Gianni Franco www.giannifranco.com
The first article from the series Living Loving Rochester, NY
The most photographed individual of the 19th century was Mr Frederick Douglass (Gregory, 2016). He refused to play into the stereotypes of that era so much so that he refused to smile. The lack of a smile had a two part meaning; there was no reason to show contentment due to slavery, and in those days the media created African caricatures depicting exaggerated wide mouthed smiles. That sentiment was further promoted during his speech on July 5, 1852. In front of an all-female crowd at the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society he stated, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”
It was no surprise that Douglass orated to women because he had been working with the suffragette movement since 1848. In that year, he attended the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, hosted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Douglass wanted equal rights for all women and Africans. He used his newspaper, The North Star, printed in Rochester, NY from December 3, 1847 until June 1851, to spread the need for equality. The motto was “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”
Douglass was a world traveler before planes existed, making frequent trips to Europe and spending most of his time in the United Kingdom and Ireland. They supported his cause for equality and even raised funds to pay for his release from American slavery.
His quest for equality led him into politics, where he recruited Africans to fight for the Union during the Civil War (1861-1865). 1872 became a big year for Douglass; he was nominated Vice President as Victoria Woodhull’s running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket; he held New York State’s electoral vote and brought it to Washington, DC; and he left Rochester after his home, located at 999 South Ave (School #12), was burned down by an unknown arsonist. In 1877, he was elected as the US Marshal of DC by President Rutherford B. Hayes.
He passed away in 1895. Douglass’ coffin was transported back to Rochester, New York, where he had lived for 25 years, longer than anywhere else during his prolific life. He is buried at the Douglass family plot in the Mount Hope Cemetery.