Sunday, March 16, 2008
on Cedar Hill
From the Washington Post:
When Frederick Douglass moved to Cedar Hill in 1877, he had behind him a long and illustrious career as an abolitionist, women's rights activist and orator. After 40 years of struggle and activism, he was no doubt ready for a breather. And where better to kick back and relax than a nine-acre hilltop home a river away from the hubbub of Capitol Hill.
It was here in Anacostia that Douglass entertained guests and displayed his treasures, including Abraham Lincoln's cane (given to him by Mrs. Lincoln after the president's assassination), a handful of knickknacks from around the world and, most important, his library collection. A passionate reader, Douglass spent time boning up on politics, philosophy and the law, sometimes holing up with a book in the Growlery, a small "quiet time" building he constructed behind his home.
Strolling the grounds or sitting on his porch, Douglass would have been rewarded with an impressive view of the city. Check it out yourself: Start at the visitor's center, where a film will fill you in on Douglass's life. Then tour the 21-room house, which is run by the National Park Service and reopened last year after three years of renovation. Sit on the porch and enjoy the greenery or spend a moment in the Frederick Douglass Memorial Garden, which isn't much to look at in winter but comes alive in spring and summer.
And, of course, feel free to be moved by the man himself, who taught himself to read and write, escaped from slavery at 20 and went on to publish an abolitionist newspaper, write a few books, advise President Lincoln, speak out for women's rights and rouse the masses with speeches on world peace and the rights of the poor. Now that will give you something to think about.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site,1411 W St. SE, 202-426-5961, http://www.nps.gov/frdo. Free.