (then) friend Susan B. Anthony lived, Douglass listed all manner of other reasons for his move to Rochester in his autobiography Life and Times. ‘[Rochester] …is the center of a virtuous, intelligent, enterprising, liberal, and growing population… It is on the line of the New York Central railroad – a line that, with its connections, spans the whole country. Its people were (were? I wonder why he wrote this, in 1881, in the past tense)  industrious and in comfortable circumstances – not so rich as to be indifferent to the claims of humanity, and not so poor as to be unable to help any good cause which commanded the approval of their judgment’.

Post house site and old Central Prebyterian, now Hochstein Music School, 2016 by Amy Cools

Site of Douglass friends Amy and Isaac Post’s house (plainer front building to the left, with the blue Post house sign in front) and of the Central Presbyterian Church (center) where Douglass’ second funeral service was held in 1895. It’s now the Hochstein Music School.

I drive east on Main St and turn north on Plymouth Ave N, where there’s a historical marker for the site of Amy and Isaac Post’s home, just under a mile from Susan B. Anthony Square. It’s in front of the handsome brick buildings which now house the Hochstein Music School.

A gray sky and freezing gusty wind follows the milder temperature, scattered clouds, little rainbursts, and blue sky of the morning. The fine raindrops pepper my face like icy Lilliputian buckshot as I take photos of the front of the historical marker and the school. I can hardly hold my camera still between the wind and the shivering of my hands, fingers stiffened with cold. Ah, early spring in northern New York!

Amy and Isaac Post Historical Plaque at 50 Plymouth St, Rochester NY, 2016 Amy Cools

Amy and Isaac Post Historical Plaque at 50 Plymouth St, Rochester NY

Amy and Isaac Post were long-time friends of Douglass. He met them while passing through Rochester in 1842 or 1843 (depending on the source) on a marathon antislavery speaking tour early in his career. He described them in his Life and Times as ‘two people of all-abounding benevolence, the truest and best’. They were members of the Hicksite Quaker sect, the more progressive branch of the Society of Friends which emphasized the importance of the ‘inner light‘, which God places in all individuals for spiritual guidance. This, in turn, led to an emphasis on the moral, and hence to some, the social and political equality of all human beings. The Posts were emblematic of the brand of Quakerism that inspired so many activists in the abolitionist, women’s rights, temperance, and other human rights and social reform movements of the time. Yet even this brand of Quakerism was ultimately too conservative for the socially conscious Posts, who eventually became Spiritualists.

Old Central Presbyterian Church Plaque, Funeral of Frederick Douglass, 2016 Amy Cools.JPG

Old Central Presbyterian Church historical plaque with a photo of Frederick Douglass’ funeral service

Old Central Presbysterian Church sanctuary as Hochstein Music School theater today, 2016 Amy Cools.JPG

Old Central Presbysterian Church sanctuary in today’s incarnation as the Hochstein Music School theater

Stained glass window in Old Central Presbyterian Church building, now Hochstein Music School Theater

Stained glass window in Old Central Presbyterian Church building, now Hochstein Music School Theater

Hochstein not only stands on (or near, according to the Freethought Trail website, though I don’t think they’ve necessarily got it right: the house was at number 36 Sophia St, which was what Plymouth used to be named north of Main, which in turn was originally named Buffalo St, and the numbering may have changed along with the street name) the site of the old Post house. It’s also partly composed of the former Central Presbyterian Church where Douglass’ 1895 (his second, the first was held in Washington DC) and Anthony’s 1906 funeral services were held.

I enter the front door and am assisted by a helpful lady in the front office to the right. In response to my inquiries, she gives me permission to go inside and photograph the sanctuary of the old church building, now the school’s main performance hall. The man at the front desk takes me inside, and finds himself interested in the history of the old church too. ‘I’ve worked here five months,’ he says, ‘and I’ve never looked at these before!’ He’s referring to the plaques on the walls, with their photos and history of the building and of the school’s founder.

After admiring and photographing the theater, and learning what I can from these plaques and photos, I head east on Main again, a third of a mile closer to the Genessee River, to the site of the old Corinthian Hall, which, according to a couple of sources, was near the end of Corinthian Street behind the Reynolds Arcade, where the parking garage is now. Originally called The Athenaeum, as were so many public halls of the time, it was renamed Corinthian Hall after the style of the classical columns on its stage, and the building was widely famed for its beauty. Corinthian Street was also renamed, and most internet sources I find say it was originally named Exchange Place.  However, I discover that these two pieces of received internet wisdom appear to be a bit off. Poring over old maps in Rochester Library’s online images database, I find one published in 1851, two years after the hall was built in 1849. For one, I find that while the street was named Exchange Place before it was named Corinthian, it was named Work Street at the time the hall was built. Secondly, I find that it was not actually under the parking garage at the end of the street. It was actually directly across from the back entrance of the Reynolds Arcade, where a parking lot and a glassy midcentury office building now stand. The 1851 map was a little behind the times: Corinthian Hall and Exchange Place had already received their new names in 1850, but the map retains their original designations.

Corinthian St, north of Main, around the site of old Corinthian Hall

The rear of the Reynolds Arcade facing onto Corinthian St, north of Main, across from the site of old Corinthian Hall

View from west end of Corinthian St, showing site of old Corinthian Hall at right where the glassy midcentury building now stands, photo 2016 by Paige Sloan

View from west end of Corinthian St, showing site of old Corinthian Hall at right where the glassy midcentury building now stands, photo 2016 courtesy of Paige Sloan. Note the Corinthian columns on the First National Bank of Rochester-Old Monroe County Savings Bank Building, built in 1924, in the rear of the photo.

Douglass spoke frequently at what he referred to as ‘the beautiful Corinthian Hall’ in the 1850’s. In fact, he  ‘lectured [there] every Sunday evening during an entire winter’ as he wrote in his Life and Times. He delivered a speech here on Aug 21, 1852 at the Fugitive Slave Convention, in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act. Then in July 1853, Douglass presided over the National Convention of Colored Men in Rochester, which became a center for the antislavery movement; his biographer Philip S. Foner called this convention ‘the most important’. This is where the pressing problem of lack of unification between various factions of the antislavery movement were identified and discussed, as well as the relative lack of black leadership. Though this Rochester convention still failed to bring about a unified black political movement, like the previous one in Troy discussed in an earlier account, it sent a powerful message that all black Americans had a powerful champion in Douglass.

Drawing of Corinthian Hall, image credit Rochester Public Library Local History Division (note it's also called The Atheaneum in the subtitle)

Drawing of Corinthian Hall, image credit Rochester Public Library Local History Division (note that it’s still titled The Athenaeum)

But the single most important Douglass moment in this hall happened on July 5, 1852, when he delivered his powerful ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?‘ speech for the first time. He delivered it on the 5th instead of the 4th, he said, because the latter was a day of mourning, for himself and his people. This speech was Douglass’ Gettysburg Address, his Second Inaugural, his ‘To Be or Not to Be?’, where his powers of oratory and his eloquence were in full force. The speech is long, opening with a reflection on the history of the United States’ founding and its promise of renewed freedom for all. Then he pours out his lament:

‘I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn….

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.’

If what he had to say that day didn’t make people ashamed to celebrate liberty for themselves while denying it to others, no words could.

Talman Building at 25 E Main St, Rochester NY, where Douglass published the North Star

Talman Building, across from the Reynolds Arcade at 25 E Main St (formerly 25 Buffalo St), Rochester NY, where Douglass published the North Star

Lobby of the Talman Building. Frederick Douglass' North Star offices were on the second floor

Lobby of the Talman Building. Frederick Douglass’ North Star offices were on the second floor

So the first issue of Douglass’ first very own newspaper the North Star came out on Dec 3rd, 1847. Rosa O’Keefe, on page 29 of her 2013 book Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester, New York, writes that the first edition was printed in the basement of the A.M.E. Zion church (a site we’ll return to in my next account); however, the first edition lists the Talman building address as its place of publication on the upper left-hand corner. Perhaps the Talman office was all lined up as the North Star‘s permanent home but still needed to have its press moved in. After all, it’s no joke hoisting a mid-nineteenth century printing press up to the second floor.

As described above, William Lloyd Garrison and the Boston abolitionists tried to dissuade Douglass from leaving the Boston area and starting his own paper. They wanted him to continue on in his role as one of their most famous lecturers, and warned that his lack of experience and formal education would likely lead to the paper’s ultimate failure, talented as they knew him to be. But he had reached a new level of confidence after his successful British Isles lecture tour and was determined to strike out on his own. He ascribed to himself ‘motives of peace’ in the wish to avoid competition with Boston’s The Liberator, but as the people who knew him longest observed, Douglass was always strong of personality, self-willed, and enjoyed taking charge. Many friends and supporters donated money to fund the paper, including $4,000 donated by British supporters of his cause (British friends had also purchased his freedom), and subscribed, encouraged others to do the same, and in many other ways supported his endeavor.

Talman Building's old Post Office, where Douglass published his North Star, image credit Rochester Public Library

Talman Building’s old Post Office, where Douglass published his North Star, image credit Rochester Public Library

And no other single person did more to make the North Star a personal and financial success than Julia Griffiths, an English abolitionist he had met in December 1846 in Newcastle upon Tyne. They hit it off right away, and stayed good friends for the rest of their lives. When she heard he had founded his newspaper only to have it run into financial and editorial difficulties, this energetic woman came to Douglass’ rescue in the spring of 1849. She quickly took over some of the editing and most of the bookkeeping and finances, and within a year, doubled the number of subscribers and lifted the paper, and Douglass with it, out of debt. At first, she lived with the Douglass family; later on, she moved to her own place, as the rumor mill never stopped grinding out malicious gossip, much to the ever-respectable, ever-private Anna Douglass’ dismay.

Site of old Seward Seminary, Alexander at Tracy St, Rochester NY

Near site of Seward Seminary, east side of Alexander a little south of Tracy St, Rochester NY. The historical marker used to be near the bench and the tree

I head further east, over the Genessee to Alexander St, a little north of Tracy St and on the same side, by the old Genessee Hospital. There’s a vacant lot here, with a distinctive tree and a bench, near where there used to be a New York historical marker for the site of the old Seward Seminary.

Seward Seminary, Alexander St Rochester NY, image credit Rochester Library Historical Images

Seward Seminary, Alexander St Rochester NY, image credit Rochester Library Historical Images

I know I’m at the right place by the map coordinates, and it’s easy to recognize the bench, tree, and buildings on the background in the photos of this location I found online posted just a few years ago. But the sign is now gone, stolen, or being repaired or repainted, who knows? I hope it will be reinstalled, because it marks the site of an important social movement in the United States that Douglass took part in way back before it was really a thing.

In 1848, Douglass enrolled his daughter Rosetta in Seward Seminary, the fashionable girls school which stood here. 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 then. 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 the School Board of Education.

