Joseph Douglass (1869-1935) was born in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.C. The son of Charles Douglass and Grandson of the famous abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, Joseph became the first black violinist to make transcontinental tours. He received classical training at the New England Conservatory and later the Boston Conservatory. Douglass received his first big break as a violinist at age 22 when he performed at 1883 Chicago World’s Fair. Starting in the 1890, Douglass toured for three decades and he made regular appearances at the white house during the McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft presidencies.
Douglass was an educator and conductor in addition to being a performer, and held a tenured position at Howard University. He is credited with educating and inspiring many well known black musicians that came after him, including Clarence Cameron white.