Lewis Henry Douglass

Courtesy of the National Park Service, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (external link), Lewis Douglass and his wife Amelia. FRDO 4552

The eldest son of noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass and his wife Anna Douglass, Lewis Henry Douglass (1840–1908) was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In his youth, Lewis apprenticed as a typesetter for his father’s publications The North Star and Douglass' Weekly. Heeding the call for black recruits from Frederick Douglass and others during the Civil War, Lewis Douglass enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry on March 25, 1863. The regiment's commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, immediately appointed Douglass as a sergeant major, the highest rank an African American could hold at that time. Douglass saw action at the battles of James Island, Olustee, and Fort Wagner. The valor shown by the 54th Massachusetts in this last engagement went a long way toward proving the mettle of black soldiers to their white fellow soldiers and civilians in the North. Discharged from the army in 1864 because of a medical disability, Douglass married Helen Amelia Loguen in 1869 and settled in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. Also in 1869, he became the first African American typesetter employed by the Government Printing Office. His tenure in this position proved short-lived, however, because the typesetters' union refused him membership because of his race. Following this setback, Douglass helped establish and publish The New National Era, a weekly newspaper aimed at Washington's African American community. Lewis Douglass also served as Assistant Marshall of the District of Columbia and a term on the Legislative Council of the District of Columbia.

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