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Frederick Douglass and The Fugitive's Song

I was thinking about Frederick Douglass today.  I regularly teach his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) in my introductory US history, as do undoubtedly hundreds of other instructors, and as this summer school session passes the halfway point we will be reading it again next week.  Recently, I have been asked to review a new book about Douglass's trip to Ireland in 1845 when he met Irish independence leader Daniel O'Connell and began a two year long lecture series..  There was a great piece in the NYTimes several years back about the encounter, perhaps it was part of the Disunion series on the anniversary of the Civil War, here

There are a number of familiar images of Douglass in our nation's archives, many of which appear in textbooks, on book jackets to illustrate his writings or recent biographies and studies, but this image was quite new to me as I scrolled through the LOC's PPOC.  From the description:

"A sheet music cover illustrated with a portrait of prominent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass as a runaway slave. Douglass flees barefoot from two mounted pursuers who appear across the river behind him with their pack of dogs. Ahead, to the right, a signpost points toward New England. The cover's text states that "The Fugitive's Song" was "composed and respectfully dedicated, in token of confident esteem to Frederick Douglass. A graduate from the peculiar institution. For his fearless advocacy, signal ability and wonderful success in behalf of his brothers in bonds. (and to the fugitives from slavery in the) free states & Canadas by their friend Jesse Hutchinson Junr." As the illustration suggests, Douglass himself had escaped from slavery, fleeing in 1838 from Maryland to Massachusetts. He achieved considerable renown for his autobiography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," first published in 1845. The Library's copy of "The Fugitive's Song" was deposited for copyright on July 23, 1845. An earlier abolitionist song composed by Hutchinson, "Get Off the Track!" (no. 1844-14), also used a cover illustration to amplify its message."







Electronic editions of the Narrative are easy enough to come by, but this "Third English Edition" includes the preface from an Irish edition and is quite a lovely scan. Douglass Narrative PDF

[Edit: It occurred to me that I met a fine historian, Scott Gac, when he was on the job market circa 2005 just before the publication of his dissertation as Singing For Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Nineteenth-Century Culture of Antebellum Reform.  I have not had the chance yet to read the book, but it does include a number of great images, portraits and song book covers.]





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