6. Former site of Apollo Hall at 495 Ninth Avenue
Photo by Amy Cools
On April 9th 1870, ten days after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, the American Anti-Slavery Society met at Apollo Hall for the last time. In his speech, Douglass said that the best and really the only way to thank God for the victory over slavery and the newly won right to vote (the 15th Amendment was ratified just that February) was by thanking the men and women who made it happen, because only through them was the will of God apparent.
He was sometimes criticized in editorials and in the pulpit, especially by other black ministers, for not prioritizing God in his writing, in his speeches, and his public statements of gratitude. Douglass would have none of it, saying that as long as people did nothing about the injustice and evil done in the world, it was never done at all; the insistence on prioritizing the role of God in the good that’s accomplished can lull people into thinking that, as we sometimes put it today, it’s okay to just hang back and ‘let go, and let God’. He believed, instead, that God’s will is done on earth when people take it upon themselves to do good. Douglass didn’t think his work or that of his fellow activists here was done with the passage of the 15th amendment. He called for a new campaign for women’s suffrage, and he said that the mission didn’t end, only changed, to improve the lot of all suffering people, including Indians, women, and all oppressed minorities.
In another landmark moment at Apollo Hall, delegates nominated Douglass as a candidate for Vice President on May 11, 1872, on the ticket of the women’s and labor rights activist and Presidential candidate Victoria Claflin Woodhull of the newly formed Equal Rights Party.