Thursday, December 20, 2018

Frederick Douglass Fled

I mentioned in a recent post that I am currently reading David Blight's Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. It is a fascinating read, bringing many aspects of Douglass's life that I was not that familiar with to light. One episode I did know a little something about was Douglass's exodus from the United States in the wake of John Brow's raid.

Curious to see if this news landed in Southern newspapers, and expecting it did, I wanted to see how it was told. I searched through several weeks of the Richmond Daily Dispatch following the Harper's Ferry affair, and in the October 27, 1859, issue I hit upon the small notice above.

Douglass, fearing implication in the raid and worrying about conspiracy charges due to some of Brown's papers captured following the failed mission, did indeed flee to Canada. This little article, with an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor spun his flight to protect himself and the interests he had built u over the years into an "underground railroad" ride to Canada.

In truth, when Douglass became aware of Brown's attempt, the black abolitionist was in Philadelphia. On October 20, Douglass was escorted to Paterson, New Jersey and took the railroad home to Rochester, New York. He quickly packed his luggage and took a boat across Lake Ontario to Canadian soil.

In November 1859, Douglass moved through Toronto to Quebec, where he embarked to Liverpool, England on the Nova Scotia. This was Douglass' second trip to Great Britain. He spoke at various spots in England and Scotland during his sojourn. He returned home in late April 1860, but avoided the speaking limelight as the U.S Senate continued its Harper's Ferry raid investigations.

However, it was not only the Southern press who denigrated Douglass for his flight. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, rival to Harper's Weekly, included a political cartoon in their November 12 issue showing a hurried Douglass losing one of his shoes and his hat while carrying a traveling trunk on his shoulder. The cartoon was titled, "The Way in Which Frederick Douglass Fights Wise of Virginia." As if a black man in post-Dred Scott America had a wink of a chance in any court of law!

No comments:

Post a Comment