- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2004

Black History Month celebrations kick off today, and a popular place to visit is the home of abolitionist, civil rights activist, orator and suffragist Frederick Douglass.

The home, which Douglass called Cedar Hill, is in Southeast and regularly welcomes school classes from as far away as New York, says site manager Julie Golanska.

“I think one of the best ways for children to learn about Frederick Douglass is to visit his home,” Ms. Golanska says. “It makes him come alive, seem more like a real person.”

On a recent morning, a kindergarten class from Georgetown Day School visits the site. Park rangers and volunteers, who act as guides, make sure they cater the tour to the 5- and 6-year-olds.

When one of the guides arrives at a desk holding Douglass’ typewriter, she asks the children: “Do you know what an old typewriter looks like?” Several of the children shake their heads, but one boy exclaims: “Yes, my grandmother has one.”

The children also see the dumbbells Douglass used in his frequent workouts, his many hats, his wife’s sewing machine (which one of the teachers points out was not powered by electricity, but the pedaling feet of the seamstress), the grandchildren’s room, old muffin pans and a wood stove.

“How do you think they heated the stove?” the guide asks. A few children mumble “wood” and “coal.” “That’s right,” the guide says.

In the downstairs kitchen, the children are thrilled to learn that Douglass’ favorite foods were ice cream and cake. They see the ice-cream maker and the icebox used to make the treat. They also see the kitchen cabinet where the cakes were placed to cool. The cabinet doors are equipped with mosquito nets to allow air to circulate and cool the cake while preventing bugs from getting in.

The tour of the house takes about 30 minutes. It has 21 rooms, including closets and halls; that’s how people counted their rooms for tax purposes in 1877, when Douglass bought it.

For children 10 and older, Ms. Golanska suggests watching a 17-minute film, “Fighter for Freedom,” which talks about slavery and politics of the 1800s and has some graphic material.

The visitors center, which shows the film, also has a couple of small exhibits. One features black women who fought for civil rights. The other features highlights of Douglass’ life, including artifacts such as Abraham Lincoln’s cane, given to Douglass after the president’s assassination.

The film is a dramatization of Douglass’ life and shows him growing up as a slave in Talbot County, Md., and then moving to Baltimore to become a house servant. His owner’s wife started teaching the young boy to read until she was warned that if she continued educating him, she wouldn’t be able to keep him. Douglass started teaching himself to read and write.

He was moved to a nearby plantation but eventually escaped to freedom. He started writing and lecturing against slavery, and in the mid-1800s, he launched a newspaper called the North Star. Later, he became an adviser to Lincoln and helped recruit black soldiers to the Union Army.

In 1877, he and his first wife, Anna, moved to Cedar Hill, breaking a “whites only” covenant. They had five children.

Though slavery was gone by this time, oppression wasn’t, and Douglass continued to fight for human rights until his death in 1895, according to the film.

“I think kids find the story of Frederick Douglass inspiring and amazing,” Ms. Golanska says. “Studying where he came from and what he achieved shows that great things are possible in life.”

WHEN YOU GO

Location: The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is at 1411 W St. SE, Washington.

Directions: From the Mall, travel south on Ninth Street to Interstate 395 north. Exit onto Interstate 295 south across the 11th Street Bridge; exit onto Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, turn left on W Street SE and proceed three blocks to the visitors center parking lot.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily Oct. 16 through April 14; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 15 through Oct. 15). The site is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. Tours of the home will not be given March 1 through 12 because of renovations. The visitors center, with exhibits and a film about Frederick Douglass, will be open during regular hours at that time.

Admission: Free.

Parking: Off-street parking is available.

Note: For individual visitors and groups of four or fewer, tours of the site are offered at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 3 p.m. daily. For groups of five and more, reservations are required.

More information: 202/426-5961 or visit www.nps.gov/frdo.

BLACK HISTORYMONTH EVENTS

• 10 A.M. TO 2 P.M. DAILY IN FEBRUARY — BLACK HISTORY MONTH AT MOUNT VERNON, 3200 GEORGE WASHINGTON MEMORIAL PARKWAY, MOUNT VERNON. INTERPRETERS AT THE SLAVE QUARTERS DISCUSS SLAVE LIFE, AND AT NOON A WREATH IS LAID AT THE SLAVE MEMORIAL. FREE WITH REGULAR ADMISSION OF $9 FOR ADULTS AND $4.50 FOR CHILDREN AGES 6 TO 11. INFORMATION: 703/780-2000 OR VISIT WWW.MOUNTVERNON.ORG.

