This year marks Frederick Douglass’ 200th birthday, so what better way to mark the occasion than to share our Nerd Trip to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which is part of the National Park Service. Located in the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C., the visit revealed new insights into this famed abolitionist and orator.
We started in the Visitor Center where we were immediately drawn to this awesome statue of the man himself. The quote behind him says, “to those who have suffered in slavery I can say I, too, have suffered…to those who have battled for liberty, brotherhood, and citizenship I can say, I, too have battled.”
If you know his story, you know how true that is. I am going to give it a most inadequate gloss over.
Frederick Douglass was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore sometime around 1818 (the exact date and year are not known, I read that Douglass himself selected February 14 to mark his birthday). He moved to Baltimore where he was able to learn to read and eventually escaped to the North at age 20. His autobiography, Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published in 1845, garnering national and international attention. People traveled from miles around to hear him speak. Douglass became a leading figure in 19th century America (including being one of the most photographed people of the century).
In his later years, he bought in 15-acre estate in Washington, D.C. He and his first wife Anna moved into house in 1877.
Douglass came to be known as the “Sage of Anacostia.”
At the Visitors Center, we watched the 17-minute detailed film about Douglass’ life and looked at the exhibits there, including this haunting “death mask” and hand (I think it’s the first time we’ve ever seen).
We then headed up to the house, which Douglass named Cedar Hill, for a tour. The house sits on a hill with a fantastic view of the city. FYI, there is a reason Douglass named the property Cedar “Hill,” it’s a steep climb and there are quite a lot of stairs to get there! I was relieved when my friend volunteered to hike back down the hill to check on the house tour.
We were early for the tour, so we got to hang in out in rocking chairs on the front porch, which was very relaxing. While we waiting for the tour, we also walked around the grounds, including the Growlery, which was originally a construction shed that Douglass converted into a study of sorts. I found the Growlery to very charming like a little fairy tale cottage.
In our next post, we’ll take you inside the Douglass house and tell you the name of a Douglass guest that caused the young girls on our tour to shriek!