The site, now a parking lot, of the Douglass home at 4 Alexander St, Rochester NY, 2016 Amy Cools

The site, now a parking lot next to a restaurant, of the Douglass family home at 4 Alexander St, Rochester NY

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: the public schools were integrated in 1857. This was a century before Brown vs. Board of Education! Though Douglass’ campaign here was successful, the principle that all children should receive fair and equal treatment in America’s schools was not to be enshrined in law in most of the United States for over a century. Hate can certainly be intransigent.

Douglass home at 4 Alexander St in later incarnation as a shop, image Rochester Public Library Local History

The Douglass family home at 4 Alexander St in a later incarnation as Vogue Furniture shop, image c. 1936, credit Rochester Public Library Local History Division. The building was torn down in 1954.

Just a little farther north at 297 Alexander St, close enough for little Rosetta to have walked to Seward Seminary without breaking a sweat, there’s now a parking lot next to a restaurant simply called ‘Mex’. There’s nothing indicating this as the site where the Douglass family moved into their first house here in Rochester in April 1848, at what was then 4 Alexander St. It took some time for the Douglasses to find a house to buy in Rochester; Douglass’ family had followed him here in February and boarded until a local abolitionist sold them the 9 room brick house that once stood on this spot. By 1850, Douglass had became the leader of Rochester’s Underground Railroad, which was among the work he was most proud of, and this house became one of the most important stops. Rochester was one of the last way stations on the way to Canada. Since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, even the northern states had become too dangerous for escaped slaves to remain in, so many chose to press farther north in their quest for freedom.

Paganini's Violin at the Municipal Palace in Genoa, image public domain via Project Gutenberg

Paganini’s Violin at the Municipal Palace in Genoa, image public domain via Project Gutenberg

But it wasn’t all work and no play for Frederick Douglass, even with all his writing, speaking, campaigning for justice for his children, and aiding fugitives from slavery. This house was accumulating a large library for the literary Douglass, and as you may remember, he loved to play the violin. At least one occasion in 1850, he played an impromptu concert for the neighborhood children here in this house. Anna had encouraged him to take up the violin in the early days of their relationship in Fell’s Point, and he never stopped playing. In his Life and Times, he devotes a whole page to the moving experience of seeing Niccolò Paganini’s violin on display in a museum in Genoa, Italy in 1886. Music was very important to the Douglasses: Rosetta would accompany her father on the piano, and Douglass’ love of the violin would continue on in his progeny, which we’ll return to in a later account. 

Thus ends my first day in Rochester New York, but I’ll be here in this area following Douglass’ life and ideas for awhile longer and having many more exciting historical adventures. Stay tuned!

*Listen to the podcast version here or subscribe on iTunes

~ With special thanks to Paige Sloan, who heads and teaches a writing program for international students at the University of Rochester and, like me, is a big Fredrick Douglass fan! She provided me with an additional source for my Corinthian Hall research and a photo I neglected to take.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and Inspiration

27. Frederick Douglass Newspaper Office‘, The Freethought Trail website

30. Post Home / Western New York Anti-Slavery Society‘, The Freethought Trail website

33. Corinthian Hall / Academy of Music‘, The Freethought Trail website

Colored National Convention (1853 : Rochester, NY), “Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, Held in Rochester, July 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1853.,” ColoredConventions.org.

Corinthian Hall (venue)‘, under ‘Charter Inductees’, Rochester Music Hall of Fame website

Cornell, Silas, ‘Map of the City of Rochester‘, 1863. From Rochester Library Digital Collections, Monroe County Library System website.

Death of Frederick Douglass‘. Feb. 21, 1895 obituary, reprinted in the New York Times: On This Day

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies (includes Narrative…, My Freedom and my Bondage, and Life and Times). With notes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Volume compilation by Literary Classics of the United States. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Douglass, Frederick. “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”, July 5, 1852. Teaching American History (website)

The Era of Academies in Monroe County‘, From Rochester Library Digital Collections, Monroe County Library System website.

First National Bank of Rochester-Old Monroe County Savings Bank Building. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Fought, Lee. ‘The Musical Douglasses: Rosetta‘. Frederick Douglass’s Women: In Progress blog,

“Let’s Have Tea” by Pepsy M. Kettavong‘, Rochester Public Art Catalog (website)

McFeely, William. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

McKelvey, Blake. ‘Historic Antecedents from the Crossroads Project‘. From the Rochester History Journal, Oct 1864, Vol. 26, No. 4.

Many Roads to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in Rochester and Vicinity‘. Article, Rochester Digital Collections, Monroe County Library System website.

Morry, Emily. ‘Frederick Douglass Home on Alexander Street’ and ‘Talman Building‘, Democrat & Chronicle: Retrofitting Rochester series

The North Star: Abolitionist Newspaper Founded By Frederick Douglass‘, Maryland State Archives (website)

O’Keefe, Rose. Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester, New York: Their Home Was Open to All
Charleston: The History Press, 2013.

Post House‘, New York Historic website

Quaker Influence‘, National Historical Park New York page of the National Park Service website

Seward Seminary‘ – New York Historical Markers on Waymarking.com

Smith, Marcus. ‘Plan of the City of Rochester, N.Y. [Southwest Quadrant]‘ and ‘Southeast Quadrant‘, 1851. From Rochester Digital Collections, Monroe County Library System website.

Southwest Quadrant – Susan B. Anthony‘, article from the City of Rochester website

Frederick Douglass Albany, Troy, and Syracuse NY Sites

A view of Albany, NY, 2016 by Amy Cools

A view of downtown Albany, New York, looking west

Eighth Day, Sunday March 27th

I get up very early and leave Cambridge (where I’ve been staying while visiting Boston and Lynn) and this time, instead of heading north, I head west across upstate New York. I’ve never visited this part of the country before. My friend who I’ll be staying with in Rochester laments that I’m visiting at the least advantageous time of year for beauty’s sake: the snow is gone, and having scrubbed the trees bare, leaves the trash it’s been concealing exposed, and there’s not a hint of green nor bloom yet on the branches. But I still think it’s lovely, with a sort of stark gray beauty, and enjoy the day’s drive of about 325 miles.

A view down State Street looking toward the Hudson River, Albany NY

A view down State Street looking toward the Hudson River, Albany NY

My first stop is Albany, a city on a hill with beautiful architecture. There were some ardent abolitionists here, and it had one of the main stations on the Underground Railroad on the route Frederick Douglass was connected to. Douglass named Stephen MyersLydia and Abigail Mott (who he entrusted with the education of his daughter Rosetta for a time) and William Topp in his autobiographies as some of the key figures here in the cause of the liberation of black people. But Douglass had some very unflattering things to say about Albany too: as he wrote in 1847, he observed a lot of racism here, especially in the wealthier families enriched directly or indirectly from slaveholding, and in the press. He was warmly welcomed by the congregation of the Baptist Church on State Street, but as of this time I can’t confirm its location: the current Baptist Church on State Street, Emmanuel, didn’t move there until 1869, and the Baptist church I found dating from his time was not on State St.

Tweddle Hall, inscribed 1754 Old Tweddle Hall, from Albany Institute of History & Art Library

Tweddle Hall, inscribed ‘1754 Old Tweddle Hall’, from Albany Institute of History & Art Library

I wander the downtown area for a little while, glad to stretch my legs, admiring the grand city center buildings, soaring churches (mostly built in the mid to late 1880’s), old stone and brick row houses, and the lovely view east where the hill slopes down to the Hudson River. Then I head to my main destination, the site where Frederick Douglass spoke at the American Equal Rights Convention at Tweddle Hall, held November 20th and 21st, 1866. Tweddle Hall once stood at the northeast corner of State and Pearl, and originally built in 1860, it burned down, was rebuilt once in 1883, then replaced in 1927 by the Bank Building which now stands here.

Douglass had long been an ardent champion of the women’s rights movement; he had been the first to back Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s call for women’s suffrage at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848 (more on this story in an upcoming account).

But here in Albany, a serious split in the women’s rights movement began with the debate over the 15th Amendment. The American Equal Rights Association had formed earlier that year, on May 10th in New York City. The Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention reformed itself as the AERA, dedicated equally to black and female suffrage following the 14th Amendment, which for the first time specifically linked the word ‘male’ to the right to vote. While the 14th Amendment didn’t specifically guarantee the right to vote to all males, it did limit representation according to the number of adult males allowed to vote, overturning the hated 3/5ths compromise clause of the Constitution which granted representation, albeit reduced, to non-voting ‘persons bound to service for a number of years’, in other words, slaves.

Bank Building at NE corner of State and Pearl, site of old Tweddle Hall, 2016 Amy Cools

Bank Building at northeast corner of State and S. Pearl, site of old Tweddle Hall

The proposed 15th Amendment, as written and as it was eventually passed, would guarantee the right to vote to all citizens regardless of ‘race, color, or previous condition of servitude’, leaving the ‘male’ link to voting from the 14th Amendment intact. Douglass’ biographer Phillip S. Foner describes Douglass’ position on the 15th Amendment as: ‘to women the ballot was desirable, to the Negro it was a matter of life and death.’ Douglass thought it was absolutely imperative that black people get the right to vote even if it meant putting aside other great political causes for the moment. Adding women’s right to vote to the 15th Amendment would make it so much more controversial that it surely wouldn’t pass. After all, it wasn’t only black men who were still suffering great oppression and failing to enjoy the rights the Civil War victory was supposed to have won them; black women suffered worst of all because they had no legally protected voters to represent them. To many in the women’s rights movement, this was an unpardonable breach of loyalty from the man who had been their dedicated champion from the beginning. But Douglass still supported the AERA, joined in their petitions, and even acted as a representative and as a Vice President over the years.

Unfortunately, as the political struggle for racial suffrage gained more traction than woman suffrage, some of the feminist political rhetoric took on a racist character, saying, for example, that suffrage for educated, civilized white women should take precedent over suffrage for uneducated, ‘degraded’ black people. Sadly, even his old friends and allies Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton stooped to this rhetoric, though in later years Stanton redeemed herself somewhat by warmly, and wittily, congratulating Douglass and Helen Pitts on their January 24th, 1884 marriage: ‘After all the terrible battles and political upheavals we have had in expurgating our constitutions of that odious adjective ‘white’ it is really remarkable that you of all men should have stooped to do it honor.’ Perhaps his good example of loyalty to her in later years, despite her earlier racist comments, helped her overcome the worst in her character that angry disappointment can tend to bring out even in the best of us.

Liberty St at Franklin, Troy NY, two blocks east of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church site

Liberty St at Franklin, Troy NY, two blocks east of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church historical marker site

I return to my car and drive about 15 minutes north along the Hudson River to Troy, another northern New York State former industrial town which has clearly suffered a long and steady decline. But it’s full of lovely old buildings and has an interesting history; for example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton attended Troy Female Seminary. It’s also a college town; when I stop for coffee and to do some research, I find myself among many college age students spending late Easter morning studying (though I suppose they’re on spring break, what good students!) and hanging out.

