To honor Anna Murray Douglass who helped Frederick (then Bailey) escape from slavery, and continued to support his abolitionist work for the rest of her life, The Literary Society, a New York City book discussion group based in Harlem, presented “The Wedding Reception,” a public celebration of Frederick and Anna’s marriage on September 15, 1838 and what event creator Lana Turner calls “an artful re-creation honoring the wedding, featuring an idea of Anna’s stunning plum silk wedding dress created by artist, maker and designer Cassandra Brumfeld.”

The Wedding Reception will include a procession of Literary Society members and friends carrying bouquets of white flowers and a string quartet to celebrate and call attention to, 184 years later, Douglass’ flight to freedom with the complicit aid of Murray. The Wedding Reception took place at 4 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the original site of their nuptials, now 36 Lispenard St. in Tribeca.

Frederick Douglass, who would become the most renowned and influential Black leader of the 20th century as orator, abolitionist, writer and statesman, escaped slavery leaving Baltimore, Maryland to arrive in lower Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 4, 1838. After two days without money, food or shelter, Douglass was offered assistance and introduced to Black abolitionist David Ruggles who harbored the fugitive for a little more than a week until Douglass’ fiancée Anna Murray, a free woman, (whom he met in Baltimore) arrived. 

Frederick and Anna married on Sept. 15, 1838. With the streets of New York rife with slave-catchers, the Douglass’s (using the name ‘Johnson’ in New York, which was changed to ‘Douglass’ in Massachusetts) immediately departed for New Bedford, Massachusetts following their vows.

The Literary Society’s co-founder Lana Turner conceived of the event. Turner, a Harlem native, is a reader, writer, thinker and researcher with a keen interest in the elements of art and style in Black culture who also works as a real estate professional, archivist, and producer of chamber music salons and literary events.

The Literary Society is a New York City book discussion group based in Harlem. Organized in January 1982, the society is a membership of 60 men and women whose interests revolve around literature—both fiction and non-fiction—primarily by authors of the African diaspora. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Society elected to make the life and work of Frederick Douglass a centerpiece of its discussions this year. 

Further, on the 25th of September, the society will discuss Pulitzer-prize historian, David Blight’s, “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” dedicated to Walter and Linda Evans.

For more information on The Literary Society, contact

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