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South Carolina State Museum Acquires Frederick Douglas Walking Stick

The South Carolina State Museum recently acquired a walking stick belonging to abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. The stick was gifted to him while visiting Charleston, S.C. in March 1888. The Douglass Walking stick is one of a kind and is now on display at the museum.

“This walking stick is not only a notable object of national history, gifted to the preeminent abolitionist, writer, and lecturer Frederick Douglass, it is a significant and meaningful piece of South Carolina history,” said JoAnn Zeise, cultural history curator of the State Museum. “Adding this one-of-a-kind piece to our collection will help us continue to tell the wonderful stories of South Carolina for years to come.”

In early 1888, Douglass embarked on a speaking tour of South Carolina and Georgia, a journey not without peril. In early March 1888, Douglass arrived in Charleston, South Carolina where he delivered versions of his “Self-Made Men” and “European Travels” addresses at Mount Zion church, founded in 1883 and considered a “daughter church” of Mother Emanuel AME, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church.


He was honored afterward by an African American militia unit calling themselves the Douglass Light Infantry. Most of the men in the militia company would have been formerly enslaved men and named themselves in honor of Douglass. According to a newspaper account, the infantry members serenaded him at their armory. They also presented him with a walking stick, with a gold cap engraved “Hon. F. Douglass / From D.L.I. / Charleston, S.C. / Mar. 6th / 1888” and is decorated with while strawberries which symbolized righteousness and spiritual merit.

Frederick Douglass was the most famous African American abolitionist and orator of the 19th century. During the last decade of his life, he traveled frequently to give speeches across the country. In early 1888, Douglass embarked on a speaking tour of South Carolina and Georgia, a journey not without peril.