Classical 91.5

A "Dishy" Frederick Douglass, Celebrated in Song

Aug 19, 2018

Credit The University of Rochester

City newspaper writer Daniel Kushner writes about a weathered book of 17 songs which includes the “Farewell Song of Frederick Douglass,” recently acquired by the University of Rochester.  The song's music was written by  English composer and abolitionist Julia Griffiths who met Douglass in England in 1847.  It could be the only copy in the United States.

In addition to capturing a pivotal moment in Douglass’s life, Kushner writes, the song is fascinating for its depiction of Douglass on the cover page.

Here he is seen as young man in his 20’s, clean-shaven and wearing a toga. The image evokes a vision for humanity steeped in idealism, while sending an inherently strong public relations message.  Autumn Haag, the university’s Special Collections Librarian and Archivist for Research & Collections, says, “He (Douglass) was the most photographed man of the 19th century. And I just love how absolutely stylish that is. It’s very striking, it’s very dramatic. I would love to know whether he had a hand in that, whether he had a say, because it’s very dishy.”

She adds that when it's performed, it could be the for the first time in 150 years.  Read more here.