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Mon, 06.24.1839

Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, Educator, and Activist born

Rosetta Douglass-Sprague

*Rosetta Douglass-Sprague was born on this date in 1839. She was a Black teacher and activist.

She was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts to Anna Murray-Douglass and Frederick Douglass. When she was five, she moved with her parents to Lynn, Massachusetts. She was the eldest of five children. She was a critical thinker like her father but struggled against the demands of gender roles during her time. When she was six, she stayed with Abigail and Lydia Mott, from Albany, New York. Abigail taught her to read and write, and Lydia taught her to sew.

At the age of 11, she assisted her father in making and packaging his newspaper. In 1845, the Rochester Board of Education closed public schools to Black students. Her father sent Rosetta to a private school rather than send her to an all-black school that Rochester set up for Black students. She eventually was tutored between the ages of two and seven. In 1848, she was admitted into the Seward Seminary in Rochester, New York. Rosetta was segregated from the white students while she was there, and her father spoke out against this in his newspaper. She was expelled after a vote of her white classmates with only one vote against her, proposed by the white, and abolitionist, director. She also attended Oberlin College’s Young Ladies Preparatory and Massachusetts' Salem Normal School.

On December 24, 1863, she married Nathan Sprague. Her husband was an ex-slave and poorly educated and struggled to find his footing and a job. She did not support her father's interracial marriage after her mother's death. She had seven children (including Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry), and many grandchildren. Douglass was a teacher. She eventually became primarily a homemaker and wife.

She wrote the paper, My Mother, as I Recall Her in 1900, as well as the paper What Role is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race?  Douglass worked along with her father and had a strong sense of social justice issues. She advised her father against accepting the presidency of the Freedman’s Bank. She went on to become a founding member of the National Association for Colored Women. Rosetta Douglass-Sprague died in 1906.

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