Unveils First Historical Marker
Fells Point to honor Douglass --
lived in neighborhood before escaping slavery
By Jamil Roberts
Baltimore officials signaled yesterday that
the city is prepared to officially mark Frederick Douglass'
place in local history.
A historical marker honoring Douglass was
unveiled yesterday at Fells Point Square, the first of up to six
signs that will be erected throughout the area where Douglass
lived, worked and prayed.
The marker is scheduled to be replaced with a
plaque Sept. 3 - National Frederick Douglass Freedom Day - the
day that Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore.
"I think the recognition of Frederick
Douglass is way overdue," said Mayor Martin O'Malley, who
performed the ribbon cutting at the ceremony.
The mayor echoed the sentiments of Baltimore
residents who have criticized the city for failing to recognize
the contributions of many African-Americans and the city's role
in the slave trade.
"I think that the city was embarrassed
of its history. Other cities have already had historical
markers," said Robert E. Reyes, 46, board member of the
Friends of the President Street Station.
For two years, Louis C. Fields lobbied the
city to create the memorials. With the help of the Frederick
Douglass Organization, founded by Frederick Douglass IV, and
tourism groups, Fields hopes to increase African-American
tourism in Baltimore.
"This is a realization of a dream,"
said Fields, president of Black Baltimore Heritage Tours, who
helped create the Frederick Douglass Historical Marker Program.
Born Frederick Bailey in Talbot County,
Douglass came to Fells Point in 1826, about the age of 8. There,
he learned to read and write and bought his first book. He also
worked as a caulker.
Posing as a sailor, he escaped from bondage
in 1838, taking a train to Philadelphia. He went to New York and
then to Massachusetts, where he changed his last name to
Douglass and became a preacher, lecturer, writer and activist.
He ultimately became an international abolitionist and orator,
an ambassador to Haiti and presidential adviser.
Originally published February 22, 2002
* * *