• 1:30 TO 4 P.M. TODAY — BLACK HISTORY MONTH FAMILY DAY AT THE BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART, 10 ART MUSEUM DRIVE, BALTIMORE. ENJOY A DAY OF FREE FESTIVITIES FOR ALL AGES, INCLUDING HANDS-ON ARTS AND CRAFTS, AFRICAN MASK PAINTING AND STORYTELLING. THE EVENT WILL FEATURE LIVE MUSIC. INFORMATION: 410/396-6314.

• 10 AND 11:30 A.M. TUESDAY — “GOING THE DISTANCE,” SMITHSONIAN’S ARTS AND INDUSTRIES BUILDING, 900 JEFFERSON DRIVE SW, WASHINGTON. THE DISCOVERY THEATER INVITES CHILDREN AGES 6 TO 12 TO A MUSICAL PLAY ABOUT BLACKS WHO HAVE PERSEVERED AND TRIUMPHED, INCLUDING JESSE OWENS AND WILMA RUDOLPH. TICKETS ARE $4 FOR CHILDREN AND $5 FOR ADULTS. THIS EVENT WILL REPEAT AT 10 AND 11:30 A.M. WEEKDAYS THROUGH FEB. 27 AND AT NOON FEB. 14 AND 21. INFORMATION: 202/357-1500.

• 10 AND 11:30 A.M. FRIDAY — “DUKE’S PLACE,” SMITHSONIAN’S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY, 14TH STREET AND CONSTITUTION AVENUE NW, WASHINGTON. THE BREWERY TROUPE PUPPETS, A NEW YORK-BASED COMPANY OF BLACK PUPPETEERS, PRESENTS A MUSICAL FABLE THAT INTRODUCES YOUNG PEOPLE TO THE WORLD OF DUKE ELLINGTON. RECOMMENDED FOR ALL AGES. THIS EVENT REPEATS AT NOON SATURDAY. TICKETS: $8 FOR ADULTS, $5 FOR CHILDREN. INFORMATION: 202/356-1599.

• NOON TO 2 P.M. SATURDAY — FREDERICK DOUGLASS FAMILY DAY, S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER, ROOM 3112, 1100 JEFFERSON DRIVE SW, WASHINGTON. THIS CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTHDAY OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS INCLUDES ART ACTIVITIES AND TOURS OF THE EXHIBIT “A BRUSH WITH HISTORY.” INFORMATION: 202/275-2108.

• 10 TO 11:30 A.M. FEB. 13 — CELEBRATING FREDERICK DOUGLASS’ BIRTHDAY AT THE FREDERICK DOUGLASS NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, 1411 W ST. SE, WASHINGTON. AT THIS TIME, THE STUDENT WINNERS OF THE ANNUAL FREDERICK DOUGLASS ORATORICAL CONTEST WILL BE HONORED. INFORMATION: 202/426-5961.

• 10:30 A.M. TO 1 P.M. FEB. 18 — CARTOONING WORKSHOP AT THE SMITHSONIAN’S ANACOSTIA MUSEUM AND CENTER FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE, 1901 FORT PLACE SE, WASHINGTON. JOIN ARTIST TODD SPROW FOR CREATIVE FUN. PARTICIPANTS WILL LEARN HOW TO CREATE THEIR OWN CARTOON CHARACTERS AND BUILD A POSITIVE, UPLIFTING STORY LINE AROUND BLACK HISTORY MONTH. THE WORKSHOP IS RECOMMENDED FOR SCHOOL GROUPS IN GRADES FOUR THROUGH SEVEN. SPACE IS LIMITED, AND RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. INFORMATION: 202/610-3371.

• 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. FEB. 21 — AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILY FESTIVAL: BLACKS AND THE WESTWARD EXPANSION AT THE WALTERS ART MUSEUM, 600 N. CHARLES ST., BALTIMORE. RESEARCH SHOWS THAT AS MANY AS ONE-THIRD OF ALL EMIGRANTS TO THE WEST WERE BLACK, SEARCHING FOR FREEDOM AND PERSONAL OPPORTUNITY. LISTEN TO STORYTELLERS RELAY THE ADVENTURES OF BLACK COWBOYS AND COWGIRLS, SUCH AS BULLDOGGING BILL PICKETT, DEADWOOD DICK AND STAGECOACH MARY. INFORMATION: 410/547-9000.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide