The “rediscovery” of Frederick Douglass recently made me remember a letter I found in my research, from one young Sedgwick woman to her cousin. The letter is undated and no one in it is named, and it wasn’t really vital to my research so I never bothered to figure out precisely who it was talking about. Still, I know the letter writer’s life well enough to guess that this was written in Lenox, MA, in the mid-1840s, and I have always assumed the former slave mentioned in it was Douglass.1)Given Douglass’ speaking schedule, I suspect this is just before his May 9, 1843 speaking date in New York, but I have no way of knowing. The author, Bessie Sedgwick, would have been about 17 when she wrote this letter, which is in the Sedgwick Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Who do you think I had here to breakfast the other day? Two abolitionists who wish to keep the matter of slavery “agitating before the people” The one a ranting screaming pertinacious unamiable individual saying only what has been said a hundred times before but in a manner a hundred times as disagreeable as it ever was said before – The other, a nice little gentlemanly person, who had the sense not to say much in public. The third guest was a black slave who escaped from the South some time ago, and is one of the most quick witted and one of the most eloquent people I ever saw – He speaks with all the bitterness you would expect from one who had suffered under the wrongs of slavery – is very satirical and has a great deal of dramatic power – so to speak – uses perfectly good language – and is altogether well worth hearing. He is to be in New York on Tuesday evg and if you happened to hear him I am sure you would be very much interested by him…

Perhaps someone who knows more of the personalities of the abolitionists could identify this with more certainty.

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1. Given Douglass’ speaking schedule, I suspect this is just before his May 9, 1843 speaking date in New York, but I have no way of knowing.