Who was Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson?

Halle Tanner was born 1864, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the oldest daughter to Benjamin Tanner and Elizabeth Tanner. The Tanners was an educated black family living in Pennsylvania and her father was a prominent minister at the African Methodist Church. As an young girl Halle, was well educated and became familiar with the work of prominent Black American intellectuals. She began working with her father on The Christian Recorder, a newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where Benjamin ministered.


In 1886, at the age 22 Halle married Charles Dillon, and the couple had a child. Two years later at the age 24 years old Halle became a widow when her  husband died from an known cause. Halle moved back home with her family with her child. After the death of her husband Halle decided to enter medical school. After three years of study at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she excelled, and earned her M.D. in 1891, at the age 27, graduating with honors.

The same year of her graduation, Prominent Black American educator Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915), founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama had written a letter to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in request for an nomination for a teaching position he had been struggling to fill for four years. Dr. Dillon stepped up and accepted Washington offer of $600 a month, including lodging and meals. Dr. Dillon arrived at Tuskegee Institute in August 1891, to began service.


Before Dr. Dillon could began work she face an obstacle, she had to pass the Alabama State Medical Examination. Booker T. Washington helped her prepare for her exam by asking Cornelius Nathaniel Dorsette the first Black American licensed physician in the city to help her prepare. The fact that Dr. Dillon was sitting for the examination caused a public stir in Montgomery the states capitol. Dr. Dillon spent ten days taking the exam, addressing a different area of medicine each day. Her examiners included the directors and leading figures of most of the state’s major medical institutions. Dillon impressed them with her responses and she passed the test.

Dr. Dillon was the first woman and Black American woman to practice medicine in the state of Alabama.


During her brief tenure at Tuskegee, she was responsible for the health care of the school’s 450 students and 30 faculty and staff. She also established a training school for nurses and founded the Lafayette Dispensary to serve the health care needs of local residents, often mixing medicines herself for their use. She also taught two classes each day.

In 1894, at the age 30 while working at Tuskegee University Dr. Dillon married the Reverend John Quincy Johnson an theologian and mathematic professor who also worked at Tuskegee University. The newlyweds left Tuskegee and moved first to Columbia, South Carolina, where Reverend Johnson became president of Allen University, a private school for black students. They later moved from Hartford, Connecticut and to Atlanta, Georgia, and then to Princeton, New Jersey, as Reverend Johnson pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology. Finally, in 1900, the couple settled in Nashville, Tennessee with their three children where Reverend Johnson became the pastor of Saint Paul A.M.E. Church. Dr. Halle Tanner Dillon Johnson died on April 26, 1901, at the age 37, in Nashville from complications during childbirth.

Who was Charles Remond Douglass

Charles Remond Douglass was born on October 21, 1844, in Lynn, Massachusetts to parents Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818 – February 20, 1895), and Anna Murray-Douglass (1813 – August 4, 1882).


Charles was the third born and the youngest of the Douglass children. Six years before Charles was born his father Fredrick successfully escaped slavery on September 3, 1838, and made it all the way to Philadelphia where he changed his name from Bailey to Douglass to symbolize his newly found freedom and married already free black woman Anne Murray. In 1847, at the age 2, Charles father moved the family to Rochester, New York where Charles began his education. As a child Charles worked delivering copies of his father’s newspaper North Star.


Douglass became the first African-American man to enlist for military service in New York during the American Civil War when he volunteered for the 54th  Massachusetts Infantry Regiment . His oldest brother Lewis Henry Douglass (1840–1908), also served in the 54th, ultimately becoming a sergeant major in that regiment. Due to illness in November of 1863, Charles was not able to deploy with the troops, remaining at the training camp in Readville, Massachusetts. He went on to join another black military regiment, the 5th Massachusetts Calvary, in which he rose to the rank of first sergeant. The following year of 1864, Charles was discharged from service due to poor health, at the request of his brother, Lewis.

In 1866 Charles married Mary Elizabeth Murphy, also known as Libbie. The couple had six children: Charles Frederick, Joseph Henry Douglass (1871–1935), Annie Elizabeth, Julia Ada, Mary Louise, and Edward Douglass. Of these six, Joseph Henry was the only one to live to adulthood, becoming a famous violinist. Douglass and his wife were married until her death in 1879. On December 30, 1880, Douglass married his second wife, Laura Haley Canandaigua. The couple had one son together, Haley George Douglass (Nov. 27, 1881 – Jan. 21, 1954), who became a school teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington D.C, and mayor of Highland, Beach Maryland.


