Frederick Douglass exhibition at Veterans Memorial Hall
By Susan Johnson
Veterans Memorial Hall is hosting an exhibition honoring the life of noted abolitionist crusader Frederick Douglass, from Sept. 19 through Oct. 15, 2009.
From Slavery to Freedom: the Journey to New York City,
the exhibit chronicles the struggles of this self-emancipated man to obtain full citizenship and testify to the human dignity of every race.
Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass became one of the most famous men of 19th-century America. At the age of 7, he was sent to Baltimore to live with his new master, Hugh Ald, in whose home he learned to read. The knowledge he gained through reading inspired both a dream of freedom and a feeling of despair at the difficulty of escape. In 1837, he was hired out as a field hand to Edward Covey, and on Sept. 3, 1838, he escaped. Disguising himself as a free seaman and carrying false identification papers, he traveled by train and boat to New York City and freedom. There, he was still a fugitive under the law until friends purchased his liberty. Eventually, he settled in New Bedford, Mass.
In 1845, Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. From 1845 to 1847, he traveled to Great Britain as an abolitionist lecturer. In 1847, he published his first issue of the weekly newspaper North Star from Rochester, N.Y. In 1863, he led the recruitment of black troops for the Union Army, and after the Civil War, moved to Washington, D.C., where he became president of Freedman’s Savings Bank. He also held offices in the District of Columbia and later served as U.S. resident minister and consul general to Haiti.
Leah Nelson, curator of Veterans Memorial Hall, said,
Frederick Douglass visited Rockford two times, and he has been here at opportune moments. We had so many of our population here who were abolitionists. There are many connectionsthat’s why we’ve invited this exhibit to be part of our Abraham Lincoln celebration.
This exhibition was developed by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, an organization founded in 1994 to promote the study and love of American history. The Institute serves teachers, students, scholars and the general public.
Some other local museums also have parts of the history to share.
We’ve been collaborating with all the other museums in the areaEthnic Heritage, Midway, and the Byron Museumthey have an Underground Railroad exhibit. Next weekend, we’re going to have the semi trailer outside,
Veterans Memorial Hall is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. For information on weekend hours, call (815) 969-1999.
From the September 23-29, 2009 issue
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