by Caitlyn Johnstone
February 16, 2018
At the top of a rise sits the stately house of Cedar Hill, the last home of the renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass. After buying the property in 1877, Douglass expanded the home to 14 rooms, enough space for friends, family and an impressive library. More than a century may have passed since Douglass last strode the halls, but visitors can still step through the doors and back through time.
Douglass’ daily life, much of which he spent in the library, is preserved by his personal possessions. A music stand next to his writing desk tells the story of a man of many skills and interests. Never formally instructed, Douglass taught himself to read and write and never stopped learning throughout his lifetime. He taught himself several languages and even learned to play the violin, propping sheet music on his stand and filling the house with the string’s sound for hours on end.
While his library gives an impression of his studious nature, his personal effects also hint at his rich personal life. The hat to the right of his desk occasionally concealed ribbons and braids, which his granddaughters would weave into his hair. He surrounded himself with photographs of friends and those he admired as he passed long hours in his library. The gold frame directly above his books holds the photo of his lifelong friend, abolitionist and author William Lloyd Garrison.
February 14, 2018 marked the bicentennial celebration of Frederick Douglass’ adopted birthday. Learn more about Douglass and his impressive life by visiting the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.