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Frederick Douglass portrait installed at Government House

Frederick Douglass portrait installed at Government House
Governor Martin O'Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown unveiled a portrait of Frederick Douglass, the first portrait of an African American to grace the walls of the Governor's residence in Maryland. (Simmie Knox, Baltimore Sun)

Frederick Douglass, the Maryland-born slave turned abolitionist leader, has become the first African-American to have his portrait hung in the governor's official residence in Annapolis.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, first lady Katie Curran O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown gathered Monday night with a couple of hundred invited guests at Government House to unveil the portrait by Simmie Knox of Silver Spring, who painted the official White House portrait of President Bill Clinton a decade ago.

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The Douglass portrait hangs in the entryway to the governor's mansion and is the first thing a visitor sees on the right after going in the front door.

The governor's office said the painting was commissioned by Eddie C. Brown, founder of Brown Capital Management, and donated to the state.

Brown, one of the state's leading financiers, and his wife, Sylvia, joined the governor and lieutenant governor at the event.

Also attending were U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, a former member of O'Malley's Cabinet from Montgomery County.

Douglass is believed to have been born in 1818 in Talbot County. He was sent to Baltimore to serve a master, learned to read, and escaped to the North in 1838. After settling in New England, he became active as an orator and writer for the abolitionist cause.

The publication of his first autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave," in 1845 helped make him one of the best-known African-Americans in the United States.

His agitation against slavery — and on behalf of the black Union soldiers he helped recruit — continued through the Civil War.

After the war, he spoke out against the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the imposition of Jim Crow laws in the post-Reconstruction South.

Douglass died in Washington in 1895.

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