Rosetta Douglass (1839-1906)

Rosetta Douglass, the eldest child of famed orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, June 24, 1839.  As a young child growing up in Rochester, NY, Rosetta had to be educated by private tutors because the Rochester Board of Education voted to close the public schools to black students, and her father Frederick did not want to send his daughter to the black school that had been established.  In 1848, Rosetta was sent to Miss Tracy's Female Seminary in Rochester, New York, where she was the only African American student.  Ever since his daughter Rosetta was denied entrance into Rochester public schools, Frederick Douglass fought diligently for the right of all African American children to be allowed to attend Rochester’s public school system.  In 1850 Frederick Douglass was successful in his fight, and his children were allowed entrance into the city schools.  According to historian James Gregory, “The admission of these children was not only the opening wedge for the admission of other colored children, but abolished for all time the separate school system in Rochester.” (Gregory, James, Frederick Douglass the Orator, pg 201.)   Rosetta eventually studied at Oberlin, Ohio, and subsequently taught school in Salem, New Jersey.

Rosetta Douglass grew up working for her father helping him produce his newspapers. “At the age of eleven she was employed by her father in his office in folding papers and in writing wrappers. As she advanced in age and acquired skill and experience, she became his amanuensis, writing editorials and lectures at his dictation.” (Gregory, James, Frederick Douglass the Orator, pg 202.)

Additionally, Rosetta Douglass developed into a prominent orator in her own right and spoke out publicly, lecturing alongside other famous speakers like Sojourner Truth.  In 1896, Rosetta founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) with Ida Wells Barnett and Harriet Tubman. On December 24, 1863, Rosetta Douglass married Nathan Sprague, a Real Estate businessman who was formerly enslaved, and together the couple had six children.
image  Back to The Douglass Family