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Joseph Henry Douglass: Black History Facts You Should Know


Born on July 3, 1871, Joseph Henry Douglass was the first black violinist to make transcontinental tours. He was the son of Mary Elizabeth Murphy and Charles Remond Douglass and grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Read on to learn about Joseph Henry Douglass.

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The Early Life of Joseph Henry Douglass

Brief History of Joseph Henry Douglass. Video Credit: @africax5

After the Civil War, several black Americans started chasing music careers. Joseph Henry Douglass, a concert violinist, was among the first black American performers to be known locally and internationally. 

His popularity came at an early age from his father and grandfather, popular abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Both his father and grandfather were amateur violin players. On the other hand, Joseph studied at the Boston Conservatory. You can get these books on Amazon to learn about Joseph’s grandfather, the famous abolitionist. 

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Joseph Henry Douglass’s First Breakthrough

At age 22, Joseph Henry Douglass had his first career breakthrough when he performed as a concert violinist at the World’s Columbian Exposition. On August 25, 1893, black artists came together to mark Colored American Day. Joseph’s grandfather, Frederick Douglass, assisted in planning and organizing the celebration.

The Colored American Day celebration featured performances by Deseria Plato and Sidney Woodward. Joseph Douglass also performed at the event. Performing at the celebration helped expose him to a larger audience and boosted his career. 

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Joseph Henry Douglass’s Later Career and Life

After Joseph’s performance at the World’s Columbian Exposition, he became very popular. Joseph Henry Douglass is credited as the first African American violinist to make transcontinental tours. Also, the black press named him “the most talented violinist of the race” in the 1890s. 

He toured extensively for over 20 years. The performer performed in many churches and every Black educational institution in America. Additionally, Joseph Douglass was also the first African American violinist to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1914. However, the records were never released. 

In addition to being a performer, Joseph Douglass was also a conductor and educator. He had a tenured position at the Colored Music Settlement School in New York and Howard University. Joseph tutored a lot of people, including a young Clarence Cameron White.

Joseph Henry Douglass married Fannie Howard Douglass. Fannie was also an artist, and she often accompanied Joseph’s performance on the piano. The black couple gave birth to two kids, Frederick and Blanche. If you would want to learn more about Joseph Douglass get one or two books about him on Amazon

He died of pneumonia in 1935 and was initially buried at Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, District of Columbia. However, graves were moved from this cemetery to Harmony Cemetery in Washington, DC. in 1960. 

Joseph Henry Douglass is among the black Americans who have left their footprint in national history. He used his talent to promote the black community. So, that’s why his story is among those black history facts that you should know. 

To learn more about black history, get these books on Amazon. Read amazing stories of black people who played major roles in promoting the black race. 

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Uchenna Agwu
Uchenna Agwu
Hi there! I’m Uchenna Agwu, and I love to write. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me reading books or watching documentaries (I’m a bit of a nerd). But I also like to get out and explore – whether that means going on hikes or checking out new restaurants.


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