Rochester in Monroe County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Frederick Douglass Home Site
Rochester's proximity to Lake Ontario afforded runaway slaves a direct route to freedom in Canada. Hundreds of runaway slaves were "conducted" from one "station" to another along this secret network of escape routes by people like world-renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman who, after escaping from slavery herself, returned to the South several times and led approximately 300 people north to freedom.
Even in states like New York where slavery was outlawed, escaped slaves traveled in utmost secrecy. This was particularly true after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 provided harsh penalties, fines and imprisonment for anyone even knowing of the whereabouts of a runaway slave and sailing to return him or her to the master. Overland, the runaways traveled in ingenious ways, some hidden in wagons, others disguised as workers. Many were "conducted" through the streets at night. Sometimes the mode of travel was along the Erie Canal, the Genesee River, or on board a ship or boat docked at one of Rochester's ports or landings. As soon as a runaway boarded a boat flying a Canadian flag, he or she was immediately considered free.
Rochester was at the juncture of routes moving from either New York's Southern Tier and Pennsylvania or from Canandaigua and Mendon along Clover Street. Travelers
The religious revivals of the 1830s solidified anti-slavery sentiment in the Rochester area. Strong abolitionist sentiments favored the runaway slaves, and Rochester's marshals were uncooperative with the Fugitive Slave Act.
Some of the sites used on the Underground Railroad were the Isaac and Amy Post house on the site of the present Hochstein School of Music on Plymouth Avenue, the Brighton Hotel on East Avenue at Winton Road, which once backed onto the Erie Canal, the Samuel Porter house on South Fitzhugh Street, the Thomas Warrant house on West Henrietta Road, the Douglass house on South Avenue, and Kelsey's Landing on the Genesee River near Driving Park Bridge. Shrouded in secrecy, many sites remain undocumented.
The Civil War Years
When President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to suppress the secession of Southern states from the Union, the local militia expected the "conflict" to be brief. Frederick Douglass agitated to make the Civil War a war to end slavery.
In 1863. Douglass was appointed to help raise the 54"’Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The
In 1865, slavery ended in America with the passage of the 13th Amendment. Douglass‘s support of the 1870 15* Amendment granting black men the right to vote caused a rift in his relationship with longtime friend Susan B. Anthony, who had fought tirelessly for universal suffrage.
The Pursuit of Education
Douglass' Baltimore master, Hugh Auld, thought that teaching slaves to read and write would lead them to disobedience and encourage them to escape. Innocently, Sophia Auld, the master's wife, taught Frederick Douglass the basics of reading, led the way to a lifelong career of journalism and oratory. When Mr. Auld found out, he ordered his wife to stop. Thereafter, Douglass relentlessly
Douglass's oldest daughter, Rosetta, faced numerous difficulties while trying to receive an education. When Rosetta was old enough to attend school, Rochester’s public schools were segregated. Douglass enrolled Rosetta at Miss Lucilla Tracey's Seward Seminary, a private school near the Douglass family's Alexander Street home. When he learned that she was receiving instruction in a separate location from the white children, Douglass removed Rosetta from that school and, to ensure that each of his children recelved a quality education, hired a woman to teach them at home. The struggle of Douglass and others to desegregate Rochester's public schools ended successfully in 1857.
While all of his children could read and write, Anna Murray, Douglass's wife, remained illiterate for her entire life. She relied on her daughter. Rosetta, to read to her and to write letters.
