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Frederick Douglass to Samuel J. May, September 27, 1847


FREDERICK DOUGLASS TO SAMUEL J. MAY1Samuel Joseph May (1797–1871), a prominent Unitarian minister from Boston, was an active Garrisonian abolitionist. He worked to integrate his congregations and shocked his parishioners by inviting Angelina Grimké to address them on the subject of abolition. A general agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society in the early 1830s, May also advocated women’s rights, temperance, peace, and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1845 he moved to Syracuse, New York, where he became active in the Underground Railroad. Donald Yacovone, Samuel Joseph May and the Dilemmas of the Liberal Persuasion, 1797–1871 (Philadelphia, 1991); DAB, 6:447–48.

West Winfield, [N.Y.] 27 Sept[ember] 1847.


Allow me to thank you for the sermons which you gave me before parting with you at Syracuse.2Douglass spoke at Market Hall. in Syracuse, New York, on 24 September 1847. He might have visited with May at that time. Lib., 6 August 1847. I have read both, and should be glad had I time to speak of them at length, but time I have not. I was pleased with the Cambredge discourse3The “Cambridge discourse” was probably the sermon “Jesus, the Best Teacher of His Religion,” which May delivered at the Cambridge Theology School graduation on 11 July 1847. Samuel J. May, Jesus, the Best Teacher of His Religion (Boston, 1847). but the one on woman’s rights4May probably sent Douglass his 1846 essay, “The Rights and Conditions of Women.” Samuel J. May, The Rights and Conditions of Women: Considered in “The Church of the Messiah,” November 8, 1846 (Syracuse, N.Y., 1846). is the best thing I ever read on the subject. The oneness of our common family is brought out as I never saw it before. Great Good must follow it.

In great haste Yours Sincerely


ALS: FD Papers (1847–1891), NRU.



September 27, 1847


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