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Douglass, Charles Remond

Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass

Mark G. Emerson

Douglass, Charles Remond 

(b. 21 October 1844; d. 24 November 1920), soldier, journalist, and government clerk.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Charles Remond Douglass was the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. Named for his father's friend and fellow black antislavery speaker Charles Lenox Remond, Charles attended the public schools in Rochester, New York, where the family moved in late 1847. As a boy, he delivered copies of his father's newspaper, North Star.

As a young man, Charles became the first black from New York to enlist for military service in the Civil War, volunteering for the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Unlike his brother Lewis, who also served in the Fifty-fourth and became a sergeant major in that regiment, Charles was unable to deploy with his fellow troops owing to illness. As late as November 1863 Charles remained at the training camp in Readville, Massachusetts. He ultimately joined another black regiment, the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, rising to the rank of first sergeant. After President Abraham Lincoln discharged Charles at the request of the elder Douglass in 1864 on the ground of poor health, Charles planned to go to Tennessee to invest in cotton lands. Instead, he tended the family farm and lived in his parents' house for two years, finding it difficult to secure an income-producing job. He married Mary Elizabeth Murphy, called Libbie, in 1866. Although this marriage was troubled by Libbie's accusations of infidelity and Charles's counter-accusations of jealousy, the couple had six children: Charles Frederick, Joseph Henry, Annie Elizabeth, Julia Ada, Mary Louise, and Edward.

After moving to Washington, D.C., Charles served as one of the first black clerks in the Freedmen's Bureau from 1867 to 1869 and in the Treasury Department from 1869 to 1875. When his father purchased the New National Era in 1870, Charles became one of the journal's correspondents, while his older brothers, Lewis Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr., were in charge of editorials and business management, respectively. After serving as a clerk to the Santo Domingo Commission in 1871, Charles returned to the Caribbean when President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him consul to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo. (The Santo Domingo Commission investigated the possibility of annexing the Dominican Republic to the United States. Grant saw the country as a potential home for southern blacks in the United States, to allow them to escape increasing oppression.)

Douglass, Charles RemondClick to view larger

Charles Remond Douglass

, the third and youngest son of Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass, was named for a friend of his father's, the African American abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond. National Park Service.

In 1875 Charles became a clerk in the U.S. consulate in Santo Domingo but returned to the United States in 1879 after his wife died. At this time Charles's brothers and father divided Charles's surviving children among their households in order to care for them. Charles Frederick and Joseph Henry went to live with Frederick Douglass Jr.; Julia Ada went to live with Frederick Douglass Sr.; and Mary Louise went to live with Lewis Douglass.

Charles then settled in Corona, New York, and entered the West India commission business. He married Laura Haley of Canandaigua, New York, on 30 December 1880, and the couple had one son, Haley George. Two years later he took a job in Washington, D.C., working as an examiner in the Pension Bureau. Ultimately becoming a real estate developer, Charles also held several commands in the District of Columbia National Guard and several high posts in the Grand Army of the Republic. He later served as the secretary and treasurer for the District of Columbia schools. In his capacity as school trustee, Charles was active in employing the first black teachers in the county schools and in assuring equal pay for these teachers as well. Along with his brother Lewis, Charles at times accompanied his father on his speaking engagements. He also served for many years as president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, a cultural and literary institution for blacks in Washington. Sponsoring weekly lectures during the winter season, the association engaged local black speakers, including Frederick Douglass. Charles himself also delivered several addresses to the association.

In 1892 Charles developed a summer resort in Maryland known as Highland Beach, a twenty-six-acre tract with fourteen hundred feet of beach frontage. Late in life he became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, District of Columbia Branch. Although most of Charles's children did not live to adulthood, the famous violinist Joseph Henry Douglass, was among those who did—as did Haley George Douglass, who became a teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., and later the mayor of Highland Beach. Charles Remond Douglass died in Washington, D.C.

See also Antislavery Movement; Antislavery Press; Black Abolitionists; Black Press; Civil War; Civil War, Participation and Recruitment of Black Troops in; Dominican Republic, Annexation of; Douglass, Anna Murray; Douglass, Frederick; Douglass, Frederick, Jr.; Douglass, Lewis Henry; Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment; Freedmen's Bureau; Grant, Ulysses S.; Haiti; Haitian Revolutions; Lincoln, Abraham; Lynn, Massachusetts; New National Era; North Star; Remond, Charles Lenox; Rochester, New York; Union Army, African Americans in; and Washington, D.C.


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              Mark G. Emerson

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