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church, Collection of the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, NY 2

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in a later incarnation as a laundry. This only known surviving photo is in the collection of the Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, NY

I’m headed for the site of Liberty Street Presbyterian Church, which Albany’s Times Union newspaper reports was on the corner of Liberty and Franklin Streets – which may not actually be the right street corner, as I discover when fact-checking and doing extended research for this account, more on that in a moment. The Liberty Street Church used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, ran by pastor Henry Highland Garner from 1838 to 1848.

I’m looking for this site today because the 1847 National Colored Convention was held here, where the ultimately unsuccessful movement to start a national, unified Negro League movement began. According to John Cromwell in his 1914 book The Negro in American History‘…the very first article in the first number of [Douglass’ paper] the North Star published January, 1848, is an extended notice of the National Colored Convention held at the Liberty Street Church, Troy, New York, October 9th, 1847′. Nathan Johnson, who the Douglasses made their first home with in New Bedford, was president of the convention. Frederick Douglass was one of the Massachusetts delegates to this convention. He still espoused Garrisonian principles at the time (he changed his mind later), which, among other things, held that moral suasion and non-violent boycotting of politics were the most effective ways to end slavery. He called on his fellow black people everywhere to leave their churches if they were segregated or supportive of slavery in any way, and stressed the importance of education and self-improvement to stand as living testaments against the prejudices of white people. However, for a variety of reasons, it proved too difficult to unite the scattered, disenfranchised black community together into one unified movement. Those who were free shared the tactical and philosophical disagreements of white members of the abolitionist movement; those who were still enslaved or suffering the worst hardships of poverty, illiteracy, and other innumerable forms of intimidation and oppression found it difficult or impossible to participate.

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church Site (according to historical marker), photo by Howard C. Ohlhous 2016

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church Site with historical marker, photo by Howard C. Ohlhous 2016

So why might I be at the wrong street corner here at Liberty and Franklin? Because my additional research for this account prior to publication pulled up two locations for the old church, rather than the one I had initially pulled up. A couple of secondary and tertiary sources, which I find first and which guide my day’s search here, list the location as Liberty at Franklin: the newspaper, and this booklet for a historical project from 2008. I don’t yet have enough evidence now to prove definitively which is correct, though I believe one much is more likely. The crossing of Liberty and Franklin Streets is unmarked; Franklin is a narrow little street that runs between 2nd and 3rd, between the three story brick building and the two story white board one with the bay window. It’s a rather shabby little street corner now, the buildings here now don’t appear to be all that old.

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church Marker at Liberty and Church Streets, photo by Howard C Ohlhous

Liberty Street Presbyterian Church Marker at Liberty and Church Streets, photo by Howard C Ohlhous

Yet the historical marker for the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church is placed at Liberty and Church Streets, two blocks east of here. Oddly enough, the creators of the Spectres of Liberty project describe the site in their booklet as located on Liberty at Franklin, yet they hold their ‘Raising the Ghost of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church‘, a super cool historical art event, at the marker site. Could it be that the street names have been changed or reassigned? A city map / atlas from 1845 reveals that the street names and locations are the same here today as they were then.

In case the historical marker is placed incorrectly (update: the Rensselaer County Historical Society assures me that the marker is at the correct site) and this does turn out to be the correct site, which corner of Liberty and Franklin could it have been on? Comparing the photo to the streets now, there’s one clue that might help me: the fire hydrant shown in the photo. There is no fire hydrant now, but there is a capped water supply pipe which could have supplied it; unless it’s torn up and moved, this would remain a permanent fixture. It’s in the sidewalk in front of the three story red brick apartment building on the northwest corner of the street. If this is the same water supply, that would place the church on that corner with its narrower pointy side facing on Franklin and its long side facing Liberty. However, when I look more closely at the photo I’m referring to (the only known surviving one, it’s in the Rensselaer Historical Society collection), the site where the historical marker is located, two blocks east at Liberty and Church looks more like the correct location, if the placement of the fire hydrant and the street pole are the same today.

So why include my story of possibly looking in the wrong place (which, as it turns out, I do)? Well, this travel series is the story of a journey, and journeys often include wrong turns, misreading of signs, incorrect maps, bad directions, and so forth. Each of these is a learning experience, and I hope you don’t mind that I take you along with me as I learn. As we’ve just seen, there are conflicting sources of information out there, and the lesson I learn here: triple-check all sources!

Wieting Hall Site, Syracuse NY,

Wieting Hall Site,  111-119 W. Water St at S. Salina off Clinton Square, Syracuse NY

Wieting Opera House on Clinton Square in Syracuse, New York, 1898

Wieting Opera House on Clinton Square in Syracuse, New York, 1898

My last destination of the day is the site of Wieting Hall, at 111-119 W. Water Street in Syracuse, NY. The hall, which was first built in 1851, burned down in 1856 and was rebuilt as an opera house in 1857, burned and rebuilt yet again in 1881. Its builder and public-spirited owner Dr. John Wieting was a stoic yet tenacious man, responsible for its every incarnation. As you can see, what stands here now is not nearly so inspiring, in looks or in history.

On Nov 14th, 1861, Douglass was scheduled to deliver a speech on the Civil War and why the slaves needed to be freed en masse for the Union to win, one of his many appearances in Syracuse. Syracuse was another important stop on the underground railroad. However, as we’ve seen throughout this travel series, just because New York and other Northern states were free did not mean that all people here wanted black people to be armed, to enjoy civil rights, or even to be emancipated. Many in Syracuse were abolitionists and many others were not; racism was endemic in both of these groups.

According to Foner’s biography, an angry protest was planned: many townspeople were prepared to drive him and the other abolitionist speakers from the city. However, to his great credit, mayor Charles Andrews and Dr. Wieting refused to be intimidated, insisting that the talk take place as planned. They believed (as I agree all Americans should) that even unpopular speech should be protected speech, and their Syracuse was not to be a place where free speech could be squelched by threats. So 50 – 100 police were stationed (depending on the source) along with armed members of the Second Onondaga Regiment. When Douglass spoke, the crowd was well-behaved and respectful, be it because they actually did respect him and his right to speak, or because they were not allowed to be otherwise.

Clinton Square and Jerry Rescue Monument, Syracuse NY

Clinton Square and Jerry Rescue Monument, at S. Clinton and W. Water Streets, Syracuse NY, with Wieting Hall site in the background

Jerry Rescue Monument, Syracuse NY, photo 2016 by Amy CoolsAs I have plenty of daylight left, I wander through lovely Clinton Square, clearly a site in the process of restoration. The large rectangular concrete center used to be a part of the Erie Canal, a waterway route to the center of the city, and a place to ice skate when frozen over in winter (part if it is still filled with water and turned into a wintertime outdoor skating rink today!)

I discover a monument near the southwest corner of the square, erected in 2001 and dedicated to the October 1st, 1851 rescue of William ‘Jerry’ Henry. An escaped slave from Missouri, he was arrested as part of the effort to enforce the much-hated Fugitive Slave Act, enacted on September 18th, 1850. Many Northerners, abolitionist or not, thought it an intolerable intrusion on the legal autonomy of states and on freedom of conscience. Though the orator and statesman Daniel Webster (who, as you may remember from the second of my Lynn accounts, supported it as an acceptable compromise for preserving the Union) warned that the Fugitive Slave Act would be rigorously enforced here in Syracuse, it was vigorously defied on that October day. Attendees of the Liberty Party state convention (the party of Gerrit Smith, Douglass’ friend and mentor who we’ll learn more about soon) broke into the jail and freed Jerry, hid him in town for a few days, and smuggled him to Canada. This event would be long celebrated by abolitionists and champions of human rights, Douglass among them, as a triumph over oppression and in thanks to those who risked themselves to help a fellow human being in need.

Jerry Rescue Monument Plaque, Syracuse NY, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Jerry Rescue Monument Plaque in Clinton Square, Syracuse NY

Yellow house I stay at in Syracuse, NY, photo 2016 by Amy CoolsSo ends my tale of today’s adventures. I’m going to spend the night in a rented room in an old yellow house near beautiful Syracuse University, the most charming place I stay throughout the trip, with the exception of my new friends’ house near Baltimore and my old friends’ house in Rochester. Stay tuned for my continuing adventures following the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass!

~ Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and Inspiration:

Amendment XIV: Citizenship Rights, Equal Protection, Apportionment, Civil War Debt‘, Constitution Center website

Amendment XV: Right to Vote Not Denied by Race‘, Constitution Center website

American Equal Rights Association‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Beauchamp, William Martin. Past and Present of Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of 1908 (Volume 2). SJ Clarke Publishing Co: New York, 1908.

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, and The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 2: Autobiographical Writings. 3 volumes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999 (including a letter to Sydney H. Gay, dated Oct 4th 1847)

‘Courtesy of the Rensselaer County Historical Society: Rev. Henry Highland Garnet’. The Amistad CommissionNew York Department of State website

Cromwell, John Wesley. The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent. J.F. Tapley Co: New York, 1914

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies (includes Narrative…, My Freedom and my Bondage, and Life and Times). With notes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Volume compilation by Literary Classics of the United States. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Frederick Douglass Escapes Slavery, Becomes Leading Abolitionist‘, Onondaga Historical Association website

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Garrison, William Lloyd. The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume IV: From Disunionism to the Brink of War, 1850-1860. Edited by Louis Ruchames

Hallaron, Amy. ‘Artist’s magic lives on in Troy‘, Times Union, Albany, Monday, January 16, 2012

Jerry Rescue‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Jerry Rescue Monument‘, #44, Freethought Trail website

‘Liberty Street Presbyterian Church (African)’, Historical Marker Database (source of marker photos)

Lydia and Abigail Mott‘, Underground Railroad History website

McFeely, William. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored People and Their Friends; held in Troy, NY; on the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th of October, 1847.’ Colored Conventions website, University of Delaware

Rittner, Don. Albany, Then & NowArcadia: Charleston SC, 2002

Robinson, Olivia, Josh MacPhee, and Dara Greenwald. Spectres of Liberty: The Raising of the Ghost of the Liberty Street Church. Websitebooklet and video

Stephen Myers‘, Underground Railroad History website

Susan B. Anthony Boldly Writes the Speaker of the House Asking for a Public Endorsement of Women’s Suffrage‘, pamphlet for 1866 Convention and signed letter, RAAB collection website

Troy, N.Y., from actual survey‘ (map / atlas) by S.A. Beers, civl. engineer. Depicts: 1845

Upstate New York and the Women’s Rights Movement‘, University of Rochester / River Campus Libraries website

Wieting Opera House‘, #51, Freethought Trail website

Frederick Douglass Lynn Sites, Part 2: Historical Society & Hutchinson Scrapbook

3 Portraits of Frederick Douglass at Lynn Museum, 2016 Amy Cools

Three portraits of Frederick Douglass at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Seventh Day, Saturday March 26th

As I mention in the first part of my account of today’s journey, Lynn proves to be a Douglass treasure trove for me, especially the Lynn Museum & Historical Society.

