CAMBRIDGE — The Harriet Tubman Museum hosted two speakers Sept. 21, who spoke about newly found evidence that Frederick Douglass visited Cambridge in 1877.
Linda Duyer, a local Eastern Shore historian and John Muller, author of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C: The Lion of Anacostia, both talked about their findings Friday, which point to a Douglass visit.
“We found it to be an extraordinary visit in a number of ways,” Duyer said. “This was a much more exciting visit.”
Duyer said Douglass came to Cambridge by steamboat overnight on Sept. 22, 1877, arriving in the early morning. Douglass was accompanied by John Mercer Langston, abolitionist and former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.
The pair left from Long Wharf traveling up High Street, making arrangements to stay at the Cambridge Hotel. At that time, the hotel was on the northwest side of High Street, and was eventually moved to the other side, Duyer said.
Douglass and Langston then traveled to Bethel Church, where they were met by 400 to 500 people, Duyer said. Throughout their visit, Douglass and Langston were followed by bands as they walked through the area, she said.
Duyer said Douglass was not originally set to speak to the crowd, however, he ended up speaking for two hours. Douglass did not use a prepared speech, but spoke directly to both black and white audience members separately, she said.
“At one point he said, ‘Do a man a kindness and you will like him, do him an injury and you will hate him,’ which I thought was interesting,” Duyer said.
Duyer said the town commissioners also had invited Douglass to Cambridge in a proclamation, posted in a local publication. Douglass’ visit to Cambridge also came two months after his visit with his former slavemaster in the county.
Muller said Langston and Douglass had a complicated relationship, which at times may have been adversarial. This made their joint visit more unique, he said.
Muller said Douglass’ visit to Cambridge is groundbreaking and in some way changed his history.
“Frederick Douglass was an outlaw for justice and righteousness,” Muller said. “He was a very sought-after orator, writer and lecturer.”