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Adolf Douai, 1819-1888

The Turbulent Life of a German Forty-Eighter in the Homeland and in the United States


Justine Davis Randers-Pehrson

Mid-nineteenth-century Germany and the United States constitute the background for the life story of Adolf Douai as educator, author, editor, and self-declared radical. A member of the 1848 revolutionary Landtag of Saxe-Altenburg, he was imprisoned by reactionaries and later forced to flee the country. His career in the United States illustrates general sociopolitical conditions faced by German Forty-Eighters arriving as refugees. In Texas, Douai edited an abolitionist newspaper for three years, but threats by Know-Nothings forced him to flee to the north, where he was recruited by organizers of the new Republican Party, who hoped to attract German voters for Frémont (1856) and Lincoln (1860). Douai is generally associated with the Fröbel kindergarten system. His contacts included Robert Blum, Mikhail Bakunin, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Louis Agassiz.