Nestled atop a hill, above the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington, D.C., is the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. A former home, it is now a museum to honor one of the most notable African American abolitionists, writers, and orators during the 19th century.
Frederick Douglass bought the house in 1877 and named it Cedar Hill, where he resided for the remainder of his life with his wife and five children. Prior to this, the house was a bank which had gone bankrupt in 1874. Then in 1876, the newly inducted President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Douglass as marshal for the District of Columbia; despite some shortcomings with the role, it ensured financial stability for the Douglass family.
At Cedar Hill, Douglass and his grandson took to establishing a music room out of one of their parlors, where they played Franz Schubert, and he also prepared his last autobiographical work, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. It was also here, unfortunately, that his first wife, Anna Murray-Douglass, passed away in 1882; he mourned for a period of time before he was able to resume his social work and remarry.
Douglass’ marriage to Helen Pitts was one of high controversy but great meaning. Despite bitter ends with her family, Pitts remained steadfast in her choice. At the passing of her husband, it was she who worked to create the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. Funding fell short during her last years; however, upon suggestion she allocated the money from selling Cedar Hill into two scholarships. The memorial was founded in 1900, and later the National Association of Colored Women joined and purchased the house. By 1962, it was administered through the National Park Service to preserve and teach about Douglass’s journey from slavery to public advocate for equality and freedom.