Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

and scorn his treacherous flatteries without winking,
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty and private thinking.■


150 MY MOTHER AS I RECALL HER

Rosetta Douglass Sprague

"Too often," writes Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry, granddaughter of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass, "are the facts of the great sacrifices and heroic efforts of the wives of renowned men overshadowed by the achievements of the men and the wonderful and beautiful part she has played so well is overlooked."* This was certainly the case with Anna Murray Douglass (c. 1813-1882), who funded Frederick Douglass's escape from slavery, labored as a shoe binder to support their family while he lectured abroad for two years, and who, in forty-four years of marriage, her daughter Rosetta explained, guarded "as best she could every interest connected with [her husband], his lifework, and the home." She was an active participant in the women's anti- slavery fair movement and the Underground Railroad. Yet she is almost entirely absent from Douglass's three autobiographies and received little public attention during her lifetime despite her husband's immense celebrity. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has written, " Douglass had made of his life story a sort of political diorama in which she had no role" ( "A Dangerous Literacy,"16).

After the Douglass family moved to Rochester, New York, Anna Douglass became increasingly reclusive, deprived of her own social contacts, uncomfortable with her husband's widening circle of affluent white friends, and wounded by the public scandals over her husband's affairs with other women. After the death of their youngest child in 1860, her health deteriorated, and she died of a stroke in 1882. Frederick Douglass may have suffered a breakdown following her death.

Five years after her father's death, on May 10, 1900, Rosetta Douglass Sprague paid tribute to her mother in an address before the Anna Murray Douglass Union of the W.C.T.U. in Washington, D.C. Sprague ( 1839- 1906), born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, shortly after Douglass's es-

____________________
Foreword to Rosetta Douglass Sprague, My Mother As I Recall Her ( Washington, D.C.: NACW, 1923), 4.

-897-

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