Rochester


  Rochester was home to two giants  in the quest for abolition and women's suffrage.  Frederick Douglass moved to the city with his family in 1847 and eventually became a leading figure in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements. There he met and befriended Susan Brownell Anthony, an activist in the women's suffrage campaign.   Douglass lived to see the ratification of the 13th and 15th Amendments.  Anthony, however, would die before the enactment of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.



 

Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) lived a life so unbelievable it took three autobiographies to tell his story.  Born to a slave mother (Harriet Bailey) and a white father, most likely his mother's master, Douglass rose from slave to the position of U.S. Minister to the Republic of Haiti within his lifetime.  From 1847 to 1872, Douglass lived with his first wife (Anna Murray Douglass) and family in Rochester, N.Y.  The couple have four children: Rosetta (1839 - 1906) , Lewis Henry (1840 - 1908), Frederick, Jr. ( 1842 - 1892) and Charles Remond (1844 - 1920).  A fifth child, Annie (1849 - 1860) dies in childhood.  Two of his sons, Lewis and Charles enlist in the Civil War when Congress authorizes the use of black troops in 1863.  Lewis becomes a volunteer with the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts and was involved in the famous attack on Fort Wagner that was depicted in the movie Glory.  The story of Douglass's early years is told in his first autobiography:  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845)

There are several reasons why Douglass moved his family to Rochester; but his primary reason was to establish his own newspaper.  With funds raised from speaking engagements abroad as well as locally, he publishes the weekly North Star. Also, Rochester and it's surrounding areas are part of the "underground railroad", and many escaped slaves are attracted to the Douglass home.  While in Rochester he makes acquaintance with several people who will influence his life and who will in turn be influenced by Douglass.  Among them are: John Brown, Gerrit Smith of Peterboro, N.Y. and  Susan B. Anthony.   A monument to Douglass was dedicated by the city of Rochester in 1899 and is located in the Highland Park Bowl.  And, in recognition of the their combined achievements, a bridge spanning the Genesee River bears the names -  Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge.
                        (One of three plaques at the base of the Douglass statue.)

 John Brown - There is no doubt that Douglass knew about Brown's planned attack on the Federal Armory at Harper's Ferry.  He refused to take an active role in the attack and warned Brown that he thought the plan was doomed to failure. 

Gerrit Smith - Smith supported Douglass financially with frequent contributions and by deeding to him some forty acres of land. 

Susan B. Anthony - Anthony and Douglass were both staunch advocated for abolition and women's suffrage. Although they sometimes disagreed on methodology, they remained neighbors and friends for life.

 (Douglass's second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom [1855], is dedicated to Gerrit Smith with ... gratitude for his friendship... by ranking slavery with piracy and murder... etc.)

Not everybody in Rochester was enamored with Frederick Douglass and after a fire of mysterious origin destroys his South Ave. house in 1872, he moved to Washington, D.C.  The last home he lived in with his second wife he called Cedar Hill and is today a National Historic Site.   The home is located in present day Anacostia at 1411 W Street, SE.  It is in this home that Douglass dies of a massive heart attack on February 20, 1895.  He was 77 years old.  His body was returned to Rochester where he was laid to rest in Mt. Hope cemetery, Section T, Lot 26.  Also buried at the Douglass plot are his daughter Annie, his first wife Anna Muray Douglass and his second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass.

Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906) was born into a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts.  In 1845, the family moved to Rochester, N.Y. where she and Frederick Douglass begin what is to become a lifelong friendship.  Like Douglass, Anthony was an agent for the Anti-Slavery Society. Also,  like Douglass, she toured and lectured in support of her many causes: women's suffrage, abolition, educational reform, property rights for women. etc.  The Anthony house at 17 Madison St. became her residence in 1866 and it was in the front parlor of this house that she was arrested for voting in the 1872 election.  Anthony was aggressive by nature and much more militant than Douglass in her actions.  Because of this she often encountered hostile audiences and was once "hung" in effigy and her image dragged through the streets of Syracuse, N.Y.  Anthony died in this home at the age of 86 and is buried in Section C of the Mt. Hope Cemetery. 
Just a short stroll from the Anthony home, between Madison and King Streets, is the location of Susan B. Anthony Square.    Here a bronze memorial statue (by sculptress Pepsy M. Kettavong) entitled, "Let's Have Tea" stands as a tribute to the friendship of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.   The images of both Douglass and of Anthony have appeared on U.S. Postage stamps.  The Susan B. Anthony dollar honors her efforts toward the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, sometimes called the Susan B. Anthony amendment.  Neighbors in life, colleagues in the quest for human rights, both Douglass and Anthony lie at rest in nearby Mount Hope Cemetery.