Douglass himself was never certain of the day he was born, but February 14th is the day he chose to record as his birthday. So Happy Valentines Day, and Happy Birthday FREDERICK DOUGLASS
It’s birthday week here at the Historic America Journal - but not for me and Rachel. Instead, we’re looking to honor a trio of historic Americans with February birthdays. We begin the week with a real “A”-lister.
Abraham Lincoln (get it? … A-braham is an A -lister! amiright?!) came into the world on February 12th, 1809 in Hogedenville, Kentucky. Yes, he was ACTUALLY born in a log cabin. He’s also known for other exploits like the Emancipation Proclamation and shepherding the nation through a catastrophic Civil War.
For generations, Americans have been making a fuss about Lincoln’s big day. The very first commemoration of Lincoln’s birth was held in Buffalo, New York in 1874. It’s a strangely sweet story.
A local drugstore owner named Julius Francis was besotted with the memory of Lincoln, so he began holding an annual event to honor the Abe’s life & legacy. Francis went to great personal expense; he rented a hall, recruited the aid of speakers & musicians, and charged no admittance fee as he believed Lincoln’s memory was a gift every American should enjoy. He even tried lobbying Congress to create a federal holiday in Lincoln’s honor (you can read all about the story here).
In subsequent years, celebrations of Lincoln’s birth were often paired with commemorations of another February baby - Frederick Douglass. Ultimately these celebrations expanded and metamorphosed into February’s designation as Black History Month. In the 1960s, President’s Day was born - a fusion holiday celebrating the birthdays of both Lincoln & George Washington.
I know what you’re thinking, “How can I honor Abraham Lincoln today, on the 208th anniversary of his birth?” How about going to see his memorial? We’ve got just the tour …