Frederick Douglass Jr.

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Frederick Douglass Jr.
Frederick Douglass Jr.jpg
Frederick Douglass Jr. c. 1862
Born(1842-03-03)March 3, 1842
DiedJuly 26, 1892(1892-07-26) (aged 50)
Other namesFred Douglass Jr.
Occupation(s)Printer, Editor, Typesetter
(m. 1869; died 1889)
Parent(s)Frederick Douglass
Anna Murray Douglass
RelativesDouglass family

Frederick Douglass Jr. (March 3, 1842 – July 26, 1892) was the second son of Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna Murray Douglass. Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he was an abolitionist, essayist, newspaper editor, and an official recruiter of colored soldiers for the United States Union Army during the American Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Frederick Jr. was the third eldest of five children born to the Douglass family, comprising three sons and two daughters. As a youngster while still under his parents' roof he joined them as active members and conductors of the Underground railroad, receiving fugitives at their Rochester, New York home; feeding and clothing them, and providing safe, warm shelter as they made their way from bondage to freedom, which for many of these meant escape to Canada. Years later, his younger brother Charles would recall: “We have often had to get up at midnight to admit a sleigh-load and start fires to thaw the fugitives out. Every member of the family had to lend a hand to this work and it was always cheerfully performed.”[1] The first residence for his family was at the house of Nathan and Polly Johnson, who were African-Americans who regularly sheltered people seeking freedom from slavery at their home.[2][3] They stayed with the Johnsons in New Bedford, Massachusetts from 1838 to 1839.[3]

Military service[edit]

During the American Civil War, Frederick Jr. joined his father as a recruiter of United States Colored Troops for the Union Army and was commissioned a Recruiting Sergeant, attached to the U.S. 25th Colored Infantry. Although he himself was never a combat soldier during the intrastate conflict, as were his two brothers, he was proud to have been a recruiter in behalf of the Union cause, especially regarding the famous 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.[4] As such, he worked closely with his renowned father who had been the foremost civilian recruiter for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, and who had also served as a consultant and advisor to President Abraham Lincoln on the enlistment of men of color into the Union Army, in supporting the Commander in Chief's objective of reinforcing the North's armed forces to put down the rebellion of the break-away Confederate States.[5] Both his older brother Lewis Henry Douglass and younger brother Charles Remond Douglass were among the first enlistees in that famed regiment. Charles, in fact, was the very first man of color to enlist from the State of New York.


As was true of his world-renowned father, as well as his two brothers, Frederick Jr., lived many lives in one. He was both a printer and editor, having learned these skills while working as an apprentice on his father's newspaper The North Star, later known as Frederick Douglass' Paper. Together with his father and his brother Lewis, he became co-editor of the New Era or New National Era, a journal published specifically for freedmen, post–Civil War freed slaves between the years 1870 to 1874. This post-abolitionist journal shared much in common purpose with an earlier journal The National Era, also published in Washington, D.C., between the years 1847 to 1860. It was this paper that had serialized the stories that would become Uncle Tom's Cabin, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Like his older brother Lewis, he was also a trained typesetter, having completed formal training at Denver, Colorado. His younger brother Charles would later become the first typesetter employed by the U.S. Government Printing Office at Washington, D.C. When his father, Frederick Douglass Sr., was appointed United States Marshal by President Rutherford B. Hayes in the year 1877, Frederick Jr. was made a bailiff and later attained a clerkship in the office of the Recorder of Deeds during his father's tenure in that role for the District of Columbia. The senior Douglass had been nominated to this office by President James Garfield in 1881, serving in that office until his resignation following the inauguration of President Grover Cleveland in 1885.

Personal life[edit]

Virginia L. Molyneaux Hewlett Douglass

On August 4, 1869, Virginia Hewlett Douglass and Frederick Douglass, Jr. married in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[6][7] Together they had seven children, Fredrick Aaron Douglass (1870–1886), Virginia Anna Douglass (1871–1872), Lewis Emmanuel Douglass (c.1874–1875), Maud Ardell Douglass (1877–1877), Gertrude Pearl Douglass (1883–1887), Robert Smalls Douglass (1886–1910), Charles Paul Douglass (1879–1895).[6]


Frederick Douglass Jr. died on July 26, 1892, and was initially interred at Graceland Cemetery, beside his beloved wife Virginia Hewlett who had preceded him in death on December 14, 1889.[8] This later changed with the closing of Graceland Cemetery in 1894; the remains were exhumed and removed to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Benning Ridge section of Washington, D.C.

Regarding his application for a clerkship in the office of the Recorder of Deeds[edit]

The following represents correspondence between Frederick Douglass jr., and District of Columbia Register of Deeds, Simon Wolf. It goes on to describe content of the cover letter accompanying his application for a clerkship within that office.

"Yesterday Simon Wolf, Esq., the newly appointed register of deeds, received the following letter from Frederick Douglass, jr., a brother of Mr. [Charles] Douglass, at the Government office (and not the 'colored printer at the Government office,' as erroneously stated in the 'Star of yesterday). The letter will be read with interest at this time:"

Washington, D.C., May 21, 1869.

Simon Wolf, Esq., Register of Deeds:

DEAR SIR: I have the honor to request an appointment as clerk in the office of which you have the distinguished honor to be the head. I belong to that despised class which has not been known in the field of applicants for position under the Government heretofore. I served my country during the war, under the colors of Massachusetts, my own native State, and am the son of a man (Frederick Douglass) who was once held in a bondage protected by the laws of this nation; a nation, the perpetuity of which, with many others of my race, I struggled to maintain. I am by trade a printer, but in consequence of combinations entered into by printers' unions throughout the country, I am unable to obtain employment at it. I therefore hope that you will give this, my application, the most favorable consideration.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


The following is the official reply:


Washington, D.C., May 21, 1869.

Your application is before me, and has received favorable consideration. I see no reason in the world why you or your race should not have the full countenance in the struggle for progress and education, and I am particularly happy in being the means of encouraging you; for, as a descendant of a race equally maligned and prejudged, I have a feeling of common cause; and who can foresee but what the stone the builders reject may become the head stone of our political and social structure.

Very respectfully,

S. Wolf


  1. ^ "New Dawn for Freedom". The Current. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  2. ^ Barnes, Jennette (April 2, 2018). "3 years in New Bedford changed Frederick Douglass, but why?". SouthCoast Today. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Aboard the Underground Railroad-- Nathan and Polly Johnson House". National Park Service. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  4. ^ Blight 2018, p. 450.
  5. ^ Blight 2018, p. 391.
  6. ^ a b Bernier, Celeste-Marie (2018-07-31). If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 26–28, 49. ISBN 978-1-4744-3973-2.
  7. ^ Gregory, James Monroe (1893). Frederick Douglass the Orator: Containing an Account of His Life; His Eminent Public Services; His Brilliant Career as Orator; Selections from His Speeches and Writings. Willey & Company. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-7950-1414-7.
  8. ^ "Mortuary Matters". Democrat and Chronicle. 22 December 1889. p. 2. Retrieved 2020-11-28.

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