Wednesday, February 14, 2018
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Bowser today unveiled a newly restored portrait of Frederick Douglass in the Mayor’s Ceremonial Room at the John A. Wilson Building. The portrait of Frederick Douglass was commissioned in 1936 by Recorder of Deeds William J. Thompkins when Thompkins arranged for artists to paint a series of portraits of 12 of the 13 Recorders of Deeds that preceded him. The portrait of Douglass was originally painted by Henry Wadsworth Moore and restored in the fall of 2017 by Page Conservation, Inc.
“Just a few years ago, a statute of Douglass became the first statue to represent Washington, DC in the U.S. Capitol. Now, it is my great honor to ensure Douglass will have a permanent home here in the John A. Wilson Building,” said Mayor Bowser.
Throughout the week, the Bowser Administration is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth. Although Douglass did not know the exact date of his birth, he celebrated his birthday on February 14. On Tuesday, the Mayor broke ground on the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, which will replace the existing bridge and enhance the connection between Wards 8 and 6. On Saturday, the Mayor will participate in the Frederick Douglass 5K and Oxon Run Trail ribbon-cutting and then attend the National Park Service’s bicentennial celebration at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Anacostia.
Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland, and later escaped to New York City in September 1838. In New York, Douglass became a prominent abolitionist and orator, fighting for years against the injustices of slavery and for the rights of African Americans and women. Douglass lived in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC from 1877 until his death in 1895. In 1871, Douglass was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to the District’s legislative council. In 1877, he became U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, and in 1881, the Recorder of Deeds in the District of Columbia. Douglass was a staunch supporter of voting rights for the residents of Washington, DC. In his third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Douglass wrote: “The District of Columbia is the one spot where there is no government for the people, of the people and by the people.”
Last February, Douglass’s descendants released a statement listing just a few of Douglass’s achievements, including:
- Enduring the inhumanity of slavery after being born heir to anguish and exploitation but still managing to become a force for solace and liberty when America needed it most,
- Recognizing that knowledge was his pathway to freedom at such a tender age,
- Teaching himself to read and write and becoming one of the country’s most eloquent spokespersons,
- Standing up to his overseer to say that ‘I am a man!’
- Risking life and limb by escaping the abhorrent institution,
- Composing the Narrative of his life and helping to expose slavery for the crime against humankind that it is,
- Persuading the American public and Abraham Lincoln that we are all equal and deserving of the right to live free,
- Establishing the North Star newspaper when there was very little in the way of navigation or hope for the millions of enslaved persons,
- Supporting the rights of women when few men of such importance endeavored to do so,
- Arguing against unfair U.S. immigration restrictions,
- Understanding that racism in America is part of our “diseased imagination,”
Recruiting his sons—who were born free—to fight in the war to end the enslavement of other African Americans,
- Being appointed the first black U.S. Marshal by President Rutherford B. Hayes,
- Being appointed U.S. Minister to Haiti by President Benjamin Harrison,
- Serving as a compelling role model for all Americans for nearly two centuries.