Drew Archives’ Podcast Talks Frederick Douglass for Black History Month

4 mins read
selective focus photography of gray stainless steel condenser microphone
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

The Drew University Participatory Archives (DUPA) has begun producing a 10 minute podcast, titled “Drew Archives in 10.” The new venture has a mission to “grow a decentralized grassroots digital collection of both original and archival media through direct contributions from students, faculty, staff, archivists, librarians and the broader Drew community,” according to the organization.

This February, the podcast is focusing on Black History Month. Their latest episode, titled “Frederick Douglass Manuscripts” is about materials written by Douglass, who was a Black activist and escaped slave who argued for the abolition of slavery in the United States during the 1800s.  It is hosted by adjunct media and communications professor Dr. Andrew Salvati, and the interim manager of the Methodist Library Candace Reilly. The music in the podcast episode is composed by Professor Trevor Weston of the Music Department.

The podcast begins with Reilly explaining that DUPA holds an 1855 first edition of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom.” This is the second of three autobiographies that Douglass wrote during his lifetime and often interpreted as a continuation of his first autobiography, “Narrative of a Life of Frederick Douglass,” which was originally published in 1845. The two pieces describe the history and significance of slavery in the United States.

Reilly notes that the autobiography was a bestseller at the time of its publication and that people of the era were eager to read his words.

According to the podcast, DUPA also has two manuscripts written to Bishop Gilbert Haven of the Methodist Church that are signed and written by Douglas. One is dated to be from 1866 and the other from 1873. 

Reilly says that in the 1866 letter, Douglass writes how he is fearful of the violence happening after the American Civil War. He worries about his health and safety and also about issues of race and color. The letter apparently ends with Douglass saying how he wishes he could visit Bishop Haven in the South and take a tour, which he never got around to, and ended up apologizing for in the 1873 letter to the bishop.

Both of the letters conclude with Douglass signing, “I am my dear sir, forever and truly yours, Frederick Douglass,” according to the information presented in the podcast episode.

The podcast also says that Bishop Haven, of Massachusetts, believed in equality of all people. He was opposed to the idea of racial separation within the church because he believed that all people are equal under God. In fact, the podcast adds that Haven would frequently preach at conferences in Atlanta to predominantly black churches. 

Interestingly, Reilly narrates in the podcast that, according to popular lore, two of Haven’s pieces were published after his death. She says that they were about spiritualism and written via a woman who said she could hear Haven’s spirit and wrote down everything he said to her. According to Reilly, the woman said that Haven was grateful for being able to use her to communicate. 

To listen to “Drew Archives in 10” or view other artwork, books, or images housed in the Drew University archives, you can visit their website duparchive.org

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