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.