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Frederick Douglass

Abolitionist Douglass’ walking stick added to South Carolina museum

Frederick Douglass
Image courtesy of the South Carolina State Museum

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The South Carolina State Museum is now home to a historical walking stick given to abolitionist Frederick Douglass when he visited Charleston in 1888.

Douglass, the most famous African American orator of the 19th century, escaped slavery before the Civil War and spent his life trying to abolish slavery. After the Civil War, he made speeches reminding people to never forget the horror of keeping people in bondage.

In early 1888, Douglass embarked on a speaking tour of South Carolina and Georgia, a journey not without peril. In early March 1888, Douglass arrived in Charleston, South Carolina where he delivered versions of his “Self-Made Men” and “European Travels” addresses at Mount Zion church, founded in 1883 and considered a “daughter church” of Mother Emanuel AME, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church.

While in Charleston, Douglass was honored by an African American militia unit calling themselves the Douglass Light Infantry, the majority of whom were former slaves, the museum said in a statement.

According to a newspaper account, the infantry members serenaded Douglass at their armory. They also presented him with a walking stick, with a gold cap engraved “Hon. F. Douglass / From D.L.I. / Charleston, S.C. / Mar. 6th / 1888.” It is personally engraved for Douglass and decorated with engraved strawberries, symbolizing righteousness and spiritual merit.

“This walking stick is not only a notable object of national history, gifted to the preeminent abolitionist, writer, and lecturer Frederick Douglass, it is a significant and meaningful piece of South Carolina history,” said JoAnn Zeise, cultural history curator of the State Museum. “Adding this one-of-a-kind piece to our collection will help us continue to tell the wonderful stories of South Carolina for years to come.”

Click to visit the museum online.


Auction Central News contributed to this report.

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