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Frederick Douglass Day 2019

September 28, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

The Frederick Douglass Honor Society, the Town of Easton and Talbot County Free Library celebrates the life and legacy of Talbot County’s most famous native son, Frederick Douglass, on Saturday, September 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The annual celebration features a parade, welcome ceremony and musical block party, activities and learning experiences for children, a marketplace filled with food and retail vendors, exhibits, a historic walking tour and lecture by keynote speaker Celeste-Marie Bernier.

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass soon learned the value of reading and understanding the principals of his country. At the age of 12, he walked into Knight’s Bookstore holding 50 cents, saved from his shoe-shining earnings, to buy a copy of The Columbian Orator. It was the very first thing young Douglass had ever owned. The dialogues opened his eyes to the value of individual liberty, later writing, “Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever.” Douglass often credited the schoolbook for his ability to deliver speeches, influence of words and presence.

Frederick Douglass stood six feet, two inches tall, a broad-shouldered man with wide-set eyes and a deep memorable baritone voice. While working in a shipyard in Baltimore City as a caulker and still going by his surname Bailey, Frederick Douglass met Anna Murray, the daughter of enslaved parents (Mary and Bambarra Murray of Caroline County) and the first of her siblings to be born free after her parents were manumitted. Anna had moved to Baltimore City taking employment as a domestic helper at the age of 17. Managing to save most of her earnings, she was financially prepared to start the new life they envisioned as husband and wife, although Douglass made it perfectly clear that he would not marry Anna until he was free.

Together they planned Douglass’s escape with great thought and preparation. Douglass borrowed a freed man’s protection certificate from a friend and wore a disguise of a sailor sewn by Anna. At the age of 20, Douglass made his way to New York City by train. Most likely, the ticket was bought with Anna’s savings. Once Douglass arrived in New York, he sent for Anna. The prominent black minister Reverend J.W.C. Pennington married the couple on September 15, 1838. According to their daughter Rosetta Douglass, Anna brought nearly everything the couple needed to start their life together: a feather bed with linens and pillows; dishes with cutlery; and a full trunk of clothing for herself.

Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey but after escaping slavery, Douglass used assumed names to avoid detection. Arriving in New Bedford, Massachussetts, Douglass used the surname Johnson. Later he decided there were far too many Johnsons in the area to distinguish himself. He looked to his host (Nathan Johnson) for suggested new surnames. Mr. Johnson chose Douglass, a character in Sir Walter Scott’s poem, The Lady of the Lake. The name is from Scottish Gaelic and means Dark Man – Dou=dark and glas=man.

Anna Murray Douglass found work providing menial tasks or household duties until she began giving birth to their children. She played a pivotal role in Frederick Douglass’s life and tirelessly paved the way for his lengthy travels, managed the household, guests and finances, raised their children, and constantly keeping their Underground Railroad a secret. Frederick Douglass wrote hundreds of letters and numerous books but very little was revealed about Anna. Likely, Douglass withheld many details of his escape to protect Anna and the importance she was to his life. Rosetta Douglass Sprague wrote of her mother, “She drew around herself a certain reserve, one that forbade any very near approach to her by her contemporaries or by modern historians.” Fortunately, history has a way to surface as we are finding with Anna Murray Douglass.

Frederick Douglass Day Keynote Speaker, Celeste-Marie Bernier, is a Professor of United States and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She is the author of over 20 published and forthcoming single and co-authored/edited books, essays collections, special issues and scholarly editions and over 35 essays and book chapters. Her published and forthcoming books include African American Visual Arts, Characters of Blood, Suffering and Sunset, Stick to the Skin, If I Survive, Living Parchments, and Back into the Background. She has been working on the life and works of the Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass family for over two decades and she is currently completing a literary biography of Frederick Douglass for Yale UP as well as finalizing the 3-volume work, The Anna Murray-Frederick Douglass Family Biography and Writings. Bernier’s new edition of Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom will be published in the World’s Classics Series by Oxford University in November 2019 and co-edited edition of Life and Times is due for publication with Oxford UP in 2020/21. Celeste-Marie Bernier’s lecture will be held at the Talbot County Free Library’s Main Meeting Room on Saturday, September 28 at 1 p.m., followed by Q&A.

One must wonder if Frederick Douglass could ever have imagined the depth of his legacy when he wrote, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” Douglass was a self-taught and self-made man. His perserverance, intellect, and drive turned his ideas and visions into accomplishments and earned him a place in history and hearts of members of all races in American and Europe. An abolitionist, statesman, reformer, one of the most influential lecturers and authors in American history, his story continues to inspire people around the world. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, named one of the “88 Books That Shaped America” by the Library of Congress, has helped change the course of the U.S. Abolitionist Movement and continues to change lives around the world.

All Frederick Douglass Day events are free and open to the public. The six-hour celebration begins with a street parade at 10 a.m. (Glenwood to Washington Street) resting at the Talbot County Courthouse, followed by a Welcome Ceremony on the lawn by the Frederick Douglass statue featuring local guest speakers, recitation by Terron Quailes and music provided by local school bands. The Children’s Village (Talbot County Free Library, Front Lawn) is great fun with free games, prizes, books, stickers, bubbles, photo opportunities and much more, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Music Block Party (11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Dover and West streets) showcases young talent on the Eastern Shore, young violinists, Torie Gomez, Three Steps Forward, Raven Gill, Amy Morgan, DJ Allen Butler and more. Music ranges from Gospel to Hip-Hop and everything in between. The Marketplace (11 a.m. until 4 p.m., Dover and West streets) features vendors serving regional foods, a bounty from the Bay, beverages and desserts; arts, retail vendors with crafts, jewelry, and more; and local organizations providing information and volunteer opportunities.

For more information, visit FrederickDouglassDay.com and follow Frederick Douglass Day’s Facebook Page.


September 28, 2019
10:00 am - 4:00 pm


Downtown Easton
Easton, MD 21601 United States + Google Map
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Allison Rogers



Attraction Magazine

PO Box 360
Easton, MD 21601

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