In 1872, while Douglass wa working in Washington, DC, his house was destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected. Neighbors alerted the family and returned to the burning house repeatedly to save pieces of furniture, precious books, and a few valuables. Douglass made his way back to Rochester by train. Arriving at night, he first was refused lodging, being told the hotel
The Rochester Legacy
The Douglass family home site (A) is one of several sites throughout Rochester associated with Frederick Douglass. Near this site is Highland Bowl (B), where the Frederick Douglass statue is now located. This 1899 statue is thought to be the first erected in this country honoring an African American. The graves of Frederick Douglass and members of his family are in nearby Mt. Hope Cemetery (C), as is the grave of fellow abolitionist and activist Susan B. Anthony. A Civil War Memorial, graves of black and white Civil War veterans, and graves of known conductors on the Underground Railroad are also located at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Susan B. Anthony's home (D), now a museum, is located at 17 Madison Street off West Main Street in a substantially intact 19th-century working-class neighborhood. The neighborhood also has its original public square, where Let's Have Tea (E), a bronze sculpture of Douglass and Anthony by local artist Pepsy Kettavong, was installed in 2001.
During the years Douglass lived in Rochester, the Erie Canal flowed through downtown, bringing commerce, immigrants, and new ideas. At that time, the canal crossed the Genesee River via an aqueduct
Douglass's work on the Underground Railroad was aided by barber Jacob P. Morris, at 31 East Main (H), and by Edward C. Williams, who manufactured sails in a loft on East Main Street alongside the river.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was organized in 1827. Its former building (I), the last of three on Favor Street, was constructed in 1906 on the same site where the Douglass family worshiped, and where, for a while, Douglass printed his newspaper in the basement. The Memorial AME Zion Church is now at 549 Clarissa Street (J).
Isaac and Amy Post were Quakers, abolitionists, supporters of Douglass, and conductors on the Underground Railroad. There home was on the site of what is now the Hochstein Music School, 50 North Plymouth Avenue (K), built as Central Church. There, funeral services were held for Frederick Douglass. Douglass's body, returned to Rochester, was laid in state on Broad Street at what
Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Bailey about February 1818 on the Lloyd Plantation, Talbot County, Maryland. He was born to an enslaved mother. His father likely was a plantation owner. At about six years old, he moved to Wye Plantation. He saw his mother only a few times after that when she secretly walked 12 miles to visit him. While still a boy, Douglass was sent to Baltimore to serve Hugh and Sophia Auld and their young son, Tom.
Douglass learned elementary reading from Sophia Auld, and from secretly copying Tom's lettering books. After his escape, he became a public speaker at abolitionist meetings. To counter charges that he did not write his own well-thought-out speeches, he wrote his first book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. As Douglass was in danger of being returned to slavery as a runaway, English friends Anna and Ellen Richardson purchased his freedom in 1845 for about $700.
In 1847, Douglass came to Rochester and began to publish the North Star, later called Frederick Douglass' Paper. He then published Douglass' Monthly and continued to do so until 1863. After the Emancipation Proclamation, he devoted his full attention to recruiting black troops to fight in the Civil War.
After the Fugitive Slave Act passed, Douglass made his famous "fifth
Working with many abolitionists and women's rights leaders and as an advisor to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, Douglass gained an international reputation as an orator and spokesman. In 1872, his home on South Avenue was burned. Douglass then moved his family to Washington D.C. On February 10, 1895, Douglass died of a heart attack at his home, Cedar Hill, Washington, D.C. Following funeral and memorial services in Washington, Douglass's remains were brought to Rochester where services were held at Central Church, now Hochstein Music School. His body lay in state at City Hall, where the bells tolled as he was carried to a horse-drawn hearse. A parade of citizens and dignitaries accompanied Douglass to his final resting place at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Who Lived Here? The Douglass home on South Avenue was a refuge from the turmoil of the outside world for Anna and Frederick,their children, extended family, friends, fellow abolitionists, and runaway slaves. On the edge of the
Lewis and Charles left from here to join the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first African-American unit in the Union Army. On this site, the Douglasses also became grandparents. Rosetta Douglass Sprague returned to her mother’s care in order to have her first child, Annie Rosine. Charles's wife, Mary Elizabeth Murphy, also stayed with the Douglasses during her pregnancy. Charles left for Washington, DC just before his son`s birth, to become one of the first African-Americans appointed to the Freedmen's Bureau. In all, Anna and Frederick had 20 grandchildren.
