Nathan Richardson is an accomplished performance poet and published author. He delivers a remarkable portrayal of the former slave, writer, orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass in which he captures Douglass’ physical and spiritual essence. Over the years, Richardson has moved beyond simply going on stage and reciting a speech; he wants to protect Douglass’ legacy — one that he sees as so rich and little-known that it can offer hope to those who learn about it.
At the Nov. 13, 2019, meeting of the Edenton Tea Party Chapter, NSDAR, the members present were immersed into the life of Fredrick Douglass, who was a leading spokesman for the abolition of slavery, racial equality and later, women’s suffrage. Following is what we came to know about Douglass through an amazing in costume portrayal by Richardson.
Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in Talbot County, Maryland, on a plantation owned by Edward Lloyd in February 1818. At the age of eight, Douglass was sent to live with Hugh Auld, a ship carpenter in Baltimore. While living with Auld, Douglass began to learn to read and write. Douglass said that “going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.” On Sept. 3, 1838, using a friend’s passport, Douglass escaped and boarded a train. He arrived in New York City the following day and declared himself a free man. To avoid being recaptured, Douglass changed his name.
Soon after his escape, Douglass settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and began traveling around the state speaking about his experiences with slavery and the need to destroy the practice. A book Douglass wrote about slavery “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” quickly became popular, but because of the topic, put Douglass in danger. To avoid being captured and sent back to the South, Douglass fled to England. While in England, Douglass continued to speak. British audiences were so impressed, they raised enough money to buy Douglass’s freedom. After two years on the run, Douglass returned to the United States as a legally freed man.
He participated in the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 and signed the “Declaration of Sentiments.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton later reported that the resolution calling for women’s suffrage was passed by that Convention to a great extent through Douglass’ efforts on its behalf. In 1853, Douglass signed “The Just and Equal Rights of Women,” a call and resolution for the Woman’s Rights State Convention held in Rochester, New York, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 1853. He also attended and spoke at that meeting. After the Civil War, Douglass held many positions within the Washington, D.C. district government; he also became more active in the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1866, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, he founded the American Equal Rights Association, the organization demanded universal suffrage.
Immediately after the adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870, Douglass resumed and increased his women’s rights activities. He called for an amendment giving women the right to vote and wrote an editorial supporting women’s suffrage entitled “Women and The Ballot,” published in October 1870. Douglass’ support of women’s rights continued; he attended the 30th anniversary celebration of the first Women’s Rights Convention, held by the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in Rochester in 1878. He also attended the 1881 NWSA meeting held in Washington, D.C.
Douglass attended the International Council of Women, held in 1888; there he was introduced to the audience by Susan B. Anthony as a women’s rights pioneer. Douglass, in turn, remained faithful to the cause of women’s rights. In fact, he attended a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, 1895, the day he died. During that meeting, he was brought to the platform and given a standing ovation by the audience. He died shortly after he returned home.
Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were pioneers in the women’s movement since its inception in 1848. At his funeral, Susan B. Anthony gave a eulogy that Stanton had written. Douglass was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution is a nonprofit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.
Any woman who believes she may be eligible for membership should contact Edenton Tea Party Chapter Registrar Candy Roth – 252-548-2648 or Membership Chairman Beth Taylor – 252-482-3592 for additional information. You may also go to the chapter website at http://www.ncdar.org/EdentonTeaParty_files/ or the Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/EdentonTeaPartyNSDAR/