While I’m waiting to meet with a representative of the museum to look at some materials from the archives, I visit the  ‘Abolitionist Lynn’ exhibit upstairs. As discussed in the first part of today’s account, Lynn had a particularly active and vocal abolitionist community. As I also discussed in the first part of today’s account, that’s what brought Douglass, laborer turned abolitionist speaker, here to Lynn.

Abolitionist Pitcher at Lynn Museum, front and back, 2016 Amy Cools

Anti-Slavery Pitcher showing a slave auction at front, a slave mother and infant escaping on the back, and a praying manacled figure on the handle

Fugitive Slave Act poster, Lynn Museum, detail, 2016 Amy Cools

Among the many interesting exhibits I see are two posters, similar in format and general style but strikingly different in message and tone. One shows a man with an angry face, wearing a crown made of finger bones and brandishing a chain and whip, seated upon a throne and supported by three mournful slaves, three skulls, a Bible, and a copy of the Fugitive Slave Bill (Act) of 1850. A man in a white robe (perhaps a clergyman’s robe, since a judge’s robe would be black) is pouring an offering from a small cask into a fire on a small altar emblazoned ‘Sacred to Slavery’, while Daniel Webster, a leading Senator at the time famed for his eloquence, gestures to the throne, proclaiming ‘I propose to support that bill …to the fullest extent…’ and a bearded man behind him hangs his head in sorrow, lowering a crown labeled ‘Freedom’ from his head. Behind these figures, a barefoot escaping male slave wrestles with a pack of snarling dogs as two slavecatchers on horses gallop after him, a black woman and her children run into the open arms of an abolitionist white woman, and a statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and trade, topples from her pedestal on the hill.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was meant to put an end to a deeply divisive issue between the Northern and Southern states. Southern slaveowners were enraged that northern abolitionists, grown into an energetic movement and potent political force following the pioneering abolitionist work of William Lloyd Garrison starting in the late 1820’s, were aiding slaves escaping to the North. The Act would not only force all Northern officials to cooperate in the capture and return of escaped slaves, it would force private individuals to do so too, on pain of fines and imprisonment. Northerners, especially abolitionists, saw this as an intolerable intrusion on personal conscience by forcing them to participate in a deeply immoral system, while Southerners saw this as a simple enforcement of property rights.

No Higher Law Abolitionist Poster, Lynn Museum, 2016 Amy Cools

No Higher Law Abolitionist Poster, from the Abolitionist Lynn exhibit at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society, March 2016

Senator, statesman, and orator Daniel Webster personified the central conflicts between North and South at that time. A Northerner hailing from Massachusetts, he irreparably damaged his political career through his support for the Fugitive Slave Act, the final and most sweeping of many such acts passed over the decades. Northerners who admired him for his commitment to preserving the Union and for promoting the modernization of the United States into a center of finance and industry from the mostly agrarian economy it had long been, hated this cession of state and personal autonomy to Southern interests. And however much the South loved the bill, their economy was almost entirely based on agriculture and capital investment in slaves, so Webster’s economic policies were intolerable to them regardless of this compromise to preserve the Union. As Abraham Lincoln recognized from the beginning, though he too tried to find a way, peace between the states could never be attained so long as the law, founded on certain conceptions of human rights, tried to accommodate that intrinsically incompatible ‘peculiar institution‘ of slavery.

Haitian Ambassador Poster detail, Lynn Museum, 2016 Amy CoolsThe second poster is a nasty (despite the author’s snarky claim that it’s ‘respectful’) caricature of the abolitionist women of Lynn and of black people in general. Addressed in the subtitle to the ‘500 ladies of Lynn who wish to marry black husbands, it’s basically an elaborate telling of that schoolyard jibe ‘if you love…. so much, why don’t you marry …?’ As you can recognize in the quotes of the ladies in the ballroom oohing and awing over the visiting Haitian ambassador, the author plays on many stereotypes of black people and of women at the time. And unfortunately, most of us ‘get’ the twisted jokes in these quotes because these stereotypes persist to this day.

The person who created this poster in 1839 could not have foreseen that one of Lynn’s future black residents, Frederick Douglass, would go on to to become one of Lynn’s and America’s most loved and admired citizens, and would be appointed to the high office of United States Consul General to Haiti in 1889. I, for one, would get some satisfaction out of time-traveling to visit the author and inform him of these historical developments, just to see the look on his face. Douglass was too dignified a man himself to engage in such a prank if it were possible; throughout his life, he practiced great self-discipline in keeping to the moral high ground.

Johnny Q and Haitian Abassador Poster, Lynn Museum, 2016 Amy Cools

Poster caricaturing Lynn’s abolitionist movement, 1839, from the ‘Abolitionist Lynn’ exhibit at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Politics of the Needle, Lynn Museum exhibit, 2016 Amy CoolsA seamstress and textile artist myself, I enjoy the exhibit of needlework artifacts here, created by the girls and women of Lynn’s abolitionist community to raise money for the abolitionist cause.

The sampler is a basic design, the only thing differentiating it from other samplers of the period is the cause it raised money for. The other pieces, through words and images, remind their owners not to forget the slaves’ plight while enjoying the freedom and comfort of their own daily lives.

The exhibit is filled with many more interesting artifacts and information, but to keep this account from becoming too long, I’ll refocus my attention on the main object of my visit here today.

Sampler by Julia Ann Boyce at Lynn Museum

Abolitionist needlework exhibit, Lynn Museum

Abolitionist needlework exhibit, Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Piano with John Hutchinson sheet music, Abolitionist Lynn exhibit, March 2016

Piano with John Hutchinson sheet music, Abolitionist Lynn exhibit, March 2016

The Hutchinson Family Scrapbook at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society

The Hutchinson Family Scrapbook at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Britt arrives (she so kindly takes time out of her day off to come in and meet me!) and greets me with a cart of artifacts: one is a folder filled with ephemera relating to Douglass, mostly newspaper clippings, and the other is an old scrapbook entitled: ‘Memorabilia of the Hutchinson Family’. She reminds me of what Nicole Breault, Education and Research Specialist, had informed me by email: the Lynn Museum’s archival materials are now housed at the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. She encourages me to visit and I long to do so, of course, but as I’ve been telling you, more and more to my regret, I only have two weeks for this trip and have no time to go! I hope to be able to follow up in future, and now have yet one more good resource for original sources.

So knowing time is short this morning, too, I begin with the exciting artifact here before me, the Hutchinson family scrapbook.

Hutchinson Family Singers Poster, Lynn Museum, 2016 Amy Cools

Hutchinson Family Singers Poster at the Abolitionist Lynn exhibit, March 2016, Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Portrait of John Hutchinson from the Hutchinson Family Scrapbook at the Lynn Historical Society. He's quite a handsome man, I think, with beautiful eyes

Portrait of John Hutchinson from the Hutchinson Family Scrapbook at the Lynn Historical Society. I think he’s very handsome, with beautiful eyes

It opens with a portrait of John Hutchinson. Douglass traveled on board with the Hutchinsons, the ‘sweet singers of anti-slavery and the “good time coming,”‘ (Life and Times) when he sailed to the British Isles on August 6th, 1847, on self-imposed exile when he felt the information contained in his newly published Narrative endangered his freedom.

The Hutchinson Family Singers vocal group was founded by John Hutchinson with his brothers Asa, Jesse, and Judson. The Hutchinson family was originally from New Hampshire, as Douglass described, but had many connections to Lynn: John saw a concert of a European singing troupe and was inspired to form his own in that style; the family later performed in Lynn; and John and his wife Patch settled here, on High Rock at the north part of the city, not far from the second Lynn home of the Douglass family. When Jesse became musical director of the group he stopped singing as often, but all of the brothers and sisters, as well as many spouses and other extended family members, joined in as full-time or occasional members. The group broke up into two ‘tribes’ since the brothers didn’t always get along (like so many brothers in bands together, like the great Kinks and maybe not the quite as great Oasis), but both groups were always billed as the ‘Hutchinson Family Singers’.

Civil War free pass and letter from Lydia Marie Child to John Huchinson, Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Civil War free pass and letter from Lydia Maria Child to John Hutchinson, Lynn Museum & Historical Society. The Hutchinson family would sing for the troops, by special permission of the Secretary of War, to cheer and inspire them. The great human rights activist and author Child applauds this in her letter to John of January 19th, 1862.

There are so many wonderful artifacts here, new thrills every time I turn the page! There’s a letter from Susan B. Anthony, great abolitionist, woman’s rights leader, and friend of Douglass, who I’ll discuss at greater length in a later account:

Susan B. Anthony Letter to John Hutchinson

Letter from Susan B. Anthony to John Hutchinson, December 9th 1892, sending condolences for the death of his sister Abby, an especially talented member of the group and also, as Anthony says here, dedicated to the women’s rights cause

Abby Hutchinson's tribute to Jesse upon his death on May 15, 1853

Abby Hutchinson’s tribute to her brother Jesse following his death on May 15, 1853. She replaced him as fourth member of the quartet when he stopped singing to become manager, then took over as manager when he died

There’s a note from Julia Ward Howe:

Note from Julia Ward Howe

Note from Julia Ward Howe, who wrote ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’, which consisted of new lyrics to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body’, a song about Douglass’ fiery abolitionist friend who led the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Both songs were popular Civil War hymns, for the Northern side, of course

Tremont Temple Abolitionist Poster, 2016 Amy Cools

Poster for Second Abolitionist Reunion at Tremont Temple in Boston, September 22nd 1890. As you may remember from my account of my day in Boston visiting Douglass sites, he spoke here often, and as you can see from the poster, he shared the stage with John Hutchinson and his daughter Viola, who donated the scrapbook to the Lynn Historical Society (see cover photo above). They close the meeting with Howe’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’

Hutchinson Family Paper celebrating 25 years as a group, with ringing endorsement by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Hutchinson Family Paper celebrating over 25 years as a group, with a ringing endorsement by feminist leader and Douglass’ friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Two portraits of Frederick Douglass from the Hutchinson Family scrapbook

Two portraits of Frederick Douglass in the Hutchinson Family scrapbook

John Hutchinson Song Dedicated to Frederick Douglass Cover Page from Lynn Museum Exhibit

Jesse Hutchinson Song dedicated to Frederick Douglass, cover page print from Lynn Museum Abolitionist Lynn exhibit

As with the Lynn Museum exhibit, I find there are so many interesting things here to share and I can continue on, but this account would grow meandering and very long (it’s going to be pretty long regardless!). So, I’ll return to the central subject of this account, publishing more photos of artifacts I find here today in later accounts as they pertain to the story, and tell you about my most exciting discovery of the day.

