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Looking Back to Look Ahead: George Washington, Frederick Douglass, and America at 250

The Maryland Two Fifty Commission kick-off event took place on Saturday, June 22, 2024 in collaboration with the Maryland State House Trust and the Banneker-Douglass Museum. This event recognized the 150th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ June 13, 1874 trip to Annapolis, where he visited the Maryland State House and several houses of worship including the local congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal and the Presbyterian Churches.

Frederick Douglass interpreter stands at a podium with the logo of the Maryland State House on it. Behind him are marble white stairs.
Frederick Douglass as portrayed by Nathan M. Richardson.
State Archivist and Secretary of the State House Trust Elaine Rice Bachmann introducing the program.

Several newspapers reported on this visit, and noted that while in the State House, Douglass viewed the painting George Washington Resigning His Commission, (1859) Edwin White, and recited from memory Washington’s resignation speech as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army 90 years earlier.

Baltimore American Commercial Advertiser, June 16, 1874, page 4

What motivated Douglass, so keenly aware that he, and all formerly enslaved people, were excluded from the rights declared in America’s founding documents, to honor Washington’s peaceful transfer of military power to civilian authority? His writings and speeches excoriated this hypocrisy, perhaps most memorably conveyed in Douglass’ 1852 address, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” Frederick Douglass was portrayed by Nathan M. Richardson.

More than sixty were in attendance including Maryland Two Fifty Commissioners, the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture, the Secretary of State’s office, the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Maryland Tourism Coalition, heritage area directors, the Maryland Mosaic, with special guests including representatives of Congressman Andy Harris (District 1) and Congressman John Sarbanes (District 3),  State Senator and Commissioner Benjamin Brooks (District 10), Speaker Pro Tempore Delegate Dana Stein (District 11), and Commission Chair Governor Parris Glendening. 

Commissioners and honored guests follow in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass to the Banneker-Douglass Museum.

It is a priority of the Maryland Two Fifty Commission to collaborate with partners to acknowledge historically significant events that have occurred throughout Maryland. The Commission is charged by Executive Order with honoring the legacy of both free and enslaved African Americans in the making of Maryland and the nation.