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Volume 2, Issue 4, February 28, 2017
As Black History Month closes, this issue features historic sites honoring two former slaves who became leaders in the anti-slavery movement. One was an orator and writer; the other led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. There is also a new article about the founding of a post-Civil War historically black university.
Cynthia Collins
Cynthia Collins 

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Frederick Douglass Nat'l Historic SiteThe house in Washington, D.C., called Cedar Hill, was the last home of the noted orator, statesman, preacher, abolitionist, civil rights activist, and writer, Frederick Douglass. It was built in the late 1850s and purchased by Douglass in 1877. He enlarged it to 14 rooms and extended the grounds to 14 acres. Physically, it is a complete contrast to the life he had as a child and young man. The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site depicts wealth, comfort, a library with more than 1,000 books encompassing a variety of subjects, and music. It was his determination for education and knowledge that helped him survive his years as a slave and paved the way for freedom.

Born circa 1818, he was separated from his mother shortly after his birth (she on one plantation, he on another), and raised by his grandmother. When he was eight years old, his slave owner started hiring him out to other places in Baltimore. By the age of 15, he was a field hand on Maryland's Eastern Shore, had taught himself to read and write, and was educating other slaves. He fought against harsh treatment by a farmer and made an unsuccessful attempt to escape. After he was sent back to Baltimore, he met a free black woman who helped him escape in 1838. The couple married and moved to New Bedford, MA.

Douglass wrote books about his experiences as a slave and spoke at anti-slavery events. Because he was not legally free, he traveled throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland for two years to avoid being enslaved again. When abolitionists bought his freedom, he returned to the United States legally as a free man. He and his family moved to Rochester, NY, then to Washington, D.C., as he continued to speak out tirelessly for equal rights, women's rights, and ending slavery. In addition to his autobiographical books, he held various politically appointed positions, and was a board member of Howard University.  

After 44 years of marriage, his wife died and he remarried. His second wife was white and very active in the anti-slavery movement. They lived in Haiti for two years while he held the position of Minister Resident and Consul General. Four years later, while working on a speech, he had a heart attack in 1895 at age 77. His widow made their home a memorial to his legacy and created a memorial association to ensure the home's preservation. Access to the Douglass home is by guided tour only. A virtual tour available here.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument
Visitor Center - Harriet Tubman Nat'l MonumentA new national monument honoring Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is scheduled to open March 11, 2017 in Church Creek, MD. Its focus is not on historic buildings, but on the area where she was born, and ultimately led so many slaves to freedom. It is 25,000 acres of protected marshland, fields, woodlands, and waterways on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The monument has a visitor center that includes a gift shop and exhibit space. Tours conducted by park rangers combine artifacts with Tubman's  knowledge of the landscape that helped slaves escape to freedom.

Tubman was born into slavery in 1822 and hired out to other places beginning at age six. She experienced cruel hardships early in life ranging from separation from her family to harsh treatment. When she was 13 years old, she was hit in the head with a weight when she refused to help an overseer restrain a runaway slave. She had side effects from that injury the rest of her life. In 1844, she married a free man, John Tubman, and changed her name from Araminta to Harriet. She would not become free until 1849 when she successfully escaped slavery.

The couple settled in Auburn, NY, but she returned to her native Maryland 13 times over a ten-year period to help lead slaves to freedom. She was dubbed "Moses" and led fugitive slaves north, stopping at homes for food and shelter that were a part of the Underground Railroad. She also fought for women's rights, was a Union spy and scout, and established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged dedicated to the care of African-Americans. She died in 1913 from pneumonia.

Eastern Shore WetlandsThe Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was first designated in 2013 under President Barack Obama through the Antiquities Act of 1906. A sitting president can used executive proclamation to enact national monument status to federal lands with unique or significant features that are cultural, scientific, or historical.
Recent Articles...

Lincoln University: Founded by Missouri Civil War Soldiers of the U.S. Colored Infantry

Soldiers' Memorial Plaza, Lincoln UniversityAfter the Civil War ended, members of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantry founded Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO. This historically black university was named after President Lincoln, and opened Sept. 17, 1866 under the name Lincoln Institute. The decision to open a school was to offer education opportunities “for the special benefit” of freed African-Americans. ... Continue reading-->

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The Unicorn Tree
The Unicorn Tree by Cynthia Collins

A teenage girl whose brother is lost at sea –

The diary of a nineteenth-century woman –

And the special place that binds them…

For reviews, excerpts, and summary, see

The Unicorn Tree is listed on the 2016 Winter Reading List of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators  (SCBWI) under grades 9-12.

Ghost story and maritime adventure...
Available at
Photo credit: Frederick Douglass National Historic Site: courtesy of NPS. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument: Visitor Center and Eastern Shore Wetlands: courtesy of Beth Parnicza/NPS.

All articles in this newsletter are by Cynthia Collins. The featured historic site section contains general information. The other articles may not be reprinted without written permission. Subscriber lists are not sold or given to any third parties and historic sites are not charged for being featured. To suggest historic sites for future issues, request article reprint permission, or any comments/questions regarding this newsletter, please contact Cynthia Collins.
Copyright © 2017 Cynthia Collins, All rights reserved.

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