Do you remember this drawing on the left from the first part of my Lynn journey account, of the cover page for ‘The Fugitive Song’, written by Jesse and dedicated to Frederick Douglass?

In 1874, Douglass wrote a letter to John Hutchinson mentioning Jesse (the group was often called ‘The Tribe of Jesse’ even long after his death), and it’s here in this scrapbook. Yes, I’m holding an original letter written by Douglass himself, in my own two hands! Well, archivist-gloved hands anyway, and of course I don’t remove it from the scrapbook, just carefully turn it over to read both sides. Like I’ve said many times before, artifacts and physical sites have a very strong effect on me emotionally, which is what keeps me from being just an armchair history enthusiast and drives me out on the road. So, of course, I get the chills all over again, and feel more than a bit teary-eyed!

The envelope is addressed: 'John W. Hutchinson, Lynn Mass' from 'Fred'k Douglass'

The envelope is addressed: ‘John W. Hutchinson, Lynn Mass’ from ‘Fred’k Douglass’

But anyway, here’s the full text of the letter:

‘Biddeford, Nov. 18, 1874

My dear John,

I have only time while on the wing as I am, to tell you that you made me very much obliged to you for the little pamphlet you kindly put into [sic] hands night before last in Lynn, containing biographical sketches of the several members of your remarkably musical family. No apology was needed for its publication. All who have listened as I have done, to the ‘Concord of Several Sounds’ from members of the ‘Tribe of Jesse’ want more of the music and wish to know more of the persons from whom it comes. I especially have reason to feel a grateful interest in the whole Hutchinson family for you have sung the yokes from the necks & the fetters from the limbs of my race, and dared to be true to humanity against all danger to worldly prosperity and reputation. You have dared to sing for a cause first and for cash afterward. I know of few instrumentalities which have done more for liberty and temperance than have your voices. But I only took this moment simply to thank you for the pamphlets and not to speak in the praise of the dear family.

Yours very truly, Fred’k Douglass.’

Frederick Douglass letter to John Hutchinson, dated 1874, Lynn Museum & Historical Society

Frederick Douglass letter to John Hutchinson, dated 1874, Lynn Museum & Historical Society

At long last and with little time to spare, I finish looking at the scrapbook and turn to the other clippings and ephemera I find in the Douglass file folder.

George Latimer article, Lynn Museum Archives

George Latimer article, Lynn Museum Archives

I find an old newspaper clipping here that’s very interesting, unique in its details yet generally characteristic of how high the tensions were between abolitionists and supporters of slavery, and how tight-knit abolitionist communities were. New Bedford, as discussed earlier in this series, was one such community. Lynn and Boston both have a strong history of abolitionism as well (John Adams, a Bostonian of many years, was the only one among our first several presidents who not only didn’t own slaves, but consistently regarded it a great wrong).

Detail of George Latimer article

Detail of George Latimer article

The clipping tells the story of George Latimer, a former slave who escaped with his wife Rebecca to Baltimore, than onto Boston, where George was arrested; after Latimer’s freedom was finally purchased, he and his wife settled in Lynn. I had read this story in my research on Douglass; it was disputes over slaves escaping north, such as the Latimers, that led to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, since the slavecatchers had pursued Latimer into a free state. And as you can see in the newspaper account (you can open the image in a new tab and zoom in to read), Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phillips were champions for Latimer’s cause and held meetings in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, where I visited yesterday. You’ll also see that Jesse and John Hutchinson were among the activists protesting Latimer’s treatment, that the pastor of Tremont Temple Samuel Caldwell paid the $400 that purchased his freedom (paid his ransom?), and that Latimer and his wife were taken in by people on Joy Street, on Beacon Hill in Boston; I walked that street just yesterday as well.

I find many other old newspaper clippings in this folder, some of which I’ve shared with you already in the first part of my account of today’s visit to Lynn, others which I’ll share with you as they relate to my further discoveries on my Douglass journey, and still others I’m happy to share upon request. But I’ll go ahead and end this account here for time’s sake, and soon follow this with the tale of my next day’s discoveries.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to all at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society. Thank you so much to Nicole Breault for arranging my visit, Britt Bowen who gave me access to historical artifacts for study, the kind ladies who greeted me and showed me around, and to everyone else there who makes this place a beautiful place to visit and a great resource!

~ Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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John and Patch Hutchinson from Family Scrapbook

John and Patch Hutchinson from Family Scrapbook

Sources and inspiration:

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, and The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 2: Autobiographical Writings. 3 volumes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999

Daniel Webster‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies (includes Narrative…, My Freedom and my Bondage, and Life and Times). With notes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Volume compilation by Literary Classics of the United States. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Frederick Douglass Chronology‘ from the National Park Service – History & Culture: People

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850‘. from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Fugitive Slave Law‘, from The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship online exhibit from the Library of Congress.

Hutchinson Family Singers‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

The Hutchinson Family Singers: America’s First Protest Singers‘. Amaranth Publishing website

Lewis, Alan. ‘Abby Hutchinson Patton‘ and ‘John Wallace Hutchinson‘, Hutchinson Family Singers Web Site (archived)

Peculiar Institution.” Dictionary of American History, 2003, from Encyclopedia.com

Weatherford, Doris. ‘Lydia Maria Child‘, via National Women’s History Museum website

William L. Garrison‘. Ohio History Central website

William Lloyd Garrison‘. From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

New Podcast Episode: Frederick Douglass New Bedford, Massachusetts Sites

Nathan and Polly Johnson House (and adjoining) at 21 Seventh St, New Bedford MA, 2016 Amy Cools

Nathan and Polly Johnson House (and adjoining) at 21 Seventh St, New Bedford MA, 2016 Amy Cools

Listen to this podcast episode here or subscribe on iTunes

Fifth Day 5, Thursday March 24th

When I arrive in the old whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, it’s overcast and very chilly. I had so enjoyed the respite from the cold in New York City’s balmy weather I was already a little spoiled. But I’m wearing lots of wool and my shearling boots, so I think I’m prepared. I start with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park visitor center, run by the National Park Service. Several of the town’s buildings of historical interest are also preserved by the NPS, including one of particular interest for my journey today. The visitor center is housed in the Old Third District Courthouse constructed in 1835, a handsome Greek Revival building.

I’m assisted by the kind and knowledgeable Diane Altman Berube, and when I describe the purpose of my trip, she immediately supplies me with information, advice, a map, some pamphlets about Frederick Douglass, the town’s Underground Railroad and abolitionist history (a strong one!), and another about the 54th Regiment of the Union Army and an accompanying collection of cards, like baseball cards, with images and stories of men involved…

… Read the original account here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Frederick Douglass Boston Sites

Phillips Street sign, where I begin my Frederick Douglass Boston journey, 2016 Amy Cools

I commence my Frederick Douglas Boston journey on Phillips St, and long for my bike. Mine is blue with upright bars for better sightseeing. Sigghhh.

Sixth Day, Friday March 25th

As I’m quick to discover, parking is at a premium in central Boston and its environs. I’ve decided not to pay the high garage rates and stick with metered parking (reasonably priced but harder to find). It’s to be expected in an awesome, busy, historically important city, of course, just be prepared! It’s such a handsome city, so much to look at, and I long for my bike: fleet, nimble, with uninterrupted view, parkable anywhere there’s a pole. At times such as this, a car feels like little but an expensive burden.

Frederick Douglass never did live here in Boston, but this city has many connections with his life: he and his family lived just a few miles north of here in Lynn from 1841-47. Douglass visited, worked, and spoke here often, and the Boston Anti-Slavery Society published his Narrative which, combined with his speaking tour of the British Isles and the United States that followed, catapulted him to fame and made him the leading African American abolitionist of his time.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published by Boston Anti-Slavery Society, image L.O.C.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published by Boston Anti-Slavery Society, image: Library of Congress. It was published on Cornhill St which no longer exists, but I passed near its old location while walking through City Hall Plaza

As I discussed an earlier piece on Frederick Douglass and the Constitution, Douglass had a falling-out over time with the abolitionist movement of William Lloyd Garrison in the early 1850’s. The Garrisonians rejected the Constitution as a pro-slavery document and as a result, considered the government unjust and therefore illegitimate; Douglass came to believe that the Constitution, if interpreted correctly, is an anti-slavery document, and the government must be reclaimed from its pro-slavery element by seizing power through political channels if possible, through violence if necessary. The advent of the Civil War changed everything; in the face of this monumental upheaval and national crisis, political and theoretical disagreements no longer seemed so important. (Douglass demonstrates, to my mind, that one can be fully both a fiery revolutionary and a pragmatist.)

In November of 1861, the Emancipation League organized in Boston, where Douglass, the followers of Gerrit Smith (who influenced Douglass to reexamine the way he interpreted the Constitution) and the Garrisonian abolitionists formally reconciled so they could rally and unite their efforts in the cause of the Civil War cause for national union and the end of slavery. Try as I might, I’m unable to locate any exact addresses where they assembled, though I find many newspaper accounts from the time announcing their meetings and relating their activities in Boston and elsewhere. These activities included petitioning the Senate to commence emancipation efforts in earnest.

From the Daily National Republican, January 12, 1863 2nd Ed, from Chronicling America, Library of Congress

From the Daily National Republican, January 12, 1863 2nd edition from Chronicling America, Library of Congress

I begin my day’s journey by heading up Beacon Hill, where many of Boston’s abolitionists and black people settled, to 43-47 Phillips St, one block north of Cambridge between Grove and Anderson. I start here for efficiency’s sake since it’s right up the way from the coffee shop where I’m marking out my map with some new details I’ve just learned. However, it doesn’t make sense to start my story here since what happens at this site is the second part of a two-part event, so I’ll tell you about it shortly.

Museum of Afro-American History and African Meeting House, Boston Massachusetts

Museum of Afro-American History in front of the African Meeting House, Beacon Hill, Smith Ct, Boston

African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston, MA

African Meeting House, the oldest black church in America

Then I head east on Phillips, turn right (south) on Irving, left on Myrtle, left on Joy, to Smith Court which heads off to the left from Joy St between Cambridge and Myrtle. The African Meeting House stands at the end of Smith Court just behind the Museum of Afro-American History at 46 Joy St. The Meeting House was built in 1806 ‘…to house the first African Baptist Church of Boston (a.k.a. First Independent Baptist Church) and it is now the oldest extant black church building in America’ according to the National Park Service, which maintains it and many other Black Heritage sites here on Beacon Hill. Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Sarah Grimke all spoke here at the African Meeting House, and for those in this list of people I haven’t talked about yet in my account, they will feature later on. There’s a guided tour you can take in season (I’m here too early in the year for that) or the self guided tour. I wish I had another day to visit all the site, including the guided tour of the Meeting house which is actually available today but I’d have to wait till the next available time (which, sadly, I run out of). Next time I’m in Boston…!

