On a recent Friday, I ran up the 85 steps to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site — I was late for my 12:30 tour — and landed right in the middle of a fascinating history lesson. Over the next two hours, I would learn all about the great American orator and abolitionist while also gaining a better grasp of the lead-up to the Civil War, Reconstruction and the racial apartheid that followed.
My teacher? A tour guide and National Park Service ranger who, perhaps inspired by Douglass’ gift for dramatic speech, had just begun a spirited overview of Douglass’ life.
“By the time Mr. Douglass had arrived in D.C. on a permanent basis in 1872, he had already made a name for himself: He was an adviser to presidents. He held high-ranking government positions. He was chief editor of a newspaper,” the ranger said.
Douglass’ decision, in 1878, to move from Capitol Hill into Anacostia — then an all-white suburb of D.C. — was just one of many ballsy moves that also included beating up a slave master, running an abolitionist newspaper and sending his own sons to fight in the Civil War.
“That’s some BDE right there,” one tourist in our group, a 20-something black woman, said to her friend. (If you don’t know what that stands for, Google it.)