Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Anna Murray Douglass (b. circa 1813 - d. 1882)
MSA SC 5496-051245
Accomplice to Slave Flight, Caroline County, Maryland


    Anna Murray was born around 1813 in Denton, Caroline County, Maryland to two former slaves, Bambarra and Mary Murray.1 According to her daughter, Anna Murray's parents were previously owned by Governor Spriggs.2 Anna was the seventh child of twelve children born of this union, seven were born enslaved and four were born free. Anna was the first of Bambarra and Mary Murray's children that was freeborn.3 When Anna was seventeen years of age, she and three of her siblings, Elizabeth, Philip, and Charlotte, left their parents home in Caroline County and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. The four Murray siblings applied for certificates of freedom in 1832 which granted them the opportunity to leave the county and state for work.4

    When Murray arrived in Baltimore, she found employment at the home of a French family called Montell.5 While in Baltimore, she met an enslaved man, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey whom she would later marry. Frederick, like Anna Murray, was from Maryland's Eastern Shore, where slavery was alive and prospering. Frederick Bailey, who was hired out in Baltimore, would eventually escape from Maryland with the assistance of funds secured by Anna Murray. Murray sold her feather bed to pay the expenses for Frederick's escape.6 When Bailey fled Baltimore for New York in 1838, he wrote a letter to Anna informing her of his safe arrival.7 Bailey took on the alias Frederick Douglass, and she joined him in New York a week later.8 Anna Murray married Frederick Douglass in a ceremony presided over by another former slave and fugitive from Maryland, Rev. James W. C. Pennington (Jim Pembroke).9 The young couple was married in the home of New York abolitionist David Ruggles.10

    From New York the young couple relocated to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they both worked with the Anti-Slavery Society in Lynn and Boston, Massachusetts. The Douglasses had five children Rosetta (b. 1839), Lewis (b. 1840), Frederick (b. 1842), Charles (b. 1844), and Annie (b. 1849).11 Anna earned her living at the washboard, while Frederick sawed wood.12 Anna Murray Douglass would later take up shoe mending to support her family.13 Anna and Frederick Douglass eventually left Massachusetts and moved their family to Rochester, New York. Anna made her home a comfortable passing spot for many fugitive slaves passing through on their way to Canada. In later years her daughter, Rosetta Douglass Sprague, wrote that Anna Murray Douglass was one of the first agents to work with the Underground Railroad. Anna was often left to mind the house while her husband, Frederick Douglass, was gone for long periods of time during his exile and various speaking engagements. Nevertheless, there were always people at their home. Her husband's friend Julia Griffith stayed with the family for a while. Anna's sister Charlotte Murray, who left Caroline County with her, also lived with the Douglass family during the 1850s.14 However, times were sometimes hard. Sadly, the Douglass' youngest child Annie died March 13, 1860.15

    In 1872, Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass moved to Washington, DC,  where they purchased two row houses located at 316 and 318 A Street NE.16 In 1877, the Douglasses moved to a house called Cedar Hill in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC17  where they lived for the remainder of their lives. Cedar Hill was purchased with money that Anna saved from her years as a shoe mender.18 A few years later, in 1882, Anna became ill when she was stricken with paralysis. Anna Murray Douglass died August 4, 1882 at Cedar Hill and was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Washington, DC.19 Douglass was eventually reinterred at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York next to her husband Frederick Douglass.20 In later years, there was a women's club named in her honor, the Anna Murray Douglass Women's Christian Temperance Union.21

1.    Rosetta Douglass Sprague, "Anna Murray Douglass: My Mother as I recall her," Journal of Negro History 8  (1923): 93.

2.    Rosetta Douglass Sprague, "The Wife of Frederick Douglass", The Afro American, 4 February 1939, pg. 24.

3.    Sprague, "Anna Murray Douglass: My Mother as I recall her," 93.

4.    CAROLINE COUNTY COURT (Certificates of Freedom) 1827-1851, Anna Murray, [CM866], 65.

5.    Sprague, "Anna Murray Douglass: My Mother as I recall her," 93.

6.     ibid, 95.

7.    Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855),.

8.    ibid

9.    Andrew Keh, "Honoring a Homegrown, Forgotten Freedom Fighter", The New York Times, 18 Feb 2010.

10.    ibid,

11.    "The Wife of Frederick Douglass", pg. 24

12.    ibid.

13.    ibid.

14.    United States Census 1850, Rochester, Ward 7, Monroe, New York, pg. 318B.

15.    Frankie Hutton, The Early Black Press in America, 1827 to 1860 (Westwood, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993), 139.

16.    Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry, "Granddaughter of Frederick Douglass Defends his Colored Wife", The Afro American, 29 April 1933, pg. 10.

17.    ibid.

18.    ibid.

19.    Board of Health (Certificate of Death), Permit No. 34092, Washington, DC, DC Archives.

20.    Darlene Clark Hine, Black Women in America (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 2005), 368

21.    "Cummunicated: Temperance Union Meets", The Afro American, 16 May 1903.

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