From 1867 to 1869, Charles  served as one of the first African-American clerks in the Freedmen’s Bureau when he and his family moved to Washington, D.C.. Charles also served as secretary and treasurer for the District of Columbia schools after he was appointed a trustee in 1872.While working in the district he actively employed the first African-American teachers in the county’s schools and assured they received equal pay. He served as a clerk to the Santo Domingo Commission in 1873, then returned to the Caribbean when United States President Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885), appointed him consul to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo. In 1875 Charles became a clerk in the United States Consulate in  Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, where he remained until 1879 when he returned to the United States after his  first wife’s death. He then moved to Corona, New York and entered the West India commissions business. In 1882 Douglass began working as an examiner for the Pension Bureau in Washington, DC.After 53 years in government service, he retired in August 1920.


After Charles father purchased the “New National Era” in 1870, he became a correspondent for the paper. He became a real estate developer and developed a 26-acre tract with 1400 feet of beach front summer resort in Maryland  in 1892 that became known as Highland Beach.  His youngest son, Haley George would later become mayor of Highland Beach For many years he served as president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association, a cultural and literary institution for African Americans in Washington, D.C. Charles also became a member of the District of Columbia’s branch for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Charles Remond Douglass died  on November 23, 1920 at the age 76, in Washington D.C, after a short illness attributed to Bright’s Disease. He was buried at Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was survived by his wife Laura, and his two sons Joseph Douglass and Haley George Douglass.


Highland Beach

Highland Beach, Maryland, the oldest of the major black resort towns, was founded along the western shore of Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 1893, by Charles Remond Douglass and his wife Laura Douglass after they was turned away from a restaurant at the nearby Bay Ridge resort because of their race.

Charles Douglass was the son of prominent abolitionist and 19th century Civil Rights activist Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey February 1818 – February 20, 1895. Major Charles Douglass, however, was prominent in his own right.  He was a retired officer formerly with the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the famed regiment first established during the American Civil War, and longtime Treasury Department clerk.


Located in Anne Arundel County, 35 miles east of Washington D.C. and a few miles south of Annapolis, Maryland, Highland Beach became the first African American-owned summer resort community in the United States. In fact it was established because of an act of racial discrimination. In 1890 Major Douglass and his wife were denied entry into a restaurant at The Bay Ridge Resort on Chesapeake Bay because they were African American.  In response Douglass entered the real estate business and began purchasing beachfront property directly south of Bay Ridge.  When he acquired slightly more than 40 acres for $5,000 he began developing the property as a summer resort community by selling lots to family and friends. Among the earliest purchasers were Blanche Kelso Bruce (March 1, 1841 – March 17, 1898), the Reconstruction-era U.S. Senator from Mississippi, former Virginia Congressman John Mercer Langston (December 14, 1829 – November 15, 1897), former Louisiana Governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (born Pinckney Benton Stewart May 10, 1837 – December 21, 1921), Washington hotel owner James Wormley (January 16, 1819 – October 18, 1884), and Judge Robert Heberton Terrell and his wife, Mary Church Terrell (September 23, 1863 – July 24, 1954).  Robert Terrell was the first black judge in the District of Columbia.


Charles Douglass also began building a large family summer house which he named Twin Oaks.  Intended primarily as a retirement residence for his father, Twin Oaks soon became a gathering place for many influential African Americans who lived in the Washington-Baltimore area but who visited Frederick Douglass there.  Although Fredrick Douglass died before he could move permanently into the house, Highland Beach, as the surrounding community was now called, quickly became popular with prominent African Americans.  Part-time residents and guests over the years included a who’s who of black America including Paul Leroy Robeson (April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976), Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915), William Edward BurghardtW. E. B.Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963), James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967),  Robert Clifton Weaver (December 29, 1907 – July 17, 1997), and Alexander Murray Palmer “Alex” Haley (August 11, 1921 – February 10, 1992).

Charles Douglass claimed his greatest success in establishing Highland Beach was in circumventing restrictive property covenants in the area that prevented the sale of real estate to blacks and other people of color.  Originally intended as a summer resort, Highland Beach by 1915 was a year round community with many houses and properties still retained by descendants of the original owners.


When founder Charles Douglass died in 1920, the town’s leadership fell into the hands of his son, Haley Douglass who in 1922 led the effort to make Highland Beach the first African American incorporated municipality in the state’s history.  Once incorporated, Douglass and his allies controlled the community for the next three decades and succeeded in their major objective, insuring that the community remained small and exclusive.

Ironically in the community’s determined effort to keep newcomers out, it could not control the land surrounding Highland Beach.  Beginning in the 1940s white and black developers built competing resort communities that attracted newly affluent African Americans.  Also, the older formerly all-white resort community of Arundel-on-the-Bay had become predominately black by 1960.

By the 1990s the combination of high taxes, encroaching upscale housing developments filled with luxury homes, and the flight of younger blacks to newer resorts, left the elderly residents of Highland Beach increasingly isolated. Only about 1,000 residents remained in the community by 2010.