Frederick Douglass, The 15th Amendment, and White Women’s Racism in the Suffrage Movement

Abolitionists and suffragists shared activist spaces as early as the mid-19th century. However, though members often overlapped, shared goals and spoke to the same crowds, talks of the 15th Amendment caused rifts in each movement after the Civil War. 

Women’s rights activists like Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton got their start in abolition. Mott helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society, of which women made up a significant percentage. They formed local women-only branches including the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, notable for its promotion of racial and gender equality and inclusion of Black women as leaders and members. 

Additionally, some well-known abolitionists like Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass voiced support for the women’s rights movement. Douglass spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and was one of 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments there. In 1866 he co-founded the American Equal Rights Association alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The organization demanded universal suffrage in the United States. 

However, supporting universal suffrage eventually proved a daunting and dangerous task for Black men, whom Douglass argued faced prejudice and violence that made their need for the vote more urgent. Though he never abandoned support for women’s suffrage, Douglass began to fight for the passage of the 15th Amendment, which aimed to enfranchise men of all races, but not women. After the passage of the 15th Amendment, Douglass wholeheartedly supported a new amendment meant to enfranchise women and thanked women’s rights activists for their support of Black liberation. In 1888, he spoke before the International Council of Women, in Washington, D.C.: 

“All good causes are mutually helpful. The benefits accruing from this movement for the equal rights of woman are not confined or limited to woman only. They will be shared by every effort to promote the progress and welfare of mankind everywhere and in all ages. It was an example and a prophecy of what can be accomplished against strongly opposing forces, against time-hallowed abuses, against deeply entrenched error, against worldwide usage, and against the settled judgment of mankind, by a few earnest women, clad only in the panoply of truth, and determined to live and die in what they considered a righteous cause.”

Despite Douglass’s steadfast support of women’s enfranchisement, his support for the 15th Amendment felt like a betrayal to white suffragists. Established alliances between abolitionists and suffragists fell to pieces, and many white women who got their start in abolition voiced disdain for the nation’s prioritization of Black enfranchisement. 

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New Resource: Black Writers and Artists in Special Collections

Literature and Rare Books in Special Collection and University Archives is a rich resource of works black artists and writers. Explore these items in our new subject guide on Black Writers and Artists!  

Non-fiction writing by black authors covers a wide variety of topics, including pamphlets on politics, racism, activism, and culture in our African American and African pamphlet collection. The subject guide also highlights fiction ranging from children’s books by Chinua Achebe to literary masterpieces by writers such as James Baldwin.  Contributions of black artists and printers to other parts of the bookmaking process, such as illustrators like Cledie Taylor and black owned presses like the Broadside Press, are also included.

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New Resource: 19th Century Literature Libguide

Even if you have never studied literature you are likely familiar with authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson or Charles Dickens.  While these authors may have written in different styles and about different subject matter, they were among the most notable authors of the 19th century.  To learn more about Emerson, Dickens, and other notable writers of the 19th century take a look at our new libguide on 19th Century Literature!

The libguide draws attention to some of the main collecting areas for Literature and Rare Books, such as illustrated works.  Hornbake’s holdings include a variety of different kinds of illustrated works that were popular in the 19th century, from scientific illustrations (Thomas Bewick’s woodcut portrayals of animals) to satirical illustrations (Punch Magazine).  The libguide also features highlights from our collection of 19th century literature, such as books published by Kelmscott Press, which reacted against the consumerism and mass production of the late 19th century by producing expensive, high quality books that doubled as works of art.

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Frederick Douglass Exhibit Coming Soon to Hornbake Library

The new exhibit Frederick Douglass & Wye House: Archaeology and African American Culture in Maryland will be opening soon in the Maryland Room exhibit gallery in Hornbake Library.

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Thousands of African and African American families were enslaved in Maryland for almost 250 years. Little evidence of their daily lives was preserved which leaves many questions about how they created a vital and distinct culture.

The University of Maryland seeks to answer questions about the origins of the nation including the contributions of African Americans. In the Department of Anthropology, archaeologists investigate Maryland’s landscapes to collect historical evidence and reveal new knowledge about the African American experience. At Wye House plantation, researchers utilized the words and work of Frederick Douglass to help answer the questions of today’s descendants of enslaved people.

By understanding past relationships to the natural environment and religions, University of Maryland archaeologists are discovering how African and European traditions creatively merged over four centuries to form a unique Maryland culture.

Visit Hornbake Library September 2016-July 2017 to explore this fascinating exhibit and learn more about the life and times of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass Celebrated

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This week Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) continues the spotlight on Frederick Douglass, prominent Marylander and social reformer. Visit Hornbake Library to view new exhibits on display in conjunction with the dedication of the new Frederick Douglass plaza just outside Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.

The new Frederick Douglass plaza is located just steps away from the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives, where students can discover primary sources on his life and times. And there is lots more to explore in Hornbake Library this week!

A new exhibit, Frederick Douglass in Special Collections, features items from our rare books collection, historic manuscripts, and Maryland collection, including Douglass’ autobiographies and more.

Visitors can also walk though the 1st floor lobby to explore a panel exhibit on the life, scholarship, and legacy of Frederick Douglass.

Visit the Maryland Room to view artifacts from Wye House in Maryland, from the Archaeology in Annapolis project, a partnership between the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland and Historic Annapolis Foundation.

Also on display is a new acquisition to our Maryland Manuscripts collection- a general store ledger from Wye Landing, Maryland dated 1809-1812. It is an intriguing primary source on commerce and the role of African-Americans in the area, detailing items purchased and their prices, including notations indicating items purchased by slaves/servants for their masters.

It all leads up to the Frederick Douglass Plaza dedication on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Join us to celebrate the arrival of this inspirational Marylander and his ongoing legacy at the University of Maryland.

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