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Mon, 10.21.1844

Charles Douglass, Government Administrator born

Charles Douglass

*Charles Douglass was born on this date in 1844. He was a Black soldier, journalist, government clerk, real estate developer, secretary, and treasurer.

He was the third and youngest son of Frederick Douglass and his first wife, Anna Murray Douglass. Charles Remond Douglass was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, and named after a friend of his father and anti-slavery speaker, Charles Lenox Remond. Young Douglass attended public school in Rochester, New York, after his family moved to the city in late 1847. He delivered copies of his father's newspaper, The North Star as a child.

He was the first Black man to enlist in the military in New York during the American Civil War when he volunteered for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Due to illness, he could not deploy with the troops, thus remaining at the training camp in Readville, Massachusetts, as late as November 1863. He joined another Black military regiment, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of the first sergeant. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln discharged Douglass due to poor health at his father's request.

After his father purchased the "New National Era" in 1870, Douglass became a correspondent for the paper. He became a real estate developer and developed a 26-acre tract with 1400 feet of a beachfront summer resort in Maryland 1892 that became known as Highland Beach. His youngest son, Haley George, would later become mayor of Highland Beach. For many years he served as president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, a cultural and literary institution for Blacks in Washington, DC. Douglass also became a member of the District of Columbia's branch of the NAACP.

On December 7, 1880, Douglass helped to organize the Capital City Guards' Battalion, which served as a captain and major. The organization became the First Separate Battalion, National Guard of the District of Columbia. Douglass held several commands in the District of Columbia National Guard and several high posts in the Grand Army of the Republic.

In 1866 he married Mary Elizabeth Murphy, also known as Libbie. The couple had six children: Charles Frederick, Joseph Henry, Annie Elizabeth, Julia Ada, Mary Louise, and Edward Douglass. Of these six, Joseph Henry was the only one to live to adulthood, becoming a famous violinist. Douglass and his wife were married until she died in 1879. On December 30, 1880, Douglass married his second wife, Laura Haley. The couple had one son, Haley George Douglass, in Canandaigua, New York, who became a schoolteacher at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, and mayor of Highland Beach, Maryland.  

From 1867 to 1869, Douglass served as one of the first Black clerks in the Freedmen’s Bureau when he and his family moved to Washington, DC. Douglass served as secretary and treasurer for the District of Columbia schools after he was appointed a trustee in 1872. While working in the district, he actively employed the first black teachers in the county's schools and assured them they received equal pay. His work in the Treasury Department followed this up from 1869 to 1875. He served as a clerk to the Santo Domingo Commission in 1871, then returned to the Caribbean when United States President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him consul to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo.

In 1875 Douglass became a clerk in the U.S. consulate in Santo Domingo, where he remained until 1879 when he returned to the United States after his wife's death. He then moved to Corona, New York, and entered the West India commissions business.

In 1882 Douglass began working as an examiner for the Pension Bureau in Washington, DC. After 53 years in government service, he retired in August 1920. Charles Douglass died in Washington, D.C., on November 23, 1920 (age 76) after a short illness attributed to Bright's disease. He was buried at Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

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