There are a great few things about traveling to historical places in the off-season: the crowds are light and you can get better pictures, it’s cheaper to fly, and it’s a bit easier to park (the fact that I can hope to find street parking at all is pretty good, and I didn’t get a ticket either time my meter expired). But, the weather can be iffy, the trees are bare, and some places are closed or have very limited hours. So, you have to decide if the trade-offs are worth it.54th Regiment Memorial, Boston Common, 2016 by Amy Cools

Two closeups of the 54th Regiment Memorial at Boston Common. What determination revealed in these sculpted faces!

Two closeups of the 54th Regiment Memorial at Boston Common. What determination is expressed in these sculpted faces!

Then I turn back and head south to Boston Common, to the 54th Regiment Memorial on Beacon St at Park, near the park’s northeast corner. On May 28 1863, the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment of 1000 troops marched triumphantly into Boston Common. It was the first black regiment to be raised in the North. As discussed in my post from yesterday’s travels to New Bedford, Douglass was instrumental in the fight to get Abraham Lincoln to authorize and federally fund black troops’ enlistment in the Union Army, and Douglass’ two sons Lewis and Charles enlisted to fight in this regiment. What a proud papa he certainly was!

Plaque honoring Crispus Attucks, at Philadelphia's African American Museum

Plaque honoring Crispus Attucks, at Philadelphia’s African American Museum

The 54th Regiment continued their march from Boston Common on to Battery Wharf (which I will also do soon), passing the site of the Boston Massacre. That incident, where a colonial mob dared British guards to fire on them until they did, happened outside of the Old State House, at Congress, Court, and Washington Sts. (John Adams successfully defended most of the British soldiers. Though he was as ardent a patriot as you could find, he was also a man of high integrity and made the legally sound argument and fair point that if a large mob attacks a small number of armed guards, they are duty bound to defend themselves, whatever side they’re on. Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American ancestry, was mortally wounded in that scuffle 0n March 5th, 1770, and is often regarded as the first American casualty of the American Revolution. When I passed by Philadelphia’s African American Museum a few days ago, I snapped a photo of his memorial plaque there, knowing I would soon visit the site of his death.

The Old State House, Boston Massachusetts

The Old State House in Boston Massachusetts, site of the Boston Massacre and of debates over whether the colonies should rebel against Britain

Back to the story of the 54th Regiment: Douglass was also active in recruiting efforts, believing that enlistment in the Union army, made possible by the Emancipation Proclamation, would give black people their chance to prove themselves as the strong, brave, patriotic, true Americans he knew them to be, and their participation in the war would establish their full right to citizenship once and for all. Unfortunately, black soldiers faced unfair and degrading treatment in the Union Army: lower pay than whites, less weapons and equipment, no chances for promotion, assigned the most dangerous and menial jobs, and so on. Many black soldiers, joined by the 54th’s white commander and son of wealthy Boston abolitionists Robert Gould Shaw, refused pay until it was equal, which was granted the next year. The South also imposed terrible penalties for captured black Union soldiers and anyone leading them: immediate execution, same as for insurrectionists. To his great credit, Shaw accepted no pay and braved the same risk of execution along with the rest of his regiment. In response to the poor treatment of black soldiers, Douglass stopped recruiting for awhile.

Tremont Temple (on the right), Boston, Massachusetts

Tremont Temple, the very ornamental building on the right, Boston, Massachusetts

Tremont Temple Plaque, Boston Massachusetts

Then I wind my way east of Boston Common to 88 Tremont St, between Bosworth and School, to Tremont Temple. From December 31st, 1862 through the next day’s New Year holiday, Union Progressive Association and about 3,000 attendees, abolitionists, and human rights advocates gathered to greet the official announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, and Douglass spoke at this event.

Tremont Temple doorway, 'First Integrated Church in America'

Tremont Temple doorway, ‘First Integrated Church in America’

Douglass had spoken here before, and at one time was roughed up when the recent election of Abraham Lincoln inflamed pro-slavery violence against abolitionists, even in relatively anti-slavery Boston. The Temple structure now here dates to 1896, replacing the original 1827 fire-damaged, much smaller building. Many years later, in 1893 (still in the old building), Douglass’s friend and inspiration Ida B. Wells delivered a lecture on lynching here at Tremont Temple; as discussed in my account of following Douglass in NYC, she inspired his anti-lynching activism later in life.

After the Union Progressive Association’s celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, the party left Tremont Temple, since it closed at midnight, and moved the meeting to Twelfth Baptist Church. After fighting, working, and hoping for such a proclamation for so long, the party was not to end anytime soon, not until the wee hours at least.

43-47 Phillips St, former site of Twelfth St Baptist Church in Boston, photo 2016 Amy Cools

43-47 Phillips St, former site of Twelfth St Baptist Church in Boston

I’ll backstep a bit here: remember the first site I visited today, on Phillips Street? That’s where the Twelfth Baptist Church (where the Emancipation Proclamation celebration continued) used to stand, founded by former congregants of the African Meeting House, at number 43-47 Phillips St, a little over a half mile away on the other side of Beacon Hill.

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts

Then I head a little less than half a mile away in (kind of) the opposite direction of the Phillips St church site to Faneuil Hall at 1 Faneuil Square, where the body of Wendell Phillips lay in state in on February 6th 1884, after his funeral in the Hollis Street Church (more on this shortly, in fact, it’s the last story of the day and the most exciting as a traveling history nerd… ahem, enthusiast seeking a hard-to-find site). Phillips was another great human rights activist, writing in support of women’s civil rights including the right to the ballot box, in an article he published about two years before Elizabeth Cady Stanton famously introduced this same resolution at the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls (we’ll be returning to this story in an upcoming piece). In his Life and Times, Douglass referred to the great abolitionist and reformer Phillip’s eloquence as ‘word painting’, an art which he had performed in life previously in this same hall.

A view from Battery Wharf, now used by the Coast Guard

A view from Battery Wharf, now used by the Coast Guard

Battery Wharf plaque maps, detail

Battery Wharf plaque maps, detail

Battery Wharf office building, Boston MA, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Battery Wharf office building

Then after moving the car (again!) I head to Battery Wharf, where, as I described earlier, the 54th Infantry Regiment continued their triumphal march to the sea on May 28th, 1863, to travel by steamship to South Carolina. Seven weeks later, about a quarter of their number and their commander Shaw died in a bold and bloody assault on Fort Wagner. Though that battle was lost, the heroic example of these soldiers inspired many others to enlist, and Shaw’s body remained buried in a common grave with many of his soldiers. The Confederates who buried Shaw this way saw it as an insult, since officers were generally accorded their own burial with special honors, even by the enemy. Shaw’s abolitionist family and the soldiers inspired to join by the Fort Wagner fight, however, thought this manner of burial a great honor, and a testament to his courage as a soldier and his devotion to his men and the cause of human rights.

Tremont at Stuart, approaching the Citi Performing Arts Center, 2016 by Amy Cools

Tremont St at Stuart, approaching the Citi Performing Arts Center

I make the long walk south and a bit east, about a mile and a half, to the Citi Performing Arts Center. I’m seeking the site of the old Hollis Street Unitarian Church, where Wendell Phillips’ funeral took place prior to his lying in state at Faneuil Hall. This site took me far longer than any other site to find. I had scoured through old newspapers and finally discovered that his funeral was at ‘Hollis-street chapel’, certainly Hollis Street Unitarian Church, according to a Feb 16th 1884 edition of Washington D.C.’s The Bee. I found the entry in Chronicling America, an absolutely invaluable online resource for the history enthusiast on the go, an archive of old newspapers hosted on the Library of Congress website. (When fact-checking later, I find a secondary source that confirms this, based on another newspaper in an archive available only through a paid subscription.

Ye Wilbur Theater (left) and Wang Theater at Citi Performing Arts Center (right)

Ye Wilbur Theater (left) and Wang Theater at Citi Performing Arts Center (right)

To continue the story of Wendell Phillips’ funeral, which Douglass attended on February 56th, 1884… He was not alone: he was accompanied by his second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass, who he had married just that January. Helen was white, and even many of their closest friends and family couldn’t deal this fact, as we’ll discover more about later in this series. Even at this church packed with Phillips’ and Douglass’ most progressive, ardent, life-long abolitionists and human rights activists, no one would dare to be the first to sit next to them until… who other than the most beloved author of my youth, Louisa May Alcott. Alcott’s show of friendship and solidarity warms the deepest parts of my heart. I read every single Alcott novel I could get my hands on throughout my girl- and young adult-hood, over and over again. As it was and still is for so many young people, especially girls and women in the English speaking world, she was one of my primary early influences, one who helped set my moral compass more than just about anyone or anything else.

Wang Theater back end, along alley off Tremont St

A rear side view of Wang Theater along the alley off Tremont St

I expect to find little here today, since the history of the church reveals it’s no longer standing, but I made the trip and spend some time poking around anyway. Because that moment at Phillips’ funeral is so beautiful to me, I’m doing to dig deep. Clearly, from the name, the church was on Hollis St; trouble is, there’s no longer a Hollis Street according to Google Maps, the print maps I have with me, or anywhere else online. Poring over old city atlases earlier today, I at last discovered where Hollis Street used to be. It seems that stood about where the Tremont St garage is now, just south of the historic and grand Wang Theatre of the Citi Arts Center and Tufts Health Sciences campus behind it. More specifically, Hollis St used to connect Tremont and Washington Streets halfway between Kneeland and Oak.

I also discover that Hollis Street Church became Hollis Street Theater in 1885, after the congregation moved to a more spacious location the year after the funeral. I poke around, and walk up and down the walkway between the Wang Theater and the garage. Could the Wang Theater be standing on the site of the old Hollis St Theater? I notice that the front of the Wang Building differs in motifs and materials than the wide of the building. It occurs to me that possibly, a building already standing here may have been incorporated into the Wang Theater. Could there be remnants here of the old Hollis Theater, once the old Hollis Street Unitarian Church where the funeral was held? In researching the history of the Wang Theater, formerly the Metropolitan Theater, I find no evidence of this; by all accounts this grand theater was built entirely in 1925, and the photos of the old Hollis Street Church show a very different looking structure, though looking at the half-windowed bottom parts of the two buildings (see photo below and at the end of this piece), there are some similarities. Too bad, that would have been a great find!

Wang Theater on Tremont St, side facing alley, showing contrast between marble front and brick back sections of the building

Wang Theater on Tremont St, side facing alley, showing contrast between marble front and brick back sections of the building. As you can see, this side is undergoing some restoration work

But in a moment of good luck, as I’m scanning the building and the area surrounding it for any evidence of older structures, I spot something among the scaffolding that wraps around the front and south sides of the Wang Theater as its south end it undergoing some maintenance. Near the corner of the building are old brass letters which spell out ‘Tremont St’ on its west side and ‘…ollis St’ on the south. My heart skips a beat. Here it is: confirmation that this is where Hollis St was.

