A century before Walter Fauntroy and Julius Hobson competed for the modern District Delegate seat, another man held the seat. His election and the eventual elimination of his seat are a lesser known part of the history of race and democracy in the District.
In the late 1800s, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church was a center for anti-lynching activism in Washington, D.C. Famed journalist Ida Wells-Barnett addressed the church on at least two occasions and, in 1894, Frederick Douglass delivered one of his last speeches from the Metropolitan A.M.E. pulpit. Entitled “The Lessons of the Hour” Douglass's address was an epic condemnation of lynching – from its pervasiveness, to its general acceptance amongst both Southern and Northern whites.
Frederick Douglass spent time in Washington, D.C. during his career as an abolitionist, writer, and orator, but he was never a permanent resident. His presence prior to and during the Civil War was most notable as an advisor to President Abraham Lincoln during the debate over constitutional amendments to guarantee voting rights and civil liberties for African Americans.
It wasn’t until his Rochester, N.Y. home was destroyed by fire in 1872 that Douglass took up permanent residence in the District. Relocating to Washington seemed a logical choice since he was already spending an increasing amount of time there.
It was a long wait for sculptors and local politicians.
Since 2008, a seven-foot tall, 1,700 pound bronze statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass stood in the lobby of a building called One Judiciary Square. It remained there for five years while Washington officials fought to move it to another building less than a mile down the road: the U.S. Capitol.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the unveiling of Douglass’ statue in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall. The ceremony was the culmination of a fight spanning over a decade.