Frederick Douglass Encourages Writing on John Brown
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Douglass suggests to the author of a work on John Brown, the abolitionist crusader who attempted to incite a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1859, that she attempt to have her lines published in a popular magazine. “I know of no better way to have the value of your lines on John Brown tested and made available than by offering them for publication …” FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C., November 28, [no year]. 1 p.
Dear Madam: I know of no better way to have the value of your lines on John Brown tested and made available than by offering them for publication to the proprietor of some of our popular magazines. The proprietors of such magazines are always on the look out for superior productions such as your letter leads me to think your manuscripts contains. I do not see how I can assist you in this respect though I would gladly do so if I could –
Very truly yours
In 1858, John Brown had stayed at the Douglass home in Rochester, N.Y., while developing plans for inciting a slave revolt in Virginia. He later told Douglass of the plan to assault the Harpers Ferry Arsenal and to distribute guns to slaves. Douglass was against such a raid but knew he couldn’t change Brown’s mind; he declined Brown’s request that he participate. After the raid and Brown’s capture, the government confiscated Brown’s papers, some of which mentioned Douglass’s name. Fearing arrest, Douglass took an immediate unplanned voyage to England where, on the lecture circuit, he acclaimed the martyrdom of John Brown. He returned to the United States in 1860 on the eve of Civil War. Letters in which Frederick Douglass mentions John Brown are rare.
Later in life, Douglass wrote of Brown that he “… saw Slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed.”
Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 1881.
Reprint, New York: Pathway Press, 1941. Pp. 350-354.
Douglass, Frederick. Quotation, 1883. Owned by Seth Kaller, Inc. KS 20742
Oakes, James. The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln,
and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics. New York, 2007.