Editorial: the city of Annapolis should right a wrong that has long been ignored

The city of Annapolis misspelled Frederick Douglass’ name on a street – it misspelled it on a street sign, it misspelled another way on numerous press releases and on the city’s website – this has been going on for years.

It’s time to get this fixed once and for all.

The street sign for what should be Frederick Douglass Street in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis is missing an e in Frederick.

Misspelled street sign in the city of Annapolis

The city’s website misspells the name in another way – “Frederick Douglas.” Douglass should have two s’s.

Misspelled street name on the the city’s website

There are numerous press releases from the Annapolis Police Department with the misspelling of the street named for Frederick Douglass.

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Misspelled street name on Annapolis Police Department press release

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland. After escaping, he became an abolitionist, author, public speaker and statesman.

“One of the most important things that Frederick Douglass had to do first upon achieving his freedom was adopting a new, complete name of which he could be proud that he owned, explained Chris Haley, director of the Maryland State Archives Legacy of Slavery program. “Before adopting this new name, he was Frederick Augustus Bailey. Douglass was a name he specifically chose to represent his new identity as a free man and that included the correct spelling with s’s. It would be right to honor him today with that correct spelling.”

I reached out to Alderman DaJuan Gay, who represents Ward 6, which includes the misspelled street name.

“I became aware of it while in high school,” said Gay of the misspelled street name. “I think that was probably the very first time I realized it was wrong. It’s honestly something that has evaded my mind. ”

When we talked, Gay said he was at City Hall and would immediately look into what it would take to get all of this fixed. I will update this with his reply when received.

Because the misspelled street name has been used for so many years, getting it corrected might take the city and the U.S. Postal Service, not to mention Google, Waze and other online maps that show the misspelled street name.

Other cities have made similar mistakes with the spelling of Douglass’ name and corrections have been made.

Douglass’ name was misspelled on the New York state Capitol for over 100 years – it was corrected in 2019.

In Nashville, a park named for Frederick Douglass, was misspelled for 80 years. It was corrected in 2017.

For this street name to be misspelled in Annapolis, in the state where Douglass was born, in a city that is home to the Banneker-Douglass Museum, in the state capital – it’s just wrong.

According to the Maryland State Archives website, “When Maryland’s Constitution of 1864 emancipated its enslaved population, Douglass made his first return to the state with subsequent visits in the years to follow. In June 1874, Douglass came to Annapolis and made his only known visit to the Maryland State House.”

Frederick Douglass helped to change a horribly, ugly chapter in our nation’s history.

Douglass should be remembered correctly. History should be remembered correctly – not misspelled.

Let’s right this wrong and use it as a teachable moment – one where adults can show children they made a mistake and corrected it, rather than continued to ignore it.

Update (4/27/2022) – According to Alderman Gay, “I spoke to the City Manager and he’ll direct planning and zoning to fix the issue. The sign replacement should be an easy fix once an order is received. I’ll follow up regarding placements on the webpages.”

Donna L. Cole is an award-winning multiple and investigative reporter.

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