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Sat, 07.03.1869

Violinist Joseph Douglass born

Joseph Douglass

*Joseph Douglass was born on this date in 1869. He was a Black violinist and composer.

The grandson of Frederick Douglass he was born in the Anacostia area of Washington D.C. to Charles and Mary Elizabeth Douglass, their second child and only that would live to adulthood. Following in the path of his grandfather and father, Joseph took up the violin at a young age, receiving classical training at the New England Conservatory for five years and later the Boston Conservatory.

Douglass received his first big break as a concert violinist at the age of 22 when he performed at the World's Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair.  On August 25, 1893 performers joined together to celebrate Colored American Day, which Frederick Douglass helped plan years before.  Included in the celebrations were readings of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poetry, performances by Sidney Woodward and Deseria Plato. Douglass is credited as the first Black violinist to make transcontinental tours.

In the 1890s, the Black press lauded him as “the most talented violinist of the race”. Douglass toured extensively for three decades, performing in every Black educational institution and America and a significant amount of churches as well. Douglass was also the first violinist- of any race to make recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company. He made recordings with them in 1914, but they were never released. On top of his performance career, Douglass was an educator and conductor, too.

He had tenured positions at Howard University and the Colored Music Settlement School in New York throughout his life. He had many students including a young Clarence Cameron White. Douglass was married to Fannie Howard Douglass, a musician as well who often accompanying his performances on the piano. The couple had two children: Blanche and Frederick III. His appearances at the White House were regularly scheduled during administrations of Presidents McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft, after which he undertook concert work.” If only his grandfather had been there to see it.  Joseph Douglass Grandson of the noted statesman Frederick Douglass died in December, 1935

The Lion of Anacostia

To Become a Musician or Singer

To Become a Conductor or Composer


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