Wang Theatre's south side with scaffolding, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Wang Theater's southwest corner revealing where Hollis St used to be, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Wang Theater’s southwest corner revealing where Hollis St used to be

Hollis Street Church from the northeast, 1870, image public domain via Library of Congress

Hollis Street Church from the northeast, 1870, photo public domain via Library of Congress

We can see what the church looked like inside from an old photo I found onlineBut more importantly for my purposes here, the Library of Congress has a photo of the church ‘taken from the Northeast’. If that description is right, then it seems that the church stood not where the Wang Theater does but across from it, somewhere under where the Tremont St. Garage stands now, with its side facing Hollis (as you can see, it opens onto a square rather than the street) with its steepled front facing towards but not onto Washington St, and its back to Tremont.

This last discovery, successfully triangulating the location where this beautiful moment of true friendship, of love and sympathy overcoming prejudice, makes me feel very emotional and celebratory. My friend recommends The Lower Bottoms, a place that pours excellent ales, so off I go as the sun sets.

Many more adventures and exciting historical discoveries soon to come, as I continue to follow Douglass north… come on back, y’hear?

*Listen to the podcast version here or on iTunes

Wang Theater (left) and Tremont St Garage (right) view from Tremont St. (west)

Wang Theater (left) and Tremont St Garage (right) view from Tremont St. (west)

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and Inspiration:

1843 Boston Almanac Church Engravings: Hollis Street Church‘. Congregational Library Exhibits website

54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

African American Churches of Beacon Hill‘ and ‘African Meeting House‘. Boston African American National Historic Site Massachusetts, National Park Service website

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, and The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 2: Autobiographical Writings. 3 volumes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999

Boston Athenæum Theater History‘, from BostonAthenæum.org

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice. ‘Funerals and Wakes at Faneuil Hall‘. History of Massachusetts: A History Blog About The Bay State. May 14, 2012

Bromley, George Washington and Walter Scott. Boston, 1895. Index Map. Pub. G.W. Bromley and Co. From David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at davidrumsey.com

Cutter, William Richard and William Frederick Adams, eds. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts, Volume 4. New York, 1910.

Daily National Republican. (Washington, D.C.), 12 Jan. 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Re-published 1993, Avenal, New York: Gramercy Books, Library of Freedom series.

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom: 1855 Edition with a new introduction. Re-published 1969, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), 07 Feb. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Frederick Douglass Chronology‘. From Frederick Douglass National Historic Site District of Columbia, National Park Service website

History of the Old State House Building‘. The Bostonian Society (website).

Hollis Street Church‘. (2016, March 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Hollis Street, Harvard Street. Boston 1819 and 1820 Street-Lines. Pub. 1819 by John Graves Hale, author unknown

McFeely, William. Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Tremont Temple. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wendell Phillips‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

What was the Boston Massacre?.’ John Adams Historical Society (website).

Frederick Douglass New Bedford, Massachusetts Sites

The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park visitor center

The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park visitor center

Fifth Day, Thursday March 24th

When I arrive in the old whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, it’s overcast and very chilly. I had so enjoyed the respite from the cold in New York City’s balmy weather I was already a little spoiled. But I’m wearing lots of wool and my shearling boots, so I think I’m prepared. I start with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park visitor center, run by the National Park Service. Several of the town’s buildings of historical interest are also preserved by the NPS, including one of particular interest for my journey today. The visitor center is housed in the Old Third District Courthouse constructed in 1835, a handsome Greek Revival building.

I’m assisted by the kind and knowledgeable Diane Altman Berube, and when I describe the purpose of my trip, she immediately supplies me with information, advice, a map, some pamphlets about Frederick Douglass, the town’s Underground Railroad and abolitionist history (a strong one!), and another about the 54th Regiment of the Union Army and an accompanying collection of cards, like baseball cards, with images and stories of men involved. The 54th Regiment plays an important role in Douglass’ life in many ways, more on that shortly.

Cafe Mocha at Tia Maria's with Frederick Douglass tour materials, New Bedford MA

Cafe Mocha at Tia Maria’s with Frederick Douglass tour materials, New Bedford MA

After discussing the history of New Bedford, especially history pertaining to my trip, Diane directs me to a nearby coffeeshop and cafe, where I go to study the materials she gave me, do some additional research following what we’ve discussed, and arrange my tour for the day. Tia Maria’s is a sweet little Portuguese establishment, and serves me a beautiful cafe mocha topped with a cookie. What a nice way to warm up!

Pier at the old whaling town of New Bedford, MA

Pier at the old whaling town of New Bedford, MA

I’m here in New Bedford because the newly married Douglasses wanted a safer haven than New York City, which as we’ve seen was not, at that time, exactly a secure or safe place for escaped slaves or black people in general. New Bedford was an abolitionist stronghold and besides, being a seafaring town, Douglass expected it to be easy for his to get a good job in his trade as a ship’s caulker. The large population of free black people of that town, and their allies the Quakers, Unitarians, and others who believed strongly in universal human rights and dignity, were united and fierce in the defense of their freedom. Would-be fugitive slave catchers were loath to attempt captures there, since they were promptly driven out of town upon discovery, often accompanied by a good beating.

Seaman's Bethel in New Bedford Massachusetts, featured in Melville's Moby-Dick

Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford Massachusetts, featured in Melville’s Moby-Dick

I decide to tour my New Bedford sites in order of location rather than chronology for two main reasons: I don’t have the luxury of extra time so I need to travel efficiently without much zigzagging around, and it’s really, really cold, to which this California gal is not acclimated, so I don’t want to stay outside for long wandering stretches.

I’m diverted at the outset by Seaman’s Bethel, since I pass by it at the crest of on Johnny-Cake Hill (charming name!) on my way from my car to my first destination. This old clapboard church to my left is featured in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, so of course I’m interested. I’ve long loved Melville, and I read his short stories, especially Billy Budd, over and over again as a young girl. While connections other than New Bedford itself, where Melville signed up to work on the whaler Acushnet and the fact that each wrote a story about a slave revolt on a ship never occurred to me, some writers have found many links between the lives and ideas of Douglass and Melville, as explained and described in Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in RelationI’m intrigued by this book which I only just discovered through my research for this trip, I’ll certainly return to give it a good read.

Historical sign for Seaman's Bethel, New Bedford MA

Historical sign for Seaman’s Bethel, New Bedford MA

Fifty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza, New Bedford MA

Fifty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza, New Bedford MA

I begin with the Fifty-Fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Plaza on William St. between S. Second St and Acushnet Ave. This is where men signed up to serve as soldiers in the 54th Regiment as the first black troops of the Union Army in March of 1863. Douglass was a fierce advocate for the right of black men to enlist, and thought it not only their responsibility to fight for their own freedom, he thought it an invaluable tool for attaining better social standing and an opportunity to learn invaluable skills that a life of slavery often robbed them of. Two of the men to enlist in the 54th were the Douglasses’ own two sons, Lewis and Charles. Lewis saw combat with the 54th and was wounded in the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18th of that year; Charles fell ill and couldn’t serve at the time, but he later became a sergeant in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. More on the 54th Regiment coming up in another post soon.

Here I pause in my account of today’s journey. As I mention in the tale of my day in Easton, I occasionally miss places or photo opportunities that I kick myself for afterword. This happens nowhere else on this trip more than here in New Bedford. In this case, I’m particularly hard pressed for time, and to be honest, a little distracted by the cold. Turns out I’ve way underestimated the time I’d need here. So I’m going to do something a little differently for this day’s account: when you see a paragraph that begins with an asterisk, it’s an account of a place that I discover in my fact-checking and editing for this day’s journey, but that I overlook or don’t photograph adequately. I’m doing this so that if you want to use this account as a guide for your own Douglass trip here, you won’t miss anything important.

Liberty Hall illustration from NPS Underground Railroad - New Bedford Brochure*Where I should go next, but miss though I’ve marked it on my map (as my friend Alex likes to say, ‘derp!’), is a little further west on William St just past Purchase St, where there’s a plaque commemorating Liberty Hall. The original hall burned down in October 1854, and burned so hotly it melted the bell; the plaque contains a piece of its twisted metal.

Douglass first heard William Lloyd Garrison speak at this hall in May or June 1839. Garrison preached that ‘prejudice against color was rebellion against God’, because all manner of sectarianism and prejudice went against God’s will that everyone be united into one body in Christ’s kingdom. Douglass was enthralled, read every issue of the Liberator enthusiastically, and attended every antislavery meeting held in this and nearby towns. He returned to Liberty Hall many times as a speaker himself over the next two decades in the 1840’s and 50’s.

Frederick Douglass Way, formerly Ray St where the Douglasses lived at number 111, New Bedford MA

Frederick Douglass Way, formerly Ray St where the Douglasses lived at number 111, New Bedford MA

From the 54th Regiment Plaza, I continue west on William very briefly, then head up Acushnet Ave to its north end. This street ends rather abruptly; though it had once continued north for quite a while, it was razed at some point, likely to make way for the freeway that runs there. It used to be Ray St, where Douglass and Anna moved to a house at number 111; their family was growing and they needed more space. The street there, and their third house in New Bedford, used to be closer to the wharves where Douglass worked for a time. Acushnet becomes Frederick Douglass way north of Elm St. Diane at the NPS told me that I would find a street up this way named Frederick Douglass Way. She wishes that either a grand or more main street was named after him, or that this street were more decorative and well landscaped. Since it’s fitting that this street be named for Douglass since he once lived here, I hope for my part it’s her second wish that will come true.

Former Methodist Church at Elm and County Streets, New Bedford MA

Former Methodist Church at Elm and County Streets, New Bedford MA

From Frederick Douglass Way, I head straight east on Elm all the way to the corner of Elm and County Streets. Diane at the NPS visitor center identified this as the old Methodist Church, which is no longer active at this site; it’s currently up for sale. The engraving in one of the pointed arches in the center front of the bell tower notes it was built in 1858, twenty years after Douglass would have begun attending. This may then be a new location, or it may have been rebuilt on this original site; Douglass specifically refers to its being on Elm St.

The Douglasses were seeking religious community and comfort, and hadn’t yet fully realized the degree to which the mainstream Methodist church, the religion of his youth, was a powerful supporter of slavery. Its ministers taught slaves that their salvation was to be attained through obedience to the worldly masters the Lord had placed over them, that their virtue was to be found in submission and hard work, and that their reward was to be in heaven rather than on earth. Unfortunately, many religious sects throughout history have used this tactic to exploit the poor and oppressed, teaching them that resignation to their plight is a virtue and a sure ticket to a better life in the hereafter, thereby avoiding the necessity, and responsibility, of making life on earth a happy and just one for all.

