Friday, August 15, 2008

More About Frederick Douglass's Home, Cedar Hill

Not too long ago, I wrote about the view from Cedar Hill, but due to my lack of camera at the time, the post did not have any actual views of Cedar Hill. For those of you didn't click on the hyperlink above (shame on you), I'll tell you that Cedar Hill was Frederick Douglass's final home. It is in the Anacostia area of DC. When that area was mostly farmland, this former slave purchased the house on a hill and its surrounding farmland for about $6,000 in the 1870s.

Not to take anything away from Douglass's remarkable achievements, but it is always fun to hear a little of the dirt...

The tour guide told us that although the movie shown in the visitor center makes it seems as if Douglass's children objected to his marrying his second wife because she was white, this really wasn't the case. Apparently after his first wife died there were 8 or 9 ladies vying to become the second Mrs. Frederick Douglass. His children picked the one they liked best of these women (some of whom were white), but Douglass didn't agree with their selection. He married his secretary instead.

The pillowcases on Douglass's bed are embroidered with a picture of two owls together on the higher branches of a tree with a lone owl sitting on some lower branches. The phrase "Two's company, three's a crowd" accompanies this picture. Again the tour guide had the scope: Douglass's second wife embroidered those. She was not accorded the respect that most wives of great men received during the Victorian era and felt that the shadow of Douglass's first wife (whom he was with for 44 years) loomed large over her marriage.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Glad you got the scoop on the pillow cases...when I toured Cedar Hill as part of my research for the historical fiction novel I am writing about Helen Pitts Douglass, the guide didn't know where they came from.

Frederick's choice to marry Helen wasn't as out-of-the-blue as the press at the time believed...she first met him at the age of 7 (he was 27 at the time) and the families started a long friendship working together in the Underground Railroad - right up until the day the Helen and Frederick shocked everyone by getting married.

Agree with your comments about what Frederick Douglass would say if he could see Anacostia today...Cedar Hill was really an oasis of calm and beauty in that neighborhood.