Again, with Dr Tim Madigan leading the way, I got the wonderful opportunity to visit the Rochester home of the legendary Civil Rights leader, Susan B. Anthony. Rochester was her home for forty of her most political years. She held common cause with Frederick Douglass, and they were long-time friends.
Anthony, who braved hostile mobs, being hung in effigy and having her imaged dragged through the streets, devoted her life to abolition and suffrage. She was an impassioned advocate of the 13th Ammendment outlawing slavery. She followed this with campaigns for Black and women’s full citizenship.
But visiting her home and taking the tour was a revelation to me.
I walked through the hallway, climbed the stairs and paused before the photographs; this brought home to me the balance she achieved in her life.
She loved her home, she loved to cook and sew and her home was also a well-oiled machine, where she gave direction, space and opportunity to highly organised campaigns.
I was delighted to experience it.
Any trip to Rochester would be incomplete without visiting Mount Hope Cemetery, site of Frederick Douglass’ family plot. And again, thanks to Dr Tim Madigan, my intrepid guide.
I visited before I read any descriptive brochures and was immediately impressed with the setting. It is beautiful. Carpeted with a perfect covering of snow, the undulating ground, trees and winding roads suggested peace, mystery and beauty. I could easily agree with the brochure’s assessment of this American Victorian Cemetery: “one of the most beautiful and enchanting cemeteries in America.”
The city of Rochester purchased an initial 54 acres in 1836, and it now stands at 196 acres with more that 370,000 people buried here.
Amongst these many people with their many stories are two of significance to my work: Frederick Douglass and his friend and associate, Susan B. Anthony.
And abutting the roadway, is the Douglass plot.
My thesis subject is Frederick Douglass. He was born an African American slave and died after a long and successful career as abolitionist lecturer, journalist, writer, diplomat to Haiti and was feted by American presidents. His remarkable journey and his huge corpus of writings has offered scholars an opportunity to interrogate many of the boundaries that were described around slavery, freedom, racism and the nation state.
Within the large area of Douglass studies, my topic focuses on one of the boundaries that modern Douglass criticism has ruptured: the nation-state. Douglass has been an important subject within transatlantic studies, as he embodies the triangular nature of the slave trade, and he was part of the diaspora who compelled scholars to acknowledge the Black Atlantic.