In addition, the segregation of black people into the back of the church, serving them communion only after the whites had been served, disenchanted Douglass and he promptly left, never to return. After all, as Douglass believed, the quality of a faith is revealed in the teachings of its ministers and the beliefs and behavior of its congregation, especially in matters of justice and kindness to one’s fellow human beings. He later joined a small faith community called the Zion Methodists, not only as a congregant, but as a licensed preacher. (There is a church building that housed the Frederick Douglass Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, no longer extant, at William and Eighth, but it’s uncertain whether it’s a continuation of Douglass’ congregation though it was named for him.)

The Peabody house site at Union and 7th, New Bedford MA, 2016 by Amy Cools

The Peabody house site was about where the gray house now stands at Union & 7th Sts, New Bedford MA

Then I head south down Eighth St, turn left on Union, and stop at Seventh. There were two locations of interest in the life of Douglass here. One, on the southeast corner of Union and Seventh, once stood the house of the Peabodys, at 174 Union St, about where the gray house is now. This is where Douglass picked up his first odd job here when Mrs. Peabody paid him two silver dollars to put away a load of coal. This seemingly insignificant moment in a life felt very significant to the newly escaped Douglass, because it was the first money he ever earned that no one at that moment had the right or the inclination to take from him. It was one small job for a man, but one huge step in feeling like a free one.

Site of Joseph Ricketson's house on the north side of Union at 7th St, New Bedford MA

Site of Joseph Ricketson’s house on the north side of Union at 7th St, New Bedford MA

Nathan and Polly Johnson House at 21 Seventh St, New Bedford, MA

Nathan and Polly Johnson House at 21 Seventh St, New Bedford, MA

Also on Union and Seventh, where this parking lot is now on the north side of the street, across from where Seventh begins, lived a man, or rather two men, named Joseph Ricketson. One of the the two men Douglass named in his narrative who picked up the newly married Douglasses when they arrived at Newport and took them to New Bedford was Joseph Ricketson (probably referring to Sr). The Ricketson house was a busy and particularly well documented stop on the Underground Railroad.

Then, Ricketson and the Douglasses would have taken the same route as I do now (assuming they stopped at his house first), heading south on Seventh Street to Nathan and Polly Johnson’s house at number 21.

Nathan and Polly Johnson House (and adjoining) at 21 Seventh St, New Bedford MA, 2016 Amy Cools

Nathan and Polly Johnson House at 21 Seventh St and adjoining Quaker meetinghouse (in yellow), New Bedford MA

Historical Plaque at Nathan and Polly Johnson House, New Bedford MA

Historical Plaque at Nathan and Polly Johnson House, New Bedford MA

This was the first home Douglass and Anna lived together, from the day they arrived here on September 17th 1838 until they moved into their own first home in 1839. It’s the only New Bedford home of the Douglasses still standing. Nathan and Polly were an inspiration to the Douglasses, a free, successful black couple who spent much of their time and money to help their people achieve the same.

Actually, to be perfectly accurate, it was the newly married Johnsons who arrived here, since the former Frederick Bailey (Douglass) had renamed himself Frederick Johnson, making himself and Anna two more of the already too many Johnsons in the town! Most of the escaped slaves here had taken the same last name, a friendly but over-done tribute. Johnson suggested the surname Douglass instead, after a hero in the Sir Walter Scott novel he was reading at the time, and Frederick accepted.

 1838 Whale Oil Refinery Building near Leonard's Pier, MacArthur St

1838 whale oil refinery building at 185 MacArthur Dr where Frederick Douglass may have worked

Then, as it’s I’m getting colder by the minute and hardly able to move my fingers (the wind chill has pushed the ‘feels like’ temperature down at this point to near freezing), I return to my car, and drive to 185 MacArthur Drive near Leonard’s Pier. This is the site of New Bedford’s first whale oil refinery, built in 1838. In his autobiographies, Douglass wrote of visiting the wharves to find work, described the granite warehouses there, told of loading casks of oil onto ships, and said he worked for a time in an oil refinery in the south of the city, for the same Joseph Ricketson just spoken of earlier. It would make sense that this is the same oil refinery, since it is indeed south of old New Bedford (where all the sites visited today were) and the year is early enough. If it isn’t Ricketson’s refinery, it could still be one of the ones Douglass delivered casks of oil to the ships from, and as you can see, it is made of granite.

Another, closer view of 1838 oil refinery, New Bedford, MA

Another, closer view of 1838 oil refinery, New Bedford, MA

Douglass was amazed at the level of social equality black people enjoyed there with its integrated schools and many other institutions, but there was still segregation in many of the public buildings and competition and prejudice among working people. It was for the same reason that caused Douglass’ bad experiences working on the docks, especially at Gardiner’s shipyard, when he was still enslaved in Fell’s Point, because free whites had to compete for wages with black workers who would accept lower wages and therefore drive them down. In the end, Douglass couldn’t find a good job as a caulker here, so he worked as a common laborer, on the docks, in an (this?) oil refinery, and at a brass foundry among other things, averaging about a dollar a day instead of the two dollars he could earn as a caulker. Though he was poor and worked long hours (which, as he said, was not at all conducive to mental improvement for the lack of time), he obtained a free subscription to Garrison’s The Liberator (which led him to Garrison’s talk at Liberty Hall), attended as many abolitionist meetings as he could, and continued to educate himself. As he became more informed, he became a more passionate believer in the cause of human rights.

The delightfully names Cuttyhunk Ferry at New Bedford, which does not take you to Nantucket, unfortunately

The delightfully named Cuttyhunk Ferry at New Bedford which does not take you to Nantucket, unfortunately

I head a little north along the piers, and stop for a bit to look across the water in the general direction of Nantucket. The ferries don’t run there until later in April. On Aug 11, 1841, Douglass was invited to tell the attendees of his experiences as a slave at a large antislavery convention there at Atheneum Hall. Abolitionist William Coffin had overheard him talking with friends in a ‘little schoolhouse on Second St’ (which, though scouring all the sources I can find up to this point, I don’t find a location for) and was so impressed by his eloquent style of speaking, he was sure the convention would be too. It was likely one of the places the Zion Methodists met, for whom Douglass preached). Douglass first met William Lloyd Garrison there in person following this talk (as you remember, he had already heard him speak at Liberty Hall) and as Douglass’ telling of his story was so effective, he was solicited by another abolitionist leader John Collins to become a member and speaker of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Thus began Douglass’ lifetime career as a human rights activist.

About where 157 Elm St was, site of Frederick and Anna Douglass' first home of their own in New Bedford MA

About where 157 Elm St was, site of Frederick & Anna Douglass’ first home of their own in New Bedford

The last site I visit today is where Frederick and Anna’s first home used to stand at 157 Elm St. I had actually passed by it earlier, on my way from Frederick Douglass Way to the old Elm St Methodist Church, as I had it on my list and in my notes but not on my map (derp! #2). If the street numbers haven’t changed, then it would have been on or near the site of the parking lot across from the yellow house marked 160. There’s not much left in the way of old buildings, so I go up a little ways toward the Methodist church, stopping at Eighth to photograph some of the houses on Elm, but most of them look too new to date to their time here.

1830's houses on Mechanics Lane, off 8th and parallel to Elm St, New Bedford MA

1830’s houses on Mechanics Lane, off 8th and parallel to Elm St, New Bedford MA

1838 home of Pardon T. Skiff, laborer, Mechanics Lane in New Bedford, 2016 by Amy Cools

1838 home of the delightfully named Pardon T. Skiff, laborer, on Mechanics Lane in New Bedford

Then as I head around the corner on Eighth, I spot a little street that runs one next to and parallel to Elm named Mechanics Lane, where most of the houses look of the right vintage, on a cobblestone street. I draw nearer to the houses and sure enough, their dates of original construction in the 1830’s are proudly displayed. So by looking at this street, we can get a good idea of what their neighborhoods looked like while they lived here. The Zion Methodist Church that the Douglasses used to attend may have stood at the corner of Eighth and Mechanics about where I’m standing as I spot this street, though again, that’s uncertain. The congregation met at various places around the town, since they had no permanent place of worship early on.

Thus ends my account of my day in New Bedford, a delightful and interesting day, even if a bit chilly. I need to skedaddle to meet my host in time at the end of my drive to my next destination. Stay tuned!

City Hall and Frederick Douglass monument at 133 William St

City Hall and Frederick Douglass monument at 133 William St

 

* By the way, if you have time to swing by, there’s a small Frederick Douglass monument on the front lawn of City Hall at 133 William St, near Mechanics Street, which you can see at the left of the photo. I don’t stop here since it’s not on my list of sites directly associated with Douglass’ life and as I mentioned, I’m running late and freezing cold so I don’t linger. But it’s a handsome building and a nice monument to visit.

*Listen to the podcast version here or on iTunes

~ Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and Inspiration:

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, and The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 2: Autobiographical Writings. 3 volumes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies, with notes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Volume compilation by Literary Classics of the United States. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Re-published 1993, Avenal, New York: Gramercy Books, Library of Freedom series.

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom: 1855 Edition with a new introduction. Re-published 1969, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relationedited by Robert S. Levine and Samuel Otter. University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Herman Melville‘, from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Hood, James Walker. One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church: Or, the Centennial of African Methodism. New York, 1895. (p 541)

Janiskee, Bob. ‘Loss of the Historic Baker-Robinson Whale Oil Refinery Rankles Officials at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park‘. Apr 20th, 2010. National Parks Traveler

National Park Service, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park publications: The 54th Regiment cards and The Underground Railroad: New Bedford and A Whaling Town brochures.

New Bedford Black History Trail‘. The New Bedford Historical Society website

New Bedford Historical Society publications: Frederick Douglass: Freedom in New Bedford, The 54th Regiment, and Nathan and Mary “Polly” Johnson House brochures.

Walker Lithograph & Publishing Co., 1911. Massachusetts, New Bedford 1911. Atlas. (Plate 14)

Weidman, Budge. ‘Teaching With Documents: The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War – Preserving the Legacy of the United States Colored Troops‘, 1997. National Archives Teacher’s Resources.

Welker, Grant. ‘New Hotel Latest Sign of a Revived New Bedford‘. Jun 5, 2010. The Herald News.

New Podcast Episode: Frederick Douglass on the Constitution

Frederick Douglass Ambrotype, 1856 by an unknown photographer, image public domain via Wikimedia CommonsListen to this podcast episode here or subscribe on iTunes

Early on his career as an abolitionist speaker and activist, Frederick Douglass is a dedicated Garrisonian: anti-violence, anti-voting, anti-Union, and anti-Constitution…

[But] by the early 1850’s, the abolitionist par excellence had come to disagree with Garrison, father of American radical abolitionism, and to agree with Lincoln, proponent of preserving the Union at all costs and of the gradual phasing out of slavery.

So how does Douglass come to make what seems such a counterintuitive change in his views on the Constitution and on the role of violence, voting, and the Union in bringing an end to slavery?… Read the original essay here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and is ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!