VOA TV – The Frederick Douglas House – Learning How an Escaped Slave Became a Leader

People come to this house in search of African-American history.

TOUR GUIDE: “Now the irons that you see up here, these are the various irons that the Douglass family used. This iron is really interesting. This is an iron for putting ruffles in a woman’s dress. So it sort of demonstrates the type of people who were living in the house.”

Frederick Douglass owned this home in Washington, D.C., after slavery ended in 1865. Douglass was born a slave, but escaped. He later became a major African-American leader. Kamal McClarin works for the National Park Service.

KAMAL McCLARIN: “That transition from slavery to freedom and living in a home like this really provides the public with tremendous inspiration and demonstrating those notions of self determination, you can rise from nothing to something.”

The house is called Cedar Hill. Frederick Douglass purchased it in a Washington neighborhood where only white people lived. He and his family lived here from 1877 until he died in 1895. Today, visitors see how Douglass lived and they learn about his life.

TOUR GUIDE: “If you have heard anything or read anything about Douglass, you probably heard people mention that his voice rivaled Daniel Webster, who was one of the great orators of the 19th century.”

Historian Thomas Fenske brought his friends to the Frederick Douglass home. He says the building was in need of repairs in the 1970s, but later fixed.

THOMAS FENSKE: “Frederick Douglass was very, very important for, as a founder of the civil rights movement. He talked with President Lincoln, advised Lincoln on various things and, of course, was one of our country’s great writers. So I think it’s important to have a house like this to keep his memory alive.”

More than 60,000 people have visited the home since 2006. Sarah Ward is one of them.

SARAH WARD: “I learned that Frederick Douglass escaped from being a slave and he went through a lot of hard times. He taught himself how to read and write, and became very educated and successful.”

Susan Nako brought her son Simon from New York.

SUSAN NAKO: “Simon’s list for his first grade class for Black History Month did not include Frederick Douglass. And I am appalled because he’s my hero from when I was a little girl.”

Michael Scott and his wife came from Virginia.

MICHAEL SCOTT: “This day and time, a lot of African-American children don’t know about Frederick Douglass. They don’t know about it. In order for us to go forward, we got to remember our past, where we came from and those who paved the way for us.”

The National Park Service cares for the Federal Douglass home. The Park Service is working on expanding its activities there as interest in African-American history grows. I’m Steve Ember.