My Ancestor and Frederick Douglass

Black History Month:  My Ancestor Met Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, the former slave turned abolitionist and writer, was born sometime in February, in the year 1818.  Page 750 of Historical Sketches and Reminisces of Madison County (IN), published in 1897 by John L. Forner and Bryon H. Dyson relates the following about Frederick Douglass and a meeting he held near Anderson, Indiana.

duke scott

Marmaduke “Duke” Scott is Grandpa Clarence Norton’s great-great-grandfather.  He was born in 1817 in Madison Co, Indiana, where he married Susanna McCallister (or McAllister).  Their daughter, Elizabeth Scott married Henry Gay, and was the mother of Susan Alice Gay Norton.  Susan was the wife of the original Paschal Norton.  She and Paschal raised my grandpa, Clarence.

On a trip in the early 2000s to Memphis, Tennessee, my friend, Susan Brock, took me to the Civil Rights Museum at the site of the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  The building where the assassin sat is also part of the museum grounds, and holds the bookstore.  I purchased a few items related to Frederick Douglass.  I told the cashier the story of my ancestor and that I was “making amends” for his racist ways!

There is an amazing wax figure of Frederick Douglass at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL.  I always make a point to say, “Hello,” to it.  (I do that in case those wax figures come to life at night!)

I don’t necessarily believe I have to make amends for Duke Scott’s actions.  He lived in a different time period when equality for all was not the norm.  This incident took place in 1843, well before the Civil War.  But it is my responsibility—and yours—to end racism in the present.

Maybe this Black History Month, we might all look at how we are connected to the fight for Civil Rights.




I joined the Association of Professional Genealogists last month.

I tested one of my dad’s brothers to start working on our mystery ancestry.