Frederick Douglass’s Tribute to John Brown
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Others saw madness, but Douglass saw the clarity of a martyr’s vision.
Douglass pens a phrase from his “Lecture on John Brown,” delivered at Storer College in Harpers Ferry on Memorial Day, 1881. Among the platform guests was the district attorney who prosecuted Brown. FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
Autograph Quotation Signed, July 6, 1881. 1 p. 5 x 3”.
Also for sale as part of the Ultimate Lincoln Collection.
“John Brown, Saw Slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed.
Frederick Douglass. 1883”
Douglass had admired John Brown since their first meeting in 1847, but disapproved of Brown’s plan to foment a slave revolt. He thought the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry a grave mistake that would inflame public opinion against the abolitionist movement. After the raid, a letter from Douglass to Brown was discovered. A warrant was issued for Douglass’s arrest as an accomplice; he fled to Canada, returning to America a year later.
In his lecture at Storer, Douglass placed Brown’s service to his country alongside that of Lincoln’s: “The hour is met by the man. Brown, and Lincoln, and Grant, came at the nation’s hour of need…. Brown came first and perhaps prepared the way for all that followed." The address was published in 1881. Proceeds from its sale were earmarked for an endowed John Brown Professorship. Storer College, founded in 1867, was for 25 years the only institution in Virginia that offered African-Americans an education beyond primary school. The college closed in 1955, having lost government funding in the wake of desegregation. Today the site is part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.