‘The family worked on only encouraged by the thought that they were working for the cause in which their father and mother were interested – namely the emancipation of the slave.’
Born in New Bedford, Lewis Henry Douglass (1840-1908) was a printer, typesetter, essayist, orator, historian, civil rights protester, anti-lynching crusader, and Civil War combat veteran.
When Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) issued his rallying cry, ‘Men of Color, To Arms!’ in 1863, Lewis Henry Douglass joined the 54th Massachusetts Black combat regiment. He was immediately promoted to the rank of Sergeant-Major and he served a distinguished military career.
Writing the love of his life, Helen Amelia Loguen (1843-1936), from the front lines, he was jubilant: ‘Remember if I die I die in a good cause. I wish we had a hundred thousand colored troops we would put an end to this war. Should I fall in the next fight killed or wounded I hope to fall with my face to the foe.’
Lewis Henry Douglass’s battles were not over when he returned from the Civil War. He was exposed to white supremacist discrimination and racist persecution in his daily struggle to find employment. Frederick Douglass was appalled and immediately communicated his heartfelt protest: ‘I have felt the iron of negro hate before, but the case of this young man gave it a deeper entrance into my soul than ever before… His crime was his color.’
All his life, Lewis Henry Douglass worked hard to remember the heroism not only of his father but of the entire Douglass family as intergenerational freedom-fighters by doing powerful justice in the written record to ‘the distresses, the anxieties, and the hardships that he and his family had to undergo in the struggle for the cause of liberty.’