In 1867, after nearly 40 years of separation, Douglass was reunited with his long-lost, 56·year-old half
Anna Murray Douglass
Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray. a free black woman, met in Baltimore. Maryland. They were married in New York City in 1838. after Douglass, with Anna's help. escaped from slavery. Through 44 years of marriage. helping her husband and keeping a comfortable home were the missions of Anna's life. The Douglasses first settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and started a family. While Douglass was establishing himself as an abolitionist. Anna Murray worked as a domestic servant. Making the move to Rochester in 1847, they stayed until 1872. when they moved to Washington. DC. While in Rochester. Anna raised the couple's five children and welcomed visitors while her husband traveled abroad to foster the cause or abolition. She also sheltered runaway slaves in her home. Anna died in 1882 and is buried in a family plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery along with Frederick. daughter Annie. and Douglass's second wife Helen.
Rosetta Sprague wrote in her tribute. My Mother as I Recall Her: "lt is difficult to say anything of mother without the mention of father. her life was so enveloped in his. Together they rest side by side.
Who Visited Here?
The Douglasses welcomed to home visitors from all walks of life, some famous, some infamous and some downtrodden. Visiting here were abolitionists, suffragists journalists, and escaping slaves, as well as extended family members and friends. In her tribute, My Mother as I Recall Her, Rosetta Douglass Sprague emphasized her parents‘ universal hospitality. She said, "Perhaps no other home received under its roof a more varied class of people than did our home. From the highest dignitaries to the lowliest person, bond or free, white or black, were welcomed, and mother was equally gracious to all." Among the visitors were an untold number of escaped slaves running to freedom with the help of the Underground Railroad. In 1852, when the Douglass family moved to the house on South Avenue, it was a long way from downtown, making it an ideal place to hide fugitives. Douglass also was known to have hidden escaping slaves at his office on East Main Street in downtown Rochester. Some of these fugitives were led by renowned abolitionist and Underground Railroad "conductor" Harriet Tubman, who was known as the "Moses of her People."
As long-time friends
Frederick Douglass counted militant abolitionist John Brown among his friends. Brown, the leader of the October 16, 1859, raid on Harpers Ferry, sent his son John Brown Jr. to Rochester early in the fall of 1859 to enlist Douglass's support for this attack. Douglass, who admired Brown and called him a "noble old hero," nevertheless refused to participate in the raid, knowing that an attack on federal property would anger most Americans. After the raid, Brown was captures, tried for treason, and hanged. Many people believed incorrectly that Douglass was involved. Fearing for his safety, Douglass fled to Canada. Safely out of the country, he wrote letters denying his involvement in the attack and explaining the flight.
Location. 43° 8.135′ N, 77° 36.472′ W. Marker is in Rochester, New York, in Monroe County. Marker is on South Avenue 0.2 miles north of Rockingham Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rochester NY 14620, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Douglass Home (a few steps from this marker); Trophy Cannon (approx. ¼ mile away); Highland Park (approx. ¼ mile away); Nursery Office (approx. 0.3 miles away); Susan B. Anthony (approx. 0.4 miles away); Frederick Douglass (approx. half a mile away); Ford Street Bridge (approx. 0.6 miles away); Camp Fitz-John Porter (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rochester.
Also see . . . Kate Clifford Larson - Bound For the Promised Land. In her book, Ms. Larson documents the history of the "300 fugitives" claim and debunks it. The actual numbers are awesome and heroic enough to not need embellishment. This link from Ms. Larson's website goes into significant detail regarding the trips and fugitives associated with Tubman. (Submitted on May 7, 2013, by Yugoboy of Rochester, New York.)
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Civil Rights • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 31, 2017. This page originally submitted on May 7, 2013, by Yugoboy of Rochester, New York. This page has been viewed 849 times since then and 22 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on May 7, 2013, by Yugoboy